New Protocols to Enhance Product Testing

We want to apologize again for comparing our test results with federal standards that are based on a different testing method.

We realize this was a mistake and I’m writing to tell you about the steps we have taken to correct this. We are announcing new protocols today for strengthening our testing procedures.

December 8, 2009 — San Francisco — GoodGuide, which provides health, environment and social responsibility ratings for consumer products, announced today that it has implemented new protocols to enhance testing of consumer products.

“GoodGuide remains steadfast in its commitment to be the most trusted source of information on the health, environmental and social impacts of the products we buy,” said Dara O’Rourke, the company’s co-founder. “These new protocols reflect our belief in complete transparency and our goal of continually improving the way we operate.”

New Protocols

  • All test results of consumer products performed by GoodGuide which indicate a violation of federal standards will be sent to certified laboratories for independent verification. The vast majority of product tests reviewed by GoodGuide are conducted by independent laboratories or third party organizations.
  • Test methodologies will match U.S. or European government standards whenever results are compared to regulated levels.
  • If tests conducted by GoodGuide or an independent laboratory indicate the presence of chemicals above regulatory standards, GoodGuide will raise these issues with the appropriate government agency.

GoodGuide released test results on December 4, 2009 that showed that certain popular holiday toys contained levels of antimony and chromium that exceeded federal standards. Two days later, GoodGuide learned that it had used a testing methodology that was different than the one used to determine the federal standards. In keeping with its commitment to transparency, GoodGuide announced this fact on its website the same day and in a press release the following morning, December 7.

“It was inappropriate to compare our results to federal standards because we used a different testing methodology. Our new protocols are designed to ensure that this does not happen again,” said O’Rourke, who is also an associate professor of Environmental and Labor Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. “We apologize for any confusion and inconvenience that we may have caused consumers who have come to rely on GoodGuide for expert advice on the safety of toys and other products.”

GoodGuide’s testing involved a precise methodology that is used by industry and federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. The test measured chemical levels with a Thermo Scientific NITON XL3t series X-ray fluorescence analyzer, which is designed to detect total chemical elements on the surface of a material, including toys. The testing procedure for establishing federal standards uses a different method in which materials are tested for their soluble metals content.

One of the toys cited in the results published by GoodGuide on December 5 was the popular Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster, Mr. Squiggles. GoodGuide is referring all questions about the safety of the toy to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Because of the differing methodologies used to test the toy, GoodGuide has removed from its website the product review of the Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster, Mr. Squiggles, pending additional testing. The company also removed reviews of the other toys that were cited in the results published on December 4.

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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26 Responses to New Protocols to Enhance Product Testing

  1. dave says:

    What a line of BS.
    Glad to see you almost said you are sorry to the manufacturer and all the parents you upset. . Instead you apologize for comparing your faulty test to the correct one. What kind of experience do you have? Anyone can put up a website and claim they have a reputation.

    Bye the way, when you claimed the ZHU ZHUs were unfae and toxic, why did tou have a link on where to buy the "toxic toys" COULD IT BE THAT IS YOUR REAL EXPERTISE, MAKING MONEY ON THE WEB?

  2. JimAipperspach says:

    Hello Dara:
    Your response to the testing methodology of the Zhu Zhu Hamster is forthright and will enhance the credibility of GoodGuide. Best wishes, Jim

  3. IC says:

    if you were really "sorry" for your "mistake" that caused mass hysteria by mothers across the country who have either purchased zhu zhu pets or have already given them to their children, you would post this apology on your website homepage and not buried in a blog! i believe that you were probably trying to promote your website by causing controversy that would result in more traffic to your site. hopefully, your plans have backfired.

  4. IC says:

    oh, and by the way, "goodguide announces new toy testing protocols" as listed on your homepage is not an apology. you can do better than that!

  5. Greg Jenkins says:

    Now that you have tried to screw over Cepia with your phony info you published what are you going to do to compensate the small company that it affected? You people make me sick with your fancy titles and BIG shot connections. DO THE RIGHT THING for once in your life and man up. Pay the company the millions of dollars you have cost them. Then provide the proper service to the public that you are so called claiming to provide.

  6. Nate says:

    I am a huge fan of the creativity and ingenuity that the Zhu Zhu Pet toys represent. When I first heard of Zhu Zhu Pets and realized the craze that they have created, I was very happy for the company that made them. The toy is simple, creative, fun, and inexpensive. I cant wait for my daughters to open them on Christmas day. When I read in the news that your website had reviewed them and had found something wrong with them, I was immediately skeptical. Personally, I considered it an attempt for your website to get in the news and make a name for yourself, more than it was for you to give a good product review. I immediately was aware that you were going to cause mass confusion and trouble for parents, kids, retailers, and the company that makes Zhu Zhu Pets. And I was right, you did. I would think that in this day and age, people in your position would realize that it is important to always compare and check information before publishing it for all the nations eyes to see. As far as I am concerned, your website and reviews are a joke and a farce. Besides changing your policies on toy reviews, you should issue a public apology to Cepia, and to all of the people you caused concern to. I hope you lose readership and following because of your inability to verify your information. Get it right or go away.

