The Hong Kong company that made the toxic toy beads that caused a second wave of fear over made-in-China toys made a public apology today, according to this story from the International Herald Tribune. Researches say a glue used in the beads breaks down into GHB, a "date rape" drug.
"Our apologies to all the children who ate the beads by accident and their parents, and overseas consumers," JSSY, the manufacturer, said in a statement. "We apologize for all the negative effect caused by this incident to China manufacturers. We apologize for the negative effect on 'Made in China.' " Liao Chu-yuan, the chairman and owner of JSSY, said that the company had worried about the possibility that children might choke by swallowing the beads, but had not considered the possibility that the chemicals in the beads might be poisonous. "We really didn't look into the FDA part, the food part," Liao said in a telephone interview, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He said that when JSSY checked FDA regulations after problems with the beads surfaced this autumn, the company quickly found that the chemical was banned in anything that people might consume.The beads were sold under the names Aqua Dots and Bindeez. According to the story, Liao said JSSY used a glue in the beads "that cost only half as much as the glue ingredient that the Australian distributor of the beads, Moose Enterprise, thought was being used. But he insisted that the choice of the inexpensive but hazardous ingredient, which is also needed to soften the plastic beads, had not been made for cost reasons."
The main factory for the beads is a white, three-story building with a slogan on the front, "With the right mentality, you can go far." The factory stands in a gritty neighborhood on the northeastern outskirts of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong; two smaller factories nearby package the beads. A half-dozen suppliers to the main factory were outside the gate on a recent morning, complaining that they had not been paid for months. Liao acknowledged Thursday that he had been late in paying suppliers. He said that he had been slow in sending invoices to Moose this autumn and that Moose suddenly stopped paying him at all when the recall was announced.No doubt JSSY and Moose Enterprises are both going to end up in court, with each other and with the families of children who became ill. While JSSY seems to hold primary responsiblity for this safety disaster, it still surprises me that no one at Moose Enterprises noticed the formula change. Don't global OEMs inspect their suppliers anymore? Or send products to labs to be tested? Consider this tale a word of warning to suppliers and OEMs: if you cut corners, you're courting disaster.