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December 14, 2017
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Toy recalls: Who's really to blame?

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Wherever recalls of Chinese products have cropped up, it's been widely assumed that suppliers were at fault. But that may be untrue in many cases, say two Canadian researchers.

Recalls of Chinese products have been making headlines around the world. Wherever those problems have cropped up, it's been widely assumed that suppliers were at fault. But that may be untrue in many cases, say two Canadian researchers.

Hari Bapuji of the University of Manitoba and Paul Beamish of the University of West London (Ontario) found that product design was by far the most common reason for recalling Chinese-made toys.

The researchers found that of the 550 documented recalls of Chinese-made playthings since 1988, 76 percent could be attributed to design flaws. About 10 percent were attributable to defects such as poor craftsmanship, overheating batteries, lead paint, and inappropriate raw materials. Their report, "Toy Recalls—Is China the Problem?" is based on data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as press releases and annual reports issued by major toy companies.

Harmonizing design and quality standards in developing countries with those of wealthier countries is one possible solution but for now, more careful design and greater vigilance over suppliers are the most effective steps companies can take, the authors suggest. "In a globalized world where design, manufacturing, and consumption of products are separated by large distances, a slippage at any point can affect consumers all over the world," they write. "Therefore, all those involved in the supply chain must make an extra effort to ensure product quality and safety."

[Source: "Toy Recalls—Is China the Problem?" August 2007, Hari Bapuji and Paul Beamish.]

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