FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 20, 2007
Toy recalls expand concern about 'Made in China' items
News of risks from toys made in China is a global business story, as well as a family interest subject with local impact. Ask class members to 'grade' the newspaper on how well it relays the voices and concerns of parents and toy sellers in this area.
In addition to helping readers learn about health and safety issues involving food, vehicles and household products, newspapers routinely present news consumers use for buying decisions. Have students look for an example -- such as nutrition tips, reviews of products or entertainment, coverage of new services or items.
Some observers say toy recalls show a result of business decisions that put low prices above high quality -- placing short-term benefits ahead of long-term impact and reputation. Similar criticisms are made of other business actions, political decisions and even moves by sports team owners or managers. See if students can think of examples theyï¿½ve seen in the paper -- or can find in recent issues.
Every day at home, school and play, we use products imported from China -- the worldï¿½s largest manufacturer because of low costs and a vast population of workers. But new doubts about the safety and reliability of Chinese products are spreading after a series of 2007 problems. The latest involves recalls of many millions of well-known toys, mainly because of toxic paint risks.
Serious hazards from products made in China have hit headlines again and again this year. Items pulled from U.S. stores include poisoned pet food, childrenï¿½s jewelry, contaminated seafood, tainted toothpaste, unsafe tires and now toys painted with lead. An astonishing 19 million toys were recalled by Mattel, the leading U.S. toy company.
Chinese officials have issued new regulations, shut dozens of factories and suspended exports by plants that made the recalled toys. Overall, the government has punished more than 400 companies for violations in an effort to address growing world concern about the safety of Chinese-made goods.
Mattel says: "The safety of children is our primary concern, and we are deeply apologetic to everyone affected. Mattel has rigorous procedures, and we will continue to be vigilant and unforgiving in enforcing quality and safety." -- Robert A. Eckert, chairman and chief executive officer
China says: "China places great emphasis on the safety of children. We really care about toy safety -- not only in exports, but also in this country. China is responsible. We'll investigate the cases and severely deal with the companies involved." -- Commerce Ministry spokesman
Bigger issue: ï¿½We have a product quality crisis on our hands, one that is so big it could upset the entire economic relationship between the United States and China.ï¿½ ï¿½ Steven G. Brant, business writer and blogger
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