Zhu Zhu Pets Safe, Company Maintains

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By Sheilah Downey

Cepia LLC, manufacturer of the wildly popular Zhu Zhu robotic hamster pets, is adamantly denying claims by a consumer toy safety company that the toys are toxic.

Mr. Squiggles, the robotic hamster accused of harboring unsafe levels of tin and antimony, is "absolutely safe and has passed the most rigorous testing in the toy industry for consumer health and safety," said Cepia CEO Russ Hornsby on Friday.

Consumer safety group Good Guide earlier this week issued a report stating that Mr. Squiggles contained unsafe levels of tin, which can be potentially harmful to the immune and nervous system, and antimony, which can be linked to cancer, and lung and heart problems.

Good Guide, based out of San Francisco, gave the toy a 5.2 rating out of 10 points. Their data is based on information from outside sources including HealthyToys.Org, the City of San Francisco and the Center for Health and Environmental Justice.

Mr. Hornsby maintained the Zhu Zhu toys were rigorously tested for safety by internal teams as well as the Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services, a global leader in Quality Assurance.

"We are disputing the findings of Good Guide," said Mr. Hornsby, "and we are 100 percent confident that Mr. Squiggles and all other Zhu Zhu toys are safe and compliant with all U.S. and European standards for consumer health and safety in toys."

The report for the safety of the Zhu Zhu pets, as filed by the Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services, based out of Hong Kong, stated that the pets were safe according to their testing requirements. The full report can be found at Zhuzhupets.com

"The results of every test prove that our products are in compliance with all government and industry safety standards," said Hornsby.

The Zhu Zhu pets are tested several times during the production process, said Hornsby, and again before they are shipped from their factories. Hornsby also said the Zhu Zhu pet's testing exceeds the levels for those products distributed in the U.S. by passing the EN71 test for products distributed in Europe.

"We are contacting the Good Guide people at this moment to share with them all of our Mr. Squiggles and Zhu Zhu Pet testing data," said Mr. Hornsby, "so we can get to the bottom of how their report was founded."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not listed the Zhu Zhu Pets as an unsafe toy on their Web site.

The Zhu Zhu pets are manufactured in four different factories in China, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

"They’re the incredibly popular toy hamsters you can’t find anywhere,” Gerrick Johnson, a toy industry analyst at BMO Capital Markets in New York, told the St. Louis Business Journal last month. “They tested well but had no track record, so many retailers were not able to place 1 million orders. Now you can’t find them, except maybe on eBay.”

Some estimated put the price for the robotic hamsters at $60, or about six times the usual price.

The scramble for the illusive hamsters rivals the Tickle Me Elmo craze in 2006 and 1996. Their surge in popularity rivals the Pet Rock, the Furby and the Beanie Babies, according to industry analysts.

Toy analyst, Sean McGowan, with Needham & Co. in New York, said the projected sales for the Zhu Zhu Pets may reach $70 million this year and $300 million in 2010, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

“They are popular because they are so damn cute and affordable,” he told the Journal. “Nobody knew it was going to be quite this big. It’s hard to imagine they will be the only interactive cute hamster on the market in 2010.”

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