AUDRA ANG Associated Press Writer BEIJING
China said it would work with the United States to improve product safety amid a massive U.S. recall Thursday of plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor, including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters. The remarks came just ahead of toy-maker Fisher-Price's announcement that it was recalling almost 1 million toys, the latest in a string of Chinese product safety scandals. China "attaches great importance to product quality and food safety and is highly responsible," said Wei Chuanzhong, an official with the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, one of China's product safety watchdogs. "We want to cooperate with other countries including the U. S. to strengthen cooperation and communication," Wei was quoted as saying Wednesday on the administration's Web site. However, Wei added that while China would "not avoid our problems, we also do not agree to playing up the situation regardless of the facts. An official surnamed Xia said the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine had heard about the recall but could not comment because they were investigating the case. The problem with the recalled toys was detected by an internal probe and reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, David Allmark, general manager of Fisher- Price, told The Associated Press Wednesday. Fisher-Price and the commission issued statements saying parents should keep suspect toys away from children and contact the company. The commission works with companies to issue recalls when it finds consumer goods that can be harmful. Under current regulations, children's products found to have more than .06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall. Allmark says the recall was "fast-tracked," which allowed the company to quarantine two-thirds of the toys before they even made it to store shelves. In negotiating details of the recall, Fisher-Price and the government agreed to withhold details from the public until Thursday to give stores time to get suspect toys off shelves and Fisher-Price time to get its recall hot line up and running. Allmark said the recall was troubling because Fisher-Price has had a long-standing relationship with the Chinese vendor, which had applied decorative paint to the toys. Allmark said the company would use this recall as an opportunity to put even better systems in place to monitor vendors whose conduct does not meet Mattel's standards. He added: "We are still concluding the investigation, how it happened. ... But there will be a dramatic investigation on how this happened. We will learn from this." The recall follows another high-profile move from toy maker RC2 Corp., which in June voluntarily recalled 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. RC2 said that the surface paint on certain toys and parts made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contain lead, affecting 26 components and 23 retailers. Owners of a recalled Mattel toy can exchange it for a voucher for another product of the same value. To see pictures of the recalled toys, visit http://www. Service.mattel.com. For more information, call Mattel's recall hot line at (800) 916-4498. On the Net: Consumer Product Safety Commission: http:// www.cpsc.gov.