An estimated 10 million Playmobil sheriff and Indian toys given as prizes to children ordering the McDonald's "Happy Meal" of hamburger, fries and drink are being recalled because they could be dangerous to children under the age of 3, federal and company officials announced yesterday.
McDonald's withdrew the plastic toys voluntarily after they failed the federal choking test for small children. The tests were made by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission after receiving a complaint from a consumer group, the Empire State Consumers' Association.
"When you pull on the toy's arm, it comes out of the socket and then it is small enough to fit into the cylinder which determines if it is a choking hazard" for small children, said David Schmeltzer, the CPSC director of compliance.
The toys, which were manufactured for McDonald's by the Schaper Manufacturing Co. of Minneapolis, Minn., have not been involved in any known choking incidents, federal officials said. Schaper officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
McDonald's distributed the toys between Oct. 22 and Nov. 1 through 5,800 restaurants across the nation. Of 30 million Playmobile figures purchased for the "Happy Meal" promotion, the chain had given away an estimated 10 million by Monday when officials decided to withdraw the toys. All of the sheriffs and most of the Indians were given out, officials said. The figures remaining in stock consist primarily of the sheriff's horse, an umbrella girl and a farmer.
Consumers who received any of those Playmobil toys from McDonald's should discontinue their use and return them to a McDonald's restaurant, said Bob Keyser, the chain's director of media relations. He said the consumer returning one of the toys will receive a box of McDonald's cookies, an ice cream cone or a refund. The size of any refund will vary, depending on the individual restaurant.
McDonald's officials said the toys were tested by an independent laboratory before distribution began and found to meet or exceed the federal standards. However, subsequent tests that were undertaken Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that there was a potential problem for small children who broke off the toys' arms and put them in their mouths.
"Our agreement with Playmobil specifies that the federal toy standards for children of all ages be met," said Raymond S. Caruso, McDonald's vice president for communications.
"Children are tremendously important to us, and even though the Playmobil toys meet federal standards for children over 3, we have chosen to withdraw all of these from our restaurants," Caruso said.
The recall of the Playmobil toys is among the largest that has been triggered by CPSC testing.