Needle prompts recall of half a million balls

SHERRIN is recalling up to half a million Auskick balls manufactured in the past two years after revelations an Australian boy was injured by a needle in a ball linked to an Indian subcontractor using child labour.

The company has pulled all football manufacturing from its Indian subcontractors after the Herald revealed Sherrin balls were being hand-stitched by children as young as 10, for as little as 12¢ a ball. The children, almost all of them girls, were being pulled out of school to stitch balls for up to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

Yesterday, Sherrin announced it was recalling all 2011 and 2012 Auskick balls, after the father of a six-year-old Melbourne boy said his son had been pricked by a sewing needle found protruding from the skin of a Sherrin football.

The managing director of Sherrin, Chris Lambert, said yesterday he believed the fault was linked to a subcontractor who, in breach of Sherrin's manufacturing standards, had outsourced the stitching of balls to families in the Jalandhar region of India.

He said Sherrin was recalling all balls sent to that subcontractor for stitching this year, totalling about 9000 balls.

However, Sherrin is also recalling an estimated 450,000 to 500,000 Auskick balls manufactured last year and this year as a matter of ''extreme caution''. The recall affected all Auskick balls in those years, including those handed out at clinics and sold in shops.

''All of our balls are put through rigorous quality control, including being subjected to metal detectors, and our subcontractors are also exposed to a stringent auditing process,'' Mr Lambert said.

''In this instance, however, the process has clearly let us down. To be safe and as a matter of extreme caution, we have decided to recall all the Auskick balls that have been produced in 2011 and 2012, and to ensure that no other balls stitched by this subcontractor will end up in the hands of consumers.''

At a news conference at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt Hotel, Mr Lambert yesterday revealed a second incidence of a needle being discovered in one of the company's balls. He said a needle had been found in a ball produced in India at a factory in May, but it had never reached the public.

Mr Lambert estimated the recall of more than 450,000 Auskick balls would cost the company more than $1 million.

He said the needle-affected balls comprised just two out of two million footballs produced in 12 years.

Mr Lambert said that he was ''grateful'' Fairfax Media journalists had alerted the company to both the child labour and needle issues.

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