China not manned enough for safety

Workers check toys at a toy testing lab in China

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Typically, a company like Disney licenses its characters to toy manufacturers. Those toy companies are then in charge of making sure the products are safe.

Well, not anymore. Disney plans to tell toymakers today it's gonna do its own testing. Plus, on the retail end, Toys "R" US will start doing random checks this week, sending toys off to an independent laboratory. These new precautions are, of course, in response to Mattel's huge recalls of toys made in China.

In Washington today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission holds a hearing on this. And safety regulators from Beijing will be there. More now from our China correspondent, Scott Tong.


Scott Tong: Chinese regulators have sat on the hot seat for months, facing demands that they ensure the safety of all Chinese exports. But:

Steve Dickenson: The Chinese government doesn't have the power, or the manpower, to do that.

That's Shanghai attorney Steve Dickenson from firm Harris and Moure. He says in China's decentralized economy with thousands of suppliers, Beijing has a limited means to carry out its mandates.

Dickenson thinks responsibility lies with the U.S. toy companies who can often dictate prices to their Chinese suppliers. Lately, he thinks those multinationals have pushed those prices down too far.

Dickenson: If you're in business, you know if the price is too low. And if you know the supplier can't make it, then you also have to know the supplier's doing something to survive.

For instance, cutting corners and substituting unsafe materials like lead paint.

In Shanghai, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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