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This is just a small political rant on my part. No doubt you have heard by now about the Fisher Price recall of toys contaminated with lead paint.The toys in question were predominantly Sesame Street and Dora/Diego themed toys. For a list of toys affected you can go here.
It was only a few weeks back that we discovered Thomas the Train toys were also contaminated with lead. The developments have caused a lot of pain and anger among parents. In hindsight they realize it was naive but they put their faith in companies that created children’s toys because well…they are made for children and who would put a child in harms way right? These companies explain away these atrocities by saying that they had no idea what was going on in their own factories or among the foreign workers (in China specifically) that they hired to mass produce their products. But as a parent I do NOT ACCEPT THIS LAME EXPLANATION. In view of more recent events with American products that came to us by way of China… like contaminated food… we must realize that these businesses are not worthy of our faith or our patronage.
My email box has been filling with numerous emails about the toy recall and one of the emails caught my eye. It was concerning Melissa and Doug, a toy maker that is popular among many natural and green parents as their toys are made form wood and are supposedly decorated with safe paints. I have some Melissa and Doug products myself.
The email was supposedly from a concerned mom that wanted to spread the word about the Melissa and Doug company and how they do rigorous testing and auditing in their factories which are also based in China.
This was a quote given in the email that came from Doug:
“It’s quite possible to make great quality children’s items in China, which meet all safety regulations, but the key point is that you have to test and inspect very frequently to be sure that your factories are always following your instructions explicitly. I assure you that’s exactly what we do.
From our experience, the key to doing this correctly is not simply to insist that your factories follow your instructions, but then to go one step further and to AUDIT, INSPECT, AND TEST very frequently. That is the most important part of the process, and it’s something our company has always taken VERY seriously.”
Now I am VERY glad that they see a problem and try to do what they can to make sure their toys are safe but does anyone else see the underlying message here?
No matter what measures are taken the possibility exists that toys will be contaminated. The possibility exists because they and many other toy companies have opted to relinquish control of their products by outsourcing labor and production to China…a country that has if anything in the past few months, shown a blatant disregard for product safety. Why should I as a consumer trust ANY of those companies that have opted to relinquish quality control…rigorous testing or not?
This rigorous testing is no doubt needed because there is a large measure of control that is lost when you outsource production to a foreign country without the regulatory laws for product safety that we have. The fact that a company highlights how they do this testing and auditing only shows me that they have outsourced their quality control to an entity that is looking for the opportunity to do a switcheroo and do things on their own terms. If these companies have to play guard dog like that then there is a problem.
The problem should be obvious…outsourcing production to a foreign country without the regulatory laws to protect your product.. Yes, I see the benefit for Fisher Price and Melissa and Doug….they save lots of pennies with cheap labor. But what is the benefit for me and my child? The toy might be cheaper and more accessible to me but if it has lead paint on it then the joke is on me. As consumers we need to DEMAND that companies take more responsibility for their products and one way to do that is to bring their production back to the US where safety will not be such a crap shoot. This is especially true of toy companies that make products specifically for our children….products that receive daily abuse or can be put in small mouths.
I do not intend this post to smear any particular company, especially Melissa and Doug because I do applaud their efforts. It is the fact that such effort and care needs to be taken that sends up a red flag to me. I think recent events have clearly shown us that we cannot put blind trust in products made from China and when there are US alternatives I think we must evaluate the companies or persons we buy toys from. I know I will.
Green Toys – made in the US using bioplastic made from corn!
Hyena Cart – A favorite of mine. Just do a search for toys and find handmade dolls, blocks, stuffed animals, etc. made by work at home moms.
So what are your thoughts?