Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Mattel ...

Guess what, yup, Mattel are recalling yet more toys (1). This is the third major recall in a month. This begs the question - why aren't the other toy companies doing the same? Are they squeaky clean (I feel a Tui billboard moment coming on ...) or are they simply hoping no-one will look their way?
Mattel, Inc. announced today that, as a result of the company's ongoing investigation of its toys manufactured by vendors in China, the company has voluntarily recalled 11 toys globally, including eight pet and furniture playsets sold under the Barbie(R) brand and three Fisher-Price(R) toys, due to impermissible levels of lead. No Barbie(R) dolls are included within the recall. In total, there are 522,000 affected toys in the U.S., and 322,000 affected toys outside of the U.S. Mattel has completed the testing program for the majority of its toys, including all of its toys currently sourced from vendors. (2)
Astonishingly, Mattel might come out of this mess looking like the good guys, because of much mea culpa-ing, breast beating and pledges of putting child safety first. Which is a bit like lionising a burgular for saying he was sorry after he was caught. Mattel doesn't deserve praise for dragging its safety standards up to a barely acceptable minimum. It deserves to be excorciated for not having them all along.

Bottom line, predictably is that Mattel showed a cavalier attitude to labour rights and human rights by decanting their operations to the third world. Unions making it too difficult by demmanding (Damn them!) a reasonable wage and decent working conditions? No problem. There are peons in China who'll do the job for a fraction, and their used to be beaten and exploited, and their government doesn't regard that sort of thing as a naughty. But in doing that, Mattel - and the rest of them - also played fast and loose with our safety as consumers.

It is an measure of our selfishness and disregard that it is only when our safety was endangered that the issue of third world manufacture became important. But now that people are wking up to it, they have to accept that the issues that have lead to these recalls are inextricably linked with the factors that prompted the relocation of manufacturing to the third world. For all the abject apologies and promises of good behaviour in the future, the fundeamental dynamic hasn't changed. At some point, the need to maximise profit will erode whatever standards and checks Mattel have put in place, and the cycle will repeat.

1 - "Mattel Announces Recall of 11 Toys as a Result of Extensive Ongoing Investigation and Product Testing," unattributed PR Newswire article, on, 4th of September, 2007. (
2 - ibid.

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