Failure to address deadly problems with infant product
A report released Monday by House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney delivers a rude awakening to Fisher-Price and the federal government — which for nearly a decade looked the other way even as dozens of infants died in a product marketed for napping and overnight sleeping. Deepest shame on the company and its parent, Mattel, for putting profits over safety, and on the feds for taking years to snap out of their own deadly slumber.
As the committee’s research reveals, the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was misbegotten from the start. Despite a strong consensus among pediatricians that sleeping at an incline could put infants at risk, despite three warnings from an internal company committee that this particular seat demanded further research, the company began sales in October 2009.
In 2010, Australia’s consumer protection watchdog told Fisher-Price that the product was "at odds with widely accepted and promoted best practices." A year later, Canada banned it from being marketed as a sleeper.
Where was Washington? Though the product was unique, Fisher-Price was never required to submit any data to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish its sleeping angle was safe for overnight. Indeed, it took until February 2018, and countless complaints, for the CPSC to take a hard look.
Even the recall was haphazard and reactive. In early 2019, the feds inadvertently disclosed data about Rock ‘n Play infant deaths to Consumer Reports, which told both the CPSC and the company that it would publish the data. It was that threat that finally focused minds. And it was Maloney’s impending report that last week finally prompted the commission to ban inclined sleepers entirely.
It is jaw-dropping that in 2021 in America it takes a congressional oversight report to urge manufacturers to be required to “submit a report to CPSC demonstrating the safety of any new durable infant or toddler product that falls outside mandatory standards.”
That urgent fix and others are too late for more than 50 precious infants gone forever.
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