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Traces of lead have been found in products made for animals

first_imgWhen Lane Nemeth, who founded Discovery Toys in 1978 and sold the company to Avon two decades later, decided to start a pet-products company a few years ago, one of the first things she did was to look for regulations about how to manufacture pet toys safely. She could not find any. “It was totally shocking,” said Nemeth, whose company, Petlane, sells items such as doggie tiaras and squirrel-shape chew toys. “I was stunned because I had come from such a highly regulated industry to one that has no regulations.” Following the pet-food scare this year, which is believed to have caused the death of at least 300 dogs and cats, and a spate of children’s toy recalls, which highlighted the problem of lead in products from China, pet owners have been stepping forward to ask: How safe are pet toys? AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonIndeed. “We get e-mails literally every day from people across the country saying, `Hey, we note your product is made in China – is it still safe for my dog or cat?”‘ said Gerry Brostek, chief executive of Penn-Plax Plastics, which manufactures toys under brands such as Rruff Stuff and Purr-Pet. A year ago, he said, pet owners rarely inquired about safety. Although the concerns are different when it comes to pets – if a golden retriever loses a few IQ points, will anyone notice? – the inquiries have continued to pour in during the Christmas season, when people are most likely to buy pet toys. According to the American Pet Products Association, 56 percent of dog owners and 42 percent of cat owners buy their pets toys or other treats for Christmas, in an industry with $40 billion in annual sales. So far, there does not seem to be any cause for serious concern. Some companies, such as Petsmart, do test their products for lead, and some individual dog-lovers have taken matters into their own hands (call them the helicopter parents of the pet set), but nobody has stepped forward to report egregious problems. “Is there a risk to pet owners and their children who come into contact with these toys that these dogs have been slobbering on?” asked James R. Hood, who runs a Web site, ConsumerAffairs.com, that recently sent dog toys purchased from Wal-Mart to a lab that found trace levels of lead and other toxins. (Wal-Mart responded in a statement that the levels the lab found were “barely traceable” and that its own testing found the toys safe.) “A lot more lead will come off something when it’s wet and it has been partially digested in a pet’s mouth,” Hood said. “There should be standards to protect humans first, and we need to find out what level is safe in this application. Somebody needs to look into this issue.” Such initiative is unlikely to come from the Consumer Products Safety Commission, whose lack of resources was an issue during the recent toy recalls. In its 34-year history, the commission has never recalled a pet toy because it was deemed hazardous. “We do not have jurisdiction over pet toys or pet products,” said Scott Wolfson, a commission spokesman. “Our jurisdiction would only come into play if we found that a pet toy or pet product was causing physical harm to the owner.” Lead is dangerous to animals as well as people. According to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, many species are susceptible to lead poisoning, but it is most common among birds and dogs, who, like children, face higher risks in older homes with lead paint. Symptoms of lead poisoning in dogs include “hysterical barking,” vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and blindness. And many pet owners do worry about their animal’s mental faculties. One product sold by Petlane is described this way: “The Hide-A-Squirrel will not only keep dogs occupied and eliminate boredom, but it also develops a dog’s intelligence and puzzle-solving skills.” Toys often carry warnings that they should not be left with unsupervised pets and should be discarded at first sign of damage. Dogs tend to “eat first and think later,” said Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian from Laguna Hills. “I always tell new pet parents that if you thought it was difficult to child-proof your house, it’s even more difficult to pet-proof your house because it’s more likely your dog will chew on electrical cords and toxic plants.” Parents have nothing on pet owners when it comes to fretting: The term “pet food recall” was searched on the Internet more than twice as frequently “toy recall” during those respective commotions, according to Hitwise, which tracks Web usage. The lack of lead-paint restrictions for pet toys was the subject of television news reports and discussions on pet blogs such as Pet Connection, Itchmo and Dogster. Web sites for home lead-testing kits started recommending their products for pet toys. “When the pet-food issue hit, you started getting a little bit of noise, but once the toy recalls kicked in, it really ramped up,” said Brostek of Penn-Plax Plastics.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Ramachandran Ottapathu-led Choppies to Open 40 More Stores in Africa

first_imgChoppies Enterprises, the Botswana-based budget retailer led by Indian-origin millionaire Ramachandran Ottapathu, is aiming to open 40 more stores in Africa in the next few months. The expansion plans are estimated to cost about 300 million pula ($29 million), Reuters reported.Choppies, which already has units in seven countries, plans to enter Namibia before the end of this year before embarking on an expansion drive in South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania, Ottapathu, the chief executive of the firm, told the news agency in an interview.“We will enter Namibia for the first time before the year ends,” Ottapathu said. “After a few years of losses, we are now making profits in South Africa.” The company is operating below break-even in new markets, such as Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique. It is making profits in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe — countries where it has been present for three years or more, Ottapathu told the Botswana-based Mmegi newspaper in an interview, adding that the new stores in the pipeline will come up in South Africa(13), Zambia(8), Kenya(4), Tanzania(3), Mozambique(3), Zimbabwe(2), Namibia(3).Ottapathu, 52, holds a 19.5 percent stake in the company, which is valued at over $60 million. The Botswana-listed retailer has 217 stores in the continent. Ottapathu co-founded Choppies in 1986 as a single store named Wayside Supermarket at the Lobatse town of Botswana. The company has been expanding vigorously in the last couple of years. It acquired 21 retail stores in South Africa from Jwayelani Retail in March last year, and went on to acquire three more in Kenya from Ukwala Supermarkets in November.Ottapathu has been criticized for paying high wages to employees in South Africa while cutting costs through low salaries to workers in Botswana, a charge he refutes by citing the difference in the cost of living in the two countries. “On wages, we have to understand that the cost of living is almost double in South Africa compared to Botswana,” he told Mmegi. “You have to look at the Purchasing Power Parity not just the exchange rate. The minimum wage in South Africa is R2,500 and here it’s around P700.”Ottapathu is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and a Fellow of the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants. He is a qualified chartered accountant and holds a B.Com degree from the University of Calicut. Related ItemsBotswana Indian millionaireChoppies EnterprisesChoppies IndianIndian African millionaireLittle IndiaOttapathu NRIRamachandran Ottapathulast_img read more