The Danger In Delaying Recalls

000427 bjorn baby carrier AP

It happens millions of times every year in the United States: someone is injured by a defective or mislabeled product.

And all too often, that someone is a child.

Ironically, enforcing safety regulations for consumer products often depends on the willingness of manufacturers to admit their mistakes. CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick reports in an Eye on America investigation.


Portia Moore remembers clearly the worst day of her life.

"...and I looked down to see Matthew falling to the floor, and I tried to catch him, and I couldn't catch him," she said.

It was four years ago. Her son Matthew, then just a month old, slipped through the leg hole of his Baby Bjorn Infant Carrier and fractured his skull on a supermarket floor.

"...and I will always feel like I did something wrong," said Moore.

But she didn't. That day Matthew became one of the millions of Americans who are injured every year by a defective consumer product.

From collapsing strollers to flaming toasters, for 30 years the Consumer Products Safety Commission has worked with manufacturers to get these products off the market. The trouble is, many manufacturers today are not reporting complaints to the CPSC.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel tracked the CPSC's own data and found the 10 worst cases, ranging from 320 to a staggering 4,500 injuries before some products were recalled.

"A lot of times the companies, they have injures, they're reluctant to report because they think it's going to be not be good for their image," said former CPSC official Bill Kitzes.

Some of the worst offenders, according to CPSC chairwoman Ann Brown, make children's products.

"In the last 3 years of [defective] juvenile products, up to 75 percent were found by us," says Brown.

That's because minimal reporting by companies plus the limited resources of the CPSC don't always add up to fast action on defective products. And there are now criticisms that this very agency, designed to protect the public from bad goods, may be in need of repair itself.

"There are still over 20 million consumer product injuries a year, and with, you know, 500 people and 40-something million dollars a year, I don't think it's enough," said Kitzes.

Moore, who is a former federal prosecutor, found that out fast. After Matthew's fall, she alerted the CPSC directly. It took two-and-a-half years before the product was recalled.

Moore said, "It was shocking to me."

She says she knows of at least seven other babies who fell out during that time.

"We work just as quickly as we can to get products off store shelves," says Brown. She says it is extremely uncommon to have a lag time of a year.

The CPSC boasts a fast track program that can enforce recalls in under a month, but that program only works if the manufacturer is willing to help. Otherwise, consumers can only file their complaints and hope or the best.

"My fear was that a baby was going to die before they took some action," says Moore.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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