Fisher-Price’s poor safety practices and lack of meaningful oversite allowed its Rock ‘n Play sleeper to stay on the U.S. market for 10 years, during which time more than 50 infants died using the product while the company raked in at least $200 million in revenue, according to a report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform.
A two-year investigation led to the 38-page report, which was released Monday -- three days after Fisher-Price on Friday recalled its 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soothers following the deaths of four infants. Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel Inc., also recalled a similar product, the 2-in-1 Soothe ‘n Play Glider, although there were no reported deaths connected to it.
On Monday, U.S. representatives were able to question leaders at Fisher-Price and Mattel. The question raised Monday was why these products were not recalled earlier and what needs to be done to prevent this in the future.
“What we found was absolutely shocking,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House oversight committee. “It is a national scandal.”
When Mattel released the Rock ‘n Play to the market in 2009, it was the first of its kind. But the investigation found that “Fisher-Price failed to ensure the Rock ‘n Play was safe before bringing it to market, ignored critical warnings from pediatricians, parents, and foreign regulators that the product was dangerous, and continued to market it for overnight sleep despite clear evidence that this put infants at risk of serious harm or death.”
Sara Thompson said her son, Alexander, was 3 months old when he died in a Rock n’ Play 10 years ago.
“He did fabulous in it until the day he stopped breathing,” Thompson said.
In 2019, Erica Ricktor said her daughter, Emma Ashely, died in the sleeper.
“If I had known about the dangers of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play even minutes before putting my daughter in it, I would still have my daughter today and she would be 3 years old next month,” Ricktor said. “Now this is all that I have of my daughter: the outfit from the hospital that still smells like her.”
The report revealed that in 2012, Fisher-Price received a report of an infant who died in the Rock ‘n Play, yet the product was not recalled until seven years later -- after more than 4.7 million were sold.
“We believed the product was safe when used in accordance with instruction,” said Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz.
During Monday’s hearing, Kreiz argued the deaths occurred because the products were not used properly. But he said the company was aware of deaths related to the product since 2012, and as early as 2013, there’s documentation from pediatricians that they warned of the sleeper’s potential danger.
“I am absolutely convinced that we did everything we could to ensure our products were safe,” Kreiz said.
It’s a statement the two grieving parents disagree with.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have the power to recall a product even if deaths are associated with the product. That’s why one of the recommendations from the oversight committee is to give CPSC the power to recall a product without waiting for a company to do so.