The details aren't clear yet - the Consumer Product Safety Commission made a hasty announcement this morning after word leaked out prematurely - but this story already has a man-bites-dog quality: After years of fears about tainted kids' toys from China, the CPSC today announced that McDonald's was recalling 12 million cadmium-tainted Shrek glasses - made by a company the CPSC identified as ARC International, of Millville, N.J. The glasses have been sold for $2 apiece since last month.
You can read the CPSC's recall notice here. It says, "McDonald’s is asking consumers to immediately stop using the glass out of an abundance of caution," and directs customers to this site "for additional instructions on how to obtain a full refund."
The McDonald's web site was working intermittently, at best, this morning. "It should be working," CPSC spokesman Alex Filip told me, before explaining that the agency and McDonald's had expected to announce the recall later today, or even Monday, after all the pieces were better in place. "A lot of people got caught by surprise."
Filip says the CPSC first heard concerns from U.S. Rep Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, whose Web site says she got a tip from "an anonymous source" that the glasses may have been decorated with toxic cadmium.
"We did the tests and went to them with the results," Filip says. "When they decided to do the right thing we were very encouraged by that, because these are very low levels of cadmium."
Filip declined to be more specific about the levels of cadmium on the glasses, but says the danger is real, as demonstrated by a "wipe test" the agency performed. "You can get cadmium on your hands from holding these things," he says.
Still, Filip says the levels were far lower than those found in children's jewelry from China that was recalled earlier this year. (You can read about those three recalls here, here, and here.)
“Those things were really through the roof - really toxic levels," Filip says of the jewelry. "The levels [on the Shrek glasses] were significantly lower than the jewelry."
Speier's site diverges on this point, referring to the "high levels of cadmium" found on the glasses, and quoting the congresswoman as saying, “Cadmium is a toxic substance that is extremely dangerous to the developmental health of children.”
Whatever the levels of cadmium, the key distinction is this: The recalled jewelry was made in China. These glasses were apparently made in Millville, about 50 miles south of Philadelphia.
So far, I've been unable to reach anyone at ARC International for comment. But the Associated Press reports this:
The company that makes the drinking glasses said it only learned of the problem late Thursday and will look into it. Tom Reed, vice president of human resources at Arc International's plant in Millville, N.J., said the company received a copy of a McDonald's memo on the recall but has not heard anything else.
Reed would not say where the paint was made or whether it's used in Arc's other products. Arc is based in France and owns the Pyrex brand of cookware in Europe.