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Government Says Toys R Us, Others Sell Unsafe Toys

August 21, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Toys R Us and six other major distributors continue to sell unsafe imported toys despite warnings by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government alleges in lawsuits aimed at halting the sales.

Toys R Us, which operates 411 discount toy stores, and the other companies were named in civil suits filed Monday by the Justice Department and the CPSC.

The complaints charged that the companies sold baby rattles, dolls, stuffed animals and crib toys that either had small parts that could choke young children or contained excessive amounts of lead paint.

CPSC spokesman Dan Rumelt said most of the toys come from Taiwan, with the rest from Hong Kong, China and South Korea.

Government officials said the two agencies knew of no deaths or injuries from the toys. Some of the items have been seized from store shelves and some others already sold have been recalled by distributors.

″These cases emphasize the need for American companies to ensure that foreign-made toys are of the same legally-required standards as U.S.-manufactured toys,″ Leslie Southwick, a deputy assistant attorney general, said in a statement.

But a spokesman for one of the companies sued, Value Merchants, Inc., of Milwaukee, said the problem will not be solved until the Customs Service is given enough inspectors to check imported products.

Mike Mervis, a spokesman for Value Merchants, said the company had recalled all nine items CPSC cited as unsafe. Value Merchants thought the toys met government standards but ″the product bought and the product that was shipped may have been different things,″ he said.

Mervis blamed inadequate inspection of foreign goods by the U.S. Customs Service for the recurring problem.

″There is no foolproof way to control this without much stronger federal intervention and some means of controlling the inspection process″ in factories overseas, Mervis said. ″Anything that gets through we then become responsible for regardless of our best efforts.″

Value Merchants said it will continue to try to negotiate a resolution with the CPSC.

But Toys R Us, headquartered in Paramus, N.J., indicated it would fight the suit filed against the company.

Michael Goldstein, an executive vice president, said the suit ″is without merit. Our safety record is excellent.″

″We believe we will prevail in the legal action and we believe it’s a waste of the taxpayers’ money,″ said Goldstein, who was named as a defendant in the suit against the company.

Also sued were: Child World Inc., of Avon, Mass.; Lionel Leisure Inc., of Philadelphia; Illco Toy Company, USA, Inc., of New York; Beachcombers International Inc. of Fort Meyers, Fla.; and Division Sales Inc. of Itasca, Ill.

A woman who answered the telephone at Lionel Leisure, a subsidiary of Lionel Corp., declined to comment, saying she was unaware of the lawsuit.

″Until we receive legal service, as far as we’re concerned we haven’t been sued by anybody,″ said the woman, who refused to identify herself.

An official of Division Sales, who also refused to identify himself, declined to comment, saying he ″didn’t know anything about it.″

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