Wal-Mart is on a war path, and they are going after Expertox and ConsumerAffairs.com.
Expertox, a Texas lab, claimed that they found elevated levels of lead, chromium, and cadmium in two Wal-Mart pet toys. But Wal-Mart said the lab has “severely misinterpreted” the results. Expertox stands by their findings and said their results are “rock solid.”
Melissa O’Brien of Walmart’s corporate communication division sent ConsumerAffairs.com an email saying Wal-Mart disputed the lab’s results. She also warned ConsumerAffairs.com that they would be hearing from Wal-Mart’s attorneys.
She wrote: â€œAfter reviewing these test results provided to us today on the pet products in your story . . . the results of these tests actually prove the products are VERY safe. If these measurements are in fact the results, as you have reported, they have been severely misinterpreted by the director of ExperToxâ€™s lab, if he is reporting these levels to be â€˜highâ€™ or dangerous. To the contrary by this lab’s own report, these levels are considered very low and actually much lower than what is acceptable by regulatory bodies in the U.S. and Europe for products, including children’s toys.”
O’Brien referenced to the ASTM F-963 (also known as the Standard Consumer Safety Specification on Toy Safety). She said that allows a limit of 90 parts per million for accessible lead in toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a limit of 600 parts per million for the total lead in surface coating, she added.
She stated that Expertox’s tests showed 907.4 parts per million and this is 100 times less than the ASTM limit for toys and more than 600 times less than the CPSC limit.
O’Brien said that Wal-Mart uses independent labs that are focused on consumer product testing and data analysis, so “misinterpretations” are avoided.
â€œThe conclusions drawn in this article appear to have been based on incorrect interpretations of the data, and based on the opinions of a person (who is) not an expert in consumer product testing,â€ O’Brien said.
She also demanded that ConsumerAffairs.com withdraw their story and threatened legal action if they do not comply.
But ConsumerAffairs.com is not easily scared by corporate tactics.
James R. Hood, ConsumerAffairs.com’s president and editor in chief, said: “Threatening the press with legal action is not a very good way to present your company’s point of view. If Wal-Mart wants to sue us, we will meet them in any court in the land and we look forward to what we will find in the discovery process. Until then, they should act like responsible corporate citizens instead of trying to silence consumer outlets with playground-bully tactics.”
He added: “America’s largest retailer owes more to its customers than trying to goon-squad its critics into silence.”
Expertox said they stand by their lab findings and the lab manager said Dr. Ernest Lykissa, Ph.D., director of ExperToxâ€™s lab, is an expert with consumer product testing and has extensive experience testing Dow breast implants.
The Texas lab also stated that companies from all over the world go to them to test their products. The lab manager said she is not surprised about Wal-Mart’s attack on the lab’s results.
â€œWeâ€™ve had that argument before from major companies that weâ€™ve misinterpreted the results,â€ she said. â€œBut weâ€™ve never been found liable of that. We get this defensiveness every time there is a question about a sample we test. And the larger the company, the more aggressive and defensive they are. This is consistent with what Iâ€™ve seen. Itâ€™s textbook for a large corporation.â€
One pet toy company is not surprised by Expertox’s results. KONG, a Colorado based pet toy company, said that many companies enter the pet industry to simply make money and lose their ethics in the process. He added that he wasn’t aware of any governmental agencies that oversee pet toys.
Chuck Costello, director of marketing for KONG, said the three KONG toys that are made in China (Air KONG, KONG plush, and KONG Wubba) go through rigorous safety standards.
â€œAll imported KONG product lines are tested by independent laboratories, once in China and again in the U.S. to prove they are safe and non-toxic,â€ Costello said. â€œOnce products are received in the KONG warehouse they are again subjected to strict KONG quality control procedures.â€
In response to the lab results, the CPSC said that it only regulates products (including toys) that hurt humans. They didn’t specify if that includes pet toys that could be handled by humans.