Advertisement
Share

Fisher-Price recalls 11 million children’s items

Toy maker Fisher-Price, a unit of El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., said Thursday that it was recalling more than 11 million children’s items, including tricycles, highchairs and toy cars, because of safety problems.

More than 7 million of the recalled products were tricycles, which are being recalled because a child can sit on, hit or fall on a protruding plastic “ignition key,” which could result in “serious injury, including genital bleeding,” according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It was the biggest toy recall of the year and another blow to Mattel, which recalled 21 million toys three years ago because they contained an excessive amount of lead in their paint or had small magnets that could be harmful if swallowed.

The recall was timed unfortunately for the world’s No. 1 toy maker as it heads into the holiday season, the most important time of the year for the toy industry.

Thursday’s recall covered four kinds of products that were sold in the U.S. and Canada: Trikes and Tough Trikes toddler tricycles; Little People Wheelies Stand ‘n Play Rampway play sets featuring toy cars; Healthy Care, Easy Clean and Close to Me highchairs; and several infant toys containing inflatable balls. The products were made in Mexico or China.

Advertisement

The safety commission said that the toy cars and inflatable balls posed choking hazards to children and that the highchairs could cause injuries if kids fell against the pegs on the rear legs of the chairs.

Susan Hutchinson, 46, said she was saddened that a “trusted name” like Fisher-Price could be the subject of such a sweeping recall. Her 9-year-old son, Jack, played with Fisher-Price toys when he was younger, and Hutchinson said she planned to check his old toys in the garage to make sure she didn’t accidentally sell them at a yard sale or give them away.

“I’ve stopped being shocked about toy recalls because there’s been so much of it in recent years,” the Silver Lake resident said. “But I think it’s a shame.”

Dozens of incidents and injuries related to the products were reported to Fisher-Price and the safety commission. Those included 10 reports of injuries to children from the tricycles, six of which required medical attention after young girls, ages 2 to 3, fell on or against the pretend key.

There were also reports of children requiring stitches after highchair-related incidents and of children beginning to choke after the valves on the inflatable balls became detached.

In a statement released by Fisher-Price, the company said it wanted to “reassure parents that our products are overwhelmingly safe.”

“We operate in a highly regulated industry and we test our products at many stages during development and production,” the East Aurora, N.Y., company said. “If we see an issue with a product at any point, even after many have been sold and used safely, we take appropriate action.”

Fisher-Price spokeswoman Juliette Reashor said the company decided to issue all four recalls on the same day “so that we could apply the necessary resources to effectively respond to consumers.”

Toy analysts said the latest spate of recalls, though far-reaching, were less serious than the lead paint-related toy recalls from 2007.

“A company has to make sure a product is safe, but they can’t prevent anything bad from ever happening,” said Sean McGowan, an analyst at Needham & Co. “Recalls of a few years ago mattered a lot more because that was an indication of something that needed to change in the manufacturing process — toys weren’t being tested right and corners were being cut.”

Gerrick Johnson, a toy analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said today’s toys are “safer now than they’ve ever been,” and noted that many of the products being recalled were sold several years ago and may have already been thrown away.

“The numbers look big — you’re looking at 10 million units of something — but I’d say many of those units are no longer in circulation,” he said.

Responding to concerns that the company waited an unusually long time to recall the products, Reashor said that when there are very few reported incidents related to a product, it can take some time to “determine if the incidents are isolated or if there is a discernable pattern.” The tricycles were sold as early as January 1997; the infant toys with inflatable balls as early as July 2001; and the highchairs as early as September 2001.

The safety commission is advising parents to take the products away from their children and to contact Fisher-Price for a replacement or a repair kit. Consumers can contact the company at (800) 432-5437 or https://www.service.mattel.com.

“The injuries speak for themselves,” said Stacey Palosky, a spokeswoman with the safety commission. “Companies in general need to make sure they’re building products to meet safety standards.”

Analysts said the recalls weren’t expected to significantly hurt Mattel’s financial results. Shares of Mattel fell 9 cents, or less than 1%, to $23.46 on Thursday.

“There’s never going to be a year where there are no recalls. Never,” McGowan said. “The question is, how do you deal with it when there is one?”

andrea.chang@latimes.com


Advertisement