Australia bans toys that produce date-rape drug

Australia announced a nationwide ban on Wednesday on about one million Chinese-made toys after investigations showed they contained a chemical that metabolises when swallowed into a date-rape drug.

The ban across Australia’s six states and two territories came after three children became severely ill after they swallowed the toy beads called “Bindeez”.

Toy importer Moose Enterprise issued a voluntary recall of Bindeez, named Australia’s 2007 Toy of the Year, saying some batches of the beads failed to match the approved formula.

Authorities in Hong Kong also took steps to test the product on toy safety and dangerous drug concerns.

The toy involves arranging tiny, multicoloured beads coated with a non-toxic glue into shapes, which are then sprayed with water to fix them together.

But instead of the safe chemical 1,5-pentanediol being used, the potentially dangerous chemical 1,4-butanediol was introduced in the manufacturing process. When ingested, 1,4-butanediol can metabolise into the date-rape drug known as fantasy or GBH (“grievous bodily harm”).

Three Australian children suffered seizures and needed intensive hospital care in the past two weeks after eating the plastic beads.

The fair trading minister in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, said an investigation is under way to determine how batches of the China-made beads did not match the approved formula. “The issue of how a dangerous substance was used in these beads and not the non-toxic substance ...
that is going to take us a few more days to uncover,” Linda Burney said.

She added that customers who bought the toys will have their money refunded, at a cost of millions of dollars.

Moose Enterprise said tests have shown that some batches of the beads do not “exactly match the laboratory-tested and -approved formula”.

A media-relations manager for the toy maker, Peter Mahon, said that about one million products will be recalled, and that while “Bindeez” toys were sold in various other countries, the contaminated batches are most likely confined to Australia.

Despite this, the repercussions of the ban are being felt around the region, given broader concerns over the safety of China-made products. More than 20-million toys made in China have been recalled worldwide in the past four months due to potentially dangerous levels of lead and hazards posed by small magnets.

In Hong Kong, toy retailer Toys R Us pulled some of the Australian toy maker’s products from its shelves, while the Hong Kong government said it is testing Bindeez products in its laboratories to ascertain whether the suspect toys have breached toy-safety or dangerous drugs laws.

Moose Enterprise said that, when the toy is eventually returned to shop shelves, the beads will be coated with a special product to try to stop children swallowing them.

“This is a foul-tasting ingredient which will ensure children do not in future eat multiple beads. All replacement beads and new shipments will include this ingredient,” it said.—Reuters

Client Media Releases

ITWeb, VMware second CISO survey under way
Doctoral study on leveraging the green economy
NWU's LLB degree receives full accreditation
Trusts must register as home builders