Hutchison Whampoa

Watsons drops child's toy over fear it contains psychotropic liquid

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 12:00am

Pharmaceutical chain Watsons yesterday took one of its toys off the shelves in Hong Kong amid fears they might contain psychotropic substances.

The product, called the Yo Yo Water Ball, poisoned a boy in Paraguay after he cut the ball with a knife, causing the liquid inside to seep out, according to news agency reports. The Paraguayan government carried out tests and found the liquid contained psychotropic substances.

The jelly-like balls, which are made on the mainland, can fit into the palm of an adult. It can be squeezed into different shapes, forcing the liquid inside to move. An elastic cord allows it to be swung around like a yo-yo.

On its package, it is described as a 'safety sport ball' that can be used to play 'fun games to build eye-hand co-ordination'. It is aimed at five-year-olds and above.

A Consumer Council spokesman said yesterday that no one in Hong Kong had filed a query or complaint so far.

Watsons executives acted immediately after receiving a call from the South China Morning Post about the reports. A spokeswoman said the products were removed from the company's 142 stores. Consumers who bought the product can get a refund with a receipt.

'Clients' safety is the company's first priority,' the spokeswoman said.

Watsons began selling the toys in March for $9.90 in packages of two. Sweet Home, a Hong Kong company, is the wholesaler of the product.

Kenneth Lee Kwing-chin, head of the pharmacy practice division of Chinese University, said it was hard to say what sort of effects psychotropic substances could have on children because he did not know what the dosage or type of the drugs were in this particular toy.

A range of drugs used to treat mental illnesses fall into the category of psychotropic substances. They can be everything from anti-psychotic agents and anti-depressants to tranquillisers to aid sleep.

'They should never be found in toys,' Dr Lee said. 'It might poison people without them knowing.'

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, which enforces the Toys and Children's Products Safety Ordinance, said the department would look into the issue.