SAMSONITE International SA is reportedly recalling 250,000 "Tokyo Chic" suitcases worldwide to replace handles on the bags after a Hong Kong consumer group found high levels of compounds linked to cancer.

But by yesterday afternoon, the products were still on sale in Shanghai and no recalling or exchange service was provided, according to Shanghai Daily investigation.

The luggage maker said yesterday that independent tests showed the suitcases posed no health hazard and it was carrying out the recall to allay consumer concerns, the Associated Press reported.

Yesterday afternoon, the Tokyo Chic line could still be found at some local stores.

Samsonite's Shanghai branch wasn't providing any exchange or maintenance service for the Tokyo Chic line, according to both a representative at the corporation's Shanghai branch and a staff member with Samsonite's China Headquarters based in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.

"It is impossible to have the product exchanged or returned in either Shanghai or Ningbo, wherever you bought it, like in Hong Kong," said a staff member with Samsonite's China Headquarters.

Late yesterday, however, the company told the Associated Press that it expects to spend US$500,000 on the worldwide recall, involving 250,000 suitcases sold over the past three years.

The company said it will take about a week to replace handles on 30,000 still in stock. Tokyo Chic suitcases are sold mainly in Asia under Samsonite's American Tourister Brand.

Samsonite pulled the line from Hong Kong stores on Monday to replace the side handles after Hong Kong's Consumer Council reported that a sample it tested had levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that were higher than recommended in voluntary guidelines.

The compounds are commonly found in plastics, rubber and lubricating oil and it's possible that traces were left during manufacturing, the council said. They've been known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals.

The council's tests gave readings for the compounds that were off the charts at 17,960 milligrams per kilogram.

But Samsonite commissioned independent tests from German and Hong Kong laboratories showing levels "significantly lower" than the council's.

At one of Samsonite's stores yesterday, at 388 Nanjing Road W., there were several suitcases sold in the Tokyo Chic line. A sales person said they sell well. The cheapest sold at 699 yuan (US$112) after a 50 percent discount. There are more than 30 Samsonite counters and stores in Shanghai. Most of sales people questioned said they were unaware of the controversy.

Shi Guoqing, a worker at a foreign trade company, said he may think twice before buying Samsonite's products. He has no suitcase of the brand but was considering buying one.

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