(CNN) - Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is calling for a ban on toys with more than a trace amount of lead, continuing a back-and-forth with Chinese officials outraged over his comments earlier this week that seemed to suggest he supported an import ban on all toys made in that country.
“Over 400,000 children in the United States are currently suffering from lead poisoning from a variety of sources, including toys," his campaign said Sunday in a prepared statement. "Over 80 percent of the toys in this country come from China."
The campaign added that, in response to “reports that millions of Chinese-made toys were being recalled because of lead paint,” the Illinois senator had “directly pressured toy manufacturers and Bush administration officials to do a better job protecting American children from the threat of imported toys, especially those manufactured in China.”
“When I criticized China’s product safety standards recently, an official at China’s foreign ministry said I was being ‘unobjective, unreasonable, and unfair,’” Obama said in the same statement. “Now, don’t get me wrong: as president, I’ll work with China to keep harmful toys off our shelves. But I’ll also immediately take steps to ensure that all toys are independently tested before they reach our stores, and I’ll significantly increase penalties on companies that break the rules.”
Earlier this week, Obama said at a campaign event that he would “stop the import of all toys from China,” prompting an angry response from Chinese officials.
“Imagine if the quality of American products was not 100 percent up to standard. Could we take that as a reason to totally ban U.S. products?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a Thursday briefing.
Obama’s campaign said Sunday that as president, he would also double funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, expand its regulatory powers, and increase fines for companies that fail to disclose known safety hazards with products they produce.
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand