Fisher-Price "ignored critical warnings" about infant sleeper linked to more than 30 deaths, House report finds
New findings from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform into infant inclined sleepers finds that Fisher-Price failed to ensure its Rock 'n Play was safe, and ignored warnings it was dangerous.
The Rock 'n Play had been on the market for about 10 years and linked to more than 30 infant deaths, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These products were not regulated like cradles and bassinets.
Before it was voluntarily recalled in 2019, 4.7 million Rock 'n Plays were sold.
The new Congressional report calls out Fisher-Price and its parent company Mattel for selling what investigators called a dangerous product, despite clear evidence it put infants at risk of serious harm or death.
"This is outrageous, in my opinion it's criminal," House Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney told CBS News consumer investigative correspondent Anna Werner. "We have to take steps to make sure that this does not happen again."
The committee's report, obtained exclusively by CBS News, says "Fisher-Price failed to ensure the Rock 'n Play was safe before bringing it to market" and "ignored critical warnings...that the product was dangerous..."
Pediatricians say babies must sleep on a flat surface on their backs, but the Rock 'n Play sleeper put infants at an angle of 30 degrees.
Now the report finds when the product was launched in 2009, "there was no independent research, or even internal company research, showing that it was safe for babies to sleep at an angle."
Pediatric injury expert Dr. Ben Hoffman finds the revelation disturbing.
"The fact that that there was no due diligence done in talking to experts, to even understanding what safe sleep was and how the inclined sleeper product operated completely counter to what we know safe sleep to be," he said.
The report cites an incident from October 2012, when a mother reported to Fisher-Price that her 2-month-old son "had stopped breathing" in the sleeper. He was revived, but two months later, "Fisher-Price was notified that a 15-week-old infant died in the Rock 'n Play."
Mother Sara Thompson, whose 15-week-old son Alexander also died after napping in a Rock 'n Play in 2011, said the pain never goes away.
"It's been 10 years and I still cry," Thompson said.
She said that after going to the hospital the day he died, "Leaving without him was so hard to come home with a car seat in the back and no baby in it. Probably the worst day of my life.
Thompson said she contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission — with no result.
It wasn't until 2018 that CPSC staff counted 17 infant deaths and "became alarmed," according to the government report.
One staffer wrote in an email, "Holy cow! We need to discuss this. When the Commission sees this they are going to flip."
But the voluntary recall of the Rock 'n Play didn't happen until a little over a year later, because of what investigators call "grave flaws in the U.S. consumer product safety system, in which manufacturers are largely left to police themselves."
"It's supposed to be the Consumer Product Safety Commission and everything we've learned is the manufacturers are the ones protected," Thompson said.
Fisher-Price told CBS News that they "disagree with significant parts" of the report's findings.
"The Rock 'n Play Sleeper was designed and developed following extensive research, medical advice, safety analysis, and more than a year of testing and review. It met or exceeded all applicable regulatory standards," the company said.
But Rep. Maloney is demanding accountability.
"We have to hold corporations responsible," she said. "We have to put people over profits."
The Thompsons are suing Mattel and Fisher-Price.
Fisher-Price told CBS New the Rock 'n Play sleeper "was safe when used in accordance with its instructions and warnings."
The acting chairman of the CPSC says a provision in the law known as section 6B "undermines the agency's ability to warn consumers about dangerous products," and that it needs to be repealed. The topic will likely come up in a Congressional hearing taking place Monday.
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