The Chinese producer of the bead toys that caused massive recalls in the United States and Australia apologized Wednesday for using a toxic chemical and damaging the reputation of the made-in-China label.
The apology from Hong Kong-based JSSY Limited Company came 20 days after the US recalled 4.2 million pieces of the toys for containing 1,4-butanediol, a chemical that can turn toxic and cause unconsciousness, earning it notoriety as a "date rape" drug. Similar recalls were made in Australia.
In the written apology, JSSY admitted that it had used the toxic chemical as a softener.
It said Australia-based Moose Enterprises sent the company some bead samples in September 2005, and asked it to develop products with similar outlook and function.
The company said it decided to use 1,4-butanediol as a softener for its expansibility and viscidity - or adhesive nature - in a contract toy factory in Shenzhen, and then exported the products to Moose. The toys were then sold as Moose products in the US and Australia.
The Associated Press reported that the toys were supposed to be made with the nontoxic 1,5-pentanediol, a chemical commonly used in computer printer ink. However, this costs three or four times more.
At least five children in the two countries have been reported to be ill after swallowing the beads.
JSSY said: "We apologize to the children who have fallen ill after swallowing the beads, and their families. We also apologize to other Chinese toymakers who have been affected by the damage to the made-in-China label.
"We'll tighten risk analysis and management of chemicals to ensure product safety in future production."
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the country's top quality watchdog, said in a statement Wednesday that it would punish the enterprises involved according to law.
Exports of the bead toys were suspended as soon as the recalls were reported, and the export license of the toy factory in Shenzhen has also been revoked.
However, Customs figures in Guangdong Province, which produces 70 percent of the toys for export, show that export demand has rebounded despite a spate of recalls this year.
The value of toys exported by Guangdong slipped by 5.4 percent in September compared to the same period last year, but bounced back to register a year-on-year increase of 27.6 percent last month, the Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.
Customs analysts said the rebound was spurred by rising demand in the Christmas retail season, and it also shows that toy recalls abroad proved to have had limited impact on the province's toy exports.