From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry (A Four-Part Series)
The following article is the first installment in our monthlong PM Now! series titled, “From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry.” Throughout the next four weeks, we will discuss product testing, quality assurance and how both suppliers and distributors can work in tandem to ensure the items they sell are safe for children and adults alike.
Part 1:Could the California Recalls Have Been Prevented?
For many in our industry, the story began earlier this summer with the media coverage of toy recalls being issued from manufacturers both large, Mattel, and comparatively small, Oak Brook, Illinois-based RC2. But these incidents were only a prelude to the more recent headlines that abruptly dumped the advertising specialties industry into the ring alongside its consumer counterparts.
Just a few weeks ago, on September 20, 2007, the California Department of Public Health released a press statement urging consumers to stop using the approximately 56,000 promotional lunch boxes the organization gave away as nutrition-education items. Upon investigation, three of the lunch boxes, supplied by T-A Creations and distributed by You Name It Promotions, were found to have elevated levels of lead. Shortly thereafter, according to Marla Kaye, president of You Name it Promotions, T-A Creations issued its own voluntary recall.
In the wake of these accounts, many in the business world were quick to point to Chinese manufacturing as the source of this growing problem. However, what is not being so widely reported is that the lead in the lunch boxes issue is far from a “breaking story,” particularly in the promotional products sector. Since as early as 2005, the Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH)—a nonprofit dedicated to protecting consumers from toxic chemicals—had been conducting its own tests on lead levels in vinyl lunch boxes. The results led the organization to build a case against a laundry list of offending manufacturers. On August 24, 2006—almost a full year to the day before the California Department of Health issued its press release—T-A Creations was formally added to the CEH’s lawsuit.