  7. Steve says:

    Dr. O’Rourke – you really owe it to the consumers (in whom you scared and instilled anxiety) and the manufacturer (whom you harmed financially) to issue a more open and notorious notice and apology. I was surprised to find that this correction information did not head your website front page, and am equally shocked as some of these commentators that it is buried here. Your actions were negligent, and not worthy of UC Berkeley, and find it a bit of hucksterism that you are using its name associated with this project. If you are going to do bad science, and not follow proper confirmatory tests, then you should not use UC Berkeley’s name in this effort because it cheapens the very good scientists at that great university. And, frankly, you should revisit what it means to be in a department with the term "Science" in the title. Shame on you for following poor process when people are involved – have you never heard of the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects? The same principles should apply here. Your efforts cheapen science.

  8. Wes Petersen says:

    The only acceptable protocol is to duplicate the exact testing that the manufacturers, retailers and CPSC have determined for the standards for toy safety.

    Why do you need to do this? Cepia released its tests immediately after your bogus claims.

    What do you think you’re going to find in this testing that hasn’t been found at many stages throughout the toy production process? Who is funding these tests? Will you release the lab reports?

    This has been a disgusting and cynical exercise on your part. You cite several toys but only promote that Zhu Zhu pets are non-conforming. Your real concern is not kids’ safety but your own PR.

    Your intention was clearly to scare consumers, garner attention and promote yourself as a "concerned citizen looking out for the little guy." You stand in stark contrast to the responsible manufacturers who invest as much as 15% of the cost of any toy in testing and ensuring compliance with CPSC standards. Are you willing to do that?

    And, speaking of, are you going to test EVERY toy that is produced in the U.S.? Manufacturers do. How do you have any credibility when your criteria for selecting toys to test is obviously those, which if they fail the test, will give you the largest platform to promote yourself?

    This is probably one of the most shameful episodes in business in recent years. You have capitalized on fears and concerns to promote yourself. You have unnecessarily confused and frightened parents.

    New protocols? Reliable protocols are established. Use them. Test every toy that’s released in the U.S. or you will continue to have zero credibility. Your site will always be known as the site that tried to scare parents and the public to promote itself. Hardly an effective platform from which to provide service. Your site and your findings are now all completely questionable.

  9. Colin Campbell says:

    Look I feel sorry for the Zhu Zhu company in this instance. I feel sorry for the parents and kids who got upset.

    However you need independent organizations like this to test for dangerous toys. If you think the government has your back your sadly mistaken. Its often consumer advocates groups that point out safety issues.

    People are human they make mistakes so the side effect of this is sometimes a false positive. I would rather the odd mistake than no coverage at all.

    I do think that something more public that matches the publicity of the Zhu Zhu’s are made of poison rumor that’s currently out there would be a little more fair. Go on a TV show and say look here is what we do, here is why its important ( give examples of dangerous products found by consumer advocacy groups ) and say we made a mistake in this instance and we are sorry.

    However that’s probably not what the lawyers are saying I’ll bet.

  10. lynn says:

    Hey anyone out there no a real consumer safety group? If so please post it here. Obviously this sorry little nothing company isnt capable of doing the job.

  11. Victoria says:

    If you were truly sorry about the damage you caused, you would be all over the news, talk shows, and web trying to repair the reputations you destroyed and helping to reassure parents that their children’s Zhu Zhu toys are safe. Instead, like cowards, you post a lame excuse and then days later say you won’t do it again. Why not just admit that you trashed this small St. Louis company’s name and scared millions of parents just so you could get a name for yourselves. I’m sure you’re happy…you’re probably getting millions of hits. If you truly cared about kids, why does a click on any of your listed toys take you directly to Amazon. We all know that you get a "kickback" from any sells that come in through your website. You used a children’s toy and our news organizations to get a name for your "Know Nothing" company. Well, you got it…it’s "IdiotsAreUs". I hope Cepia LLC pursues you through every court in the land!!! P.S. If I were you, I would take your picture down. You look exactly like the weasel you are ( although that’s probably doing weasels a disservice).

  12. Joni F says:

    GoodGuide™ provides the world’s largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of products and companies. GoodGuide’s mission is to help you find safe, healthy, and green products that are better for you and the planet. From our origins as a UC Berkeley research project, GoodGuide has developed into a totally independent "For-Benefit" company. We are committed to providing the information you need to make better decisions, and to ultimately shifting the balance of information and power in the marketplace.

    The statement above has got to be the biggest Joke around. Most reliable? Lies, all you did was make sure you got your lies out to the media the minute you thought them up. how in the world can you call yourselves reliable when you idiots cant even test correctly? And the pics of the moron doing the testing? Jeeze, no gloves, handling multiple toys at once CONTAMINATION to the fullest even before the jokester bothers to test the item. Then they place it on some used and abused, contaminated sponge container. With some moron in the background, at the same table, playing on his computer, more contamination. With some fake laser gun, that hasnt been calibrated in 5 years.

