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NY AG Sues Walmart, Target and Toy Importer Over Lead Compliance

LaRose, Cra-Z-Jewelz Ultimate Gem Jewelry Machine/courtesy photo

LaRose, Cra-Z-Jewelz Ultimate Gem Jewelry Machine/courtesy photo

As Walmart Inc. shakes up its global compliance department, the retailer is being sued along with Target Corp. and importer LaRose Industries by New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood for allegedly selling toys that contained more than 10 times the federal legal limit of lead.

The toys already were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. But the suit filed on Thursday in state Supreme Court in Albany County still seeks civil penalties and a court order to require the companies to implement additional compliance measures ensuring that they do not again sell toys containing high lead levels.

Walmart gave this statement to a reporter on Friday: “We take our customers’ safety seriously and require our suppliers to meet all safety standards.”

The Walmart statement added that as soon as LaRose Industries made Walmart aware of the product recall nearly three years ago, “we removed the items from our shelves and online and haven’t sold them since. We’ve discussed this matter with the New York Attorney General’s office and will address the allegations and demands with the court.”

Target sent a statement saying, “As soon as the New York Attorney General let us know about the allegations with this product after its testing back in 2016, we immediately and voluntarily pulled the bracelet kit from our stores. We’re committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests, and we require all of our vendors to follow safety laws and CPSC Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines for the products they sell at Target."

LaRose Industries did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is the world’s largest retailer; Minneapolis-based Target calls itself the second-largest general merchandise retailer in the U.S.; while LaRose, with one office in Randolph, New Jersey, is an importer with 11 to 15 employees, according to LinkedIn.

In a statement Underwood said, “Our lawsuit seeks to hold these companies accountable for the failures that allowed lead-contaminated toys on store shelves, while forcing them to take responsibility for the safety of the products they sell.”

According to the CPSC, which issued the 2016 recall, the toy was Cra-Z-Jewelz Gem Creations, a jewelry-making kit. The kit “contains high levels of lead. If ingested by young children, it can cause adverse health issues,” the CPSC website said. About 175,000 kits were recalled nationwide, it said.

The New York AG’s office said LaRose already has adopted a number of affirmative measures to ensure that the imported toys they sell comply with federal lead limits. The suit asks the court to direct LaRose to maintain these measures and to take additional measures, including:

• Create a permanent position of director of sourcing and quality control, as well as a quality control manual and a compliance program.

• Require vendors of finished products to obtain high-risk components and raw materials from pre-approved suppliers.

• Require vendor testing of toy components and raw materials.

• Conduct unannounced audits of vendors.

• Provide certificates of compliance to retailers.

The suit asks that Target also meet those requirements, because it imported some of the kits on its own.

Underwood said Target and Walmart “have thus far refused requests” to take certain affirmative measures to ensure they don’t import toys with high lead content. The lawsuit asks the court to order the two retailers to adopt compliance measures that include conducting random tests on 3 percent of imported toys to ensure they comply with applicable regulations; and ensuring each imported toy has a valid certificate of compliance.

Underwood’s office said civil penalties could collectively range from $70 to $6,000 for each Cra-Z-Jewelz kit the companies sought to sell in New York. The massive 466-page suit, filed in Albany County Supreme Court on Thursday, said over 10,500 jewelry kits were distributed in New York.

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