SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian officials ordered a highly popular Chinese-made children's toy pulled from the shelves after scientists found it contained a chemical that converts into a powerful "date rape" drug when ingested.
Bindeez, which were named Australia's toy of the year, contain a chemical that converts into a "date rape" drug.
Three children have been hospitalized over the past 10 days after swallowing beads from Bindeez, named Australia's toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year. The beads in the toy, sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises, are arranged into designs and fuse together when sprayed with water.
Spin Master Ltd., a Toronto-based toy company that distributes a similar line of toys for Moose Enterprises under the name Aqua Dots, said it is requesting all stores remove the product from shelves in North America.
It could not immediately be learned whether Aqua Dots are made in the same factories as the Bindeez product. But in a statement, Spin Master said that "out of an abundance of caution," it stopped shipping the item and was working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada.
The news startled industry followers like Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant, because Aqua Dots has been one of the few bright stars of the toy selling season, which, along with overall retailing, has gotten off to a sluggish start.
Byrne noted that the incidents could have been isolated, and Spin Master may be erring on the side of caution.
"This is something that they could not have foreseen. This is an extremely hot toy. ... It's a little scary," Byrne said.
Scientists say the beads contain a chemical that the human body metabolizes into the so-called "date rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound -- made from common and easily available ingredients -- can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.
The New South Wales state minister for fair trading, Linda Burney, ordered the toys pulled from store shelves Tuesday when it was learned a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were admitted to a Sydney hospital after swallowing large quantities of the beads.
A 19-month-old toddler from Queensland also was receiving medical help after eating the beads, the state's chief health officer, Jeannette Young, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"The number of product recalls of well-known toys is highly disturbing to me," Burney said. "In the meantime, I would urge parents to immediately remove any Bindeez products from their children."
Naren Gunja from Australia's Poisons Information Center said the drug's effect on children was "quite serious ... and potentially life-threatening."
A statement from the New South Wales Fair Trading Department said the product was supposed to use a nontoxic compound used in glue, but it contained the harmful chemical instead.
Neither Spin Master nor Moose Enterprises could immediately be reached for comment. E-mail to a friend