Toymaker Fisher-Price failed to ensure that its recalled Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is safe, ignored warnings that it was dangerous, and marketed it for overnight use despite risks, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The committee, which conducted an investigation into the design, safety, and recall of infant inclined sleep products, alleged that the company’s poor safety practices and lack of meaningful oversight allowed the product to stay on the U.S. market for 10 years, during which time more than fifty infants died after using the product, while the firm collected at least $200 million in revenue.
It was in 2019 that Fisher-Price recalled the sleeper, which came to market in 2009, citing the risk of injury or death after more than 50 infants had lost their lives. Around 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play units were sold before the recall.
As per the new report, executives at Fisher-Price, a unit of toy giant Mattel Inc., ignored critical warnings from pediatricians, parents, and foreign regulators that the product was dangerous. They also continued to market it for overnight sleep despite clear evidence that this put infants at risk of serious harm or death.
The report was released ahead of a hearing in which Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz and Fisher-Price senior vice president and general manager Chuck Scothon were testified.
As per the available documents, Fisher-Price became aware of serious concerns about the Rock ‘n Play soon after its launch, including from regulatory bodies in Australia and Canada, pediatricians in the United States, and from consumers who were concerned the product was not safe for overnight sleep.
The Committee had launched the probe in August 2019 following media reports about dozens of infant deaths in inclined sleep products.
The Committee’s investigation also showed that the New York-based company and other manufacturers of infant inclined sleepers operate with inadequate oversight. The committee also said that the Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC, which is responsible for oversight of consumer products, lacks the necessary authority to protect infants from potentially deadly products.
The Committee noted that even though Fisher-Price and CPSC were aware of injuries and deaths in the Rock ‘n Play as early as 2012, CPSC first expressed concern about the product’s safety to the company in 2018. Even after warning, the Rock ‘n Play was not recalled until more than a year later in April 2019.
Meanwhile, last week, Fisher-Price recalled 227,000 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soothers and 2-in-1 Soothe ‘n Play Gliders, after the death of four children. According to the CPSC, the infants were all placed on their backs and unrestrained but later rolled to their stomachs when placed in the gliders, causing suffocation. The incidents occurred between April 2019 and February 2020.
Aiming to sooth the allegations, Fisher-Price has now launched a Safe-Start campaign to train the parents and caregivers to provide training for safe environments for sleep and the proper use of safety restraints on their products. A Medical and Scientific Safety Council or MSSC is also formed to help parents and caregivers with security and safe sleep environment advice from renowned medical experts.
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