The toys covered by the recall, manufactured under contract in China, either contain illegal levels of lead in pigments or powerful magnets which could cause problems if swallowed.

Mattel spotted the problems itself during internal audits and initiated the recalls itself, volunteering the information to the relevant authorities in EU member states.

Two notifications were received by the British authorities, involving a die-cast toy car which contained levels of lead in breach of safety regulations and magnets in toys from a number of leading lines including Polly Pocket, Batman and Barbie.

The number of toy cars recalled amounts to 436,000 globally, while 18.2 million magnetic toys are also being recalled.

Lead poisoning can result in neurological damage, anaemia, kidney failure and reproductive problems.

The magnets are deemed dangerous as they could be swallowed or even inhaled by young children or placed in their nose or ears.

When more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal.

Aspiration to the lungs requires immediate surgery. Magnets in nose or ears can cause swelling and be difficult to remove.

Mattel has now implemented ‘enhanced magnet retention systems’ in its toys and more rigorous testing as a corrective measure agreed with the product safety authorities.

The European Commission has praised the toy company for acting responsibly following the scare and said the case highlights that existing systems to assure consumer safety are effective.

Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: “Cooperation among producers and authorities is key to product safety, and more vigilance is needed from both sides to live by the rule that no compromises are accepted in this area.”

Sam Bond

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