    Why not hold a press conference, with all the media invited to post your sincere appologies? Of course, you need to get on your knees and beg for forgiveness ( and that still wouldnt be enough ) Why hide your admitting you lied on some back page of this website? You have made an a_ _ out of yourselves and your stupid group. There should be a major lawsuit where you lose everything including the furniture in your fake office. All of you, out of a job, and noone ever hires you morons for the rest of your lives.

    You claim that you care about the consumers. If you cared so much, then why did you blab the lies that you thought up, just to scare the public? You have proven yourselves to be the idiots that you have always been. Enough said Losers.

  13. Paul says:

    -Dara, COME CLEAN !
    You created the ZHU ZHU panic, which for kids and Parents was like yelling Fire in a
    theater. Then, You were poised to appear on Good Morning America to unveil Your
    solution, Tao IT.

    Your Tao it application may be worthwhile, But your methods are nothing less than

  14. Colin Shaw says:

    Where are the links or articles about Good Guide in the press over the antimony testing? Not only did the L.A. Times cover the story but I’m sure many others did as well. But nothing is showing up on your Media Links or in your Press Room. Hmm. Self-serving? Only showing positive or glowing reviews of your web site? How balanced is that? And I agree with the other posters – announcing new "testing protocols" in a blog is not only NOT a sincere apology but also brings more disrespect to you and your company. So much for your tag line of "GoodGuide™ provides the world’s largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of products and companies." Hah!

  15. Nick says:

    Not only does nothing show up on your media links or press room about your testing faux pas, you’ve also decided to re-write history on your twitter site by removing the tweets you posted at the launch of your disingenuous toy survey. Your credibility is very low.

  16. Mike says:

    Why are Californians paying Dana’s salary at Berkeley when he’s out spending his time running a startup company, using sleazy linkbait promotional tactics at that? Write the Regents and get this clown fired and put his salary back in the state budget.

  17. Meme says:

    Federal Standards-Can we really stand behind federal standards. We hope what we buy is safe! Isn’t this country all about money?

  18. Nate says:

    I am so glad to see I am not alone in my thinking. I praise all of you who have commented in disgust to this website. Yours posts are insightful, justified, and forthright, everything this website is not.

  19. julio says:

    When my wife and I saw the story on our local news that Zhu Zhu pets were considered toxic to children, we decided to take them back to our local Target and Toys r us store the very next day. Now we have learned that they are ok for children, now I cannot find them on store shelves so my two daughters will not be getting them for Christmas. They went as far as to cross them off of their Christmas lists to Santa, along with the Razor scooter and other toys listed on this site. This hasn’t ruined our Christmas but it sure threw a wrench into our gift plans for our two daughters. I have spent the last week going to Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Target to try and at least get two hamsters with no luck finding anything. I had returned two hamsters and seven accessories which were hard enough to find in November. Thanks Good Guide for the headache.

  20. PoisonPill says:

    Hmmm, How come I only found one website that stated where the original testing was done on Zhu Zhu pets? Oh yea that would be Hong Kong China…. Thats like letting Iran police their own nuclear facilities. A testing facility that was approved by the CPSC. I think that is more scary than anything.

  21. David says:

    Look, this company does the world an important service — do you want to leave it up to government bureaucrats only to test products for safety? If you see 30 somethings with missing hands, it is because the US government approved Thalidomide for morning sickness, which caused major deformities.

    Why is GoodGuide for profit? It is sad, but the charitable sector can’t provide the resources necessary to support this kind of testing.

    This is one misstep, albeit an unfortunate one, in what is an important project.

    GoodGuide: correct yourself publicly, be more careful, but we need you.

  22. I have to agree with the comment of Meme. Like her, I just hope everything we buy is really safe.

  23. J Greenspan says:

    Dear Goodguide.

    You may be onto something, and I strongly urge you to re-test the Zhu-Zhu Pets. I gave Zhu-Zhu pets to my 2 kids last night, and all 3 of us all experienced a very scratchy sore throught about 1hr after playing with the toy hamsters, the irritated sore throat, different than a typical cough/cold, continued all night and remains. I am very concerned. Please let me know if there could be a link between antimony and throat irritation.


  24. Natalie says:

    I believe the Zhu Zhu pet is toxic. I wonder if GoodGuide was paid $$ to ‘retract’ its statement? If you believe Zhu Zhu is not toxic, you should have your head checked.

  25. Sally F says:

    The problem with "activists" like you is when they run out of real problems, they make ones up. Shame on you!

  26. Tim Saylor says:

    Goodguide, I was pleased to see that you are changing your test methodology and protocol based on the Zhu Zhu pet report. That was a mistake, but sometimes that is simply what is needed to find a better way. I like the information you are providing; it helps to get useful information to consumers. Check out my site as well

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