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Consumer Confidential: Robot hamsters, consumer debt, Sesame Street

December 7, 2009 | 10:46 am

Here's your mangled Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Are Zhu Zhu pets safe? That's a question many parents wouldn't mind having answered in light of the fact that the robot hamsters are turning into the gotta-have toy of the holiday season. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it's taking a closer look at the toy after a consumer group, GoodGuide, said it found a high level of the chemical antimony in the toy. Antimony can cause lung and heart problems, among other ailments. The maker of Zhu Zhu pets, Cepia LLC, says they're safe. We'll soon find out.

--We're definitely keeping a tighter rein on our spending. Economists say the Federal Reserve will report today that consumer borrowing fell for a record ninth straight month in October as people continued grappling with a way-harsh economy. Part of the reason for the decline is because people are being more prudent when it comes to debt. Another is because there's simply less credit to go around as banks remain cautious about lending. The irony: If consumers don't start spending soon, the economy won't get back on its feet.

--Sesame Street has a new address -- at least in terms of who makes toys based on the popular characters. Hasbro Inc. says it's won the contract to make Sesame Street toys and games, taking the lucrative license from rival Mattel Inc. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Hasbro will start cranking out the Elmos and Big Birds in 2011, and will continue doing so at least until 2021.

-- David Lazarus