That Time McDonald's Recalled 12 Million Toxic AF 'Shrek' Glasses
For a long time, the biggest sign that your character had made it into the annals of pop culture was the moment they got their own cool promotional glass at a major fast food chain. Every once in a while photos of these glasses will pop up on social media with people wondering why they you don't see them anymore -- is it because today's children are too sensitive to handle such awesomeness? Are Garfield's thought balloons too edgy for those little Gen Z snowflakes? Nah, it's because these things had shocking levels of cadmium and lead paint.
Seriously, these glasses were all over the place for decades. From the Shrek ones in the 2000s ...
To the Disney ones that blew this child away in the '90s ...
To the Garfield ones that still populate the cupboards of millions of mothers and grandmothers across the world ...
So it's too bad that, in 2010, what was destined to be the last batch of Shrek glasses was found to contain dangerous levels of cadmium, which can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, bones, nervous system, and permanently lower your IQ (perhaps enough that you'll think Shrek 3 and 4 are better than the first one). The discovery was made by Jennifer Taggart of the Smart Mama Blog who, along with another anonymous tipster, supplied her findings to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. McDonald's insisted that the glasses were safe and that they only recalled 12 million of them "out of an abundance of caution," but an investigation by the feds found that just touching the glasses eight times a day could be "hazardous" for a 6-year-old. It didn't help that the mugs had Shrek's irresistible mug painted on them, so the kids were probably kissing them all day long.
After the recall, a follow-up investigation into painted character glasses new and old found that they had "up to 1,000 times the federal limit for lead in children's products." These included ones with Disney characters, DC Comics superheroes, Coca-Cola logos, and more. According to an investigation by consumer goods safety advocate Tamara Rubin of the Lead Safe Mama blog (whose work is responsible for the recent flurry of interest in this subject and thus this article), the old Garfield mugs in particular contain more than 1,000 times the currently legal amount of lead in America and about 150 times the amount of cadmium allowed in the state of Washington (there's no federal law about this, yet). That peculiar aftertaste is not lasagna; it's cancer-causing chemicals. Rubin has made even more concerning findings in harmless-looking mugs adorned with the likes of Snoopy, the Smurfs, the Carebears, Popeye, and more -- basically, pretty much every mug an '80s kid was likely to beg their parents for.
And it's not like the toxic crap stays in the glass -- an UK study found that the metals can leach out and be swallowed. The dumbest part here is that, even before Taggart and Rubin's recent findings, some had been warning about this for over 30 years. In 1977, the Environmental Protection Agency warned that McDonald's painted glasses contained levels of lead well past the legal limit for that era, and McDonald's' response was basically "no they don't." The Garfield mugs were just too important for the company's financial survival, apparently. (The following tweet is screenshotted from Rubin's blog.)
The good news is that there are independent stores out there that sell non-toxic mug replacements for the Garfield glasses at cost, just for the love of Jim Davis, like this one. We recommend hurrying up and stealthily replacing the ones your mom refuses to throw out before Mr. Davis sues all those stores into oblivion.
Top image: Dreamworks Pictures, McDonald's