A recall of 12 million cadmium-tainted "Shrek" drinking glasses sold by McDonald's raises questions about the safety of millions of similar cheap promotional products that have been sitting in Americans' kitchen cabinets for years.
Only glasses produced for the latest "Shrek" movie are included in the voluntary recall announced yesterday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, but they were made by a South Jersey company that McDonald's has worked with for 15 years. And many other companies make similar glassware with cartoon characters or other designs baked in.
"It could have been any glass company," said Ron Biagi, an executive with Arc International, which made the glasses. "We all do the same thing using materials from the same suppliers."
Arc is a French company with a plant in Millville. Its origins as a glassmaker date to 1825. The company said that it has been making glasses for McDonald's for 15 years and that levels of cadmium used in the enamel baked into the glass were within current federal safety guidelines.
Biagi said the company was surprised and confused when it got word of the recall Thursday night.
"Our feeling is these glasses are safe," Biagi said.
Cadmium is a carcinogen that research shows can cause bone softening and severe kidney problems. Research also suggests that it can, like lead, hinder brain development in the very young.
The CPSC said in its recall McDonald's said the U.S.-made glasses met federal guidelines for cadmium under testing conducted by a CPSC-approved lab.
CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson, however, said the glasses fall short of standards for the toxic metal that the agency is in the process of developing.
The CPSC warned consumers to immediately stop using the glasses McDonald's sold as part of a promotional campaign for the movie "Shrek Forever After." The fast-food giant said it issued the recall "in an abundance of caution" and "in light of CPSC's evolving assessment of standards for consumer products."
"We believe the Shrek glassware is safe for consumer use," McDonald's USA spokesman Bill Whitman said. "However, again to ensure that our customers receive safe products from us, we made the decision to stop selling them and voluntarily recall these products effective immediately."
On its Web site, McDonald's said customers can learn how to return the glasses and request a refund by visiting www. mcdonalds.com/glasses or calling 800-244-6227. It also said previous promotional gimmicks and Happy Meal toys are not involved in the recall.