After executives at Fisher-Price ignored repeated safety warnings about the company's once-popular Rock 'n Play sleeper, and even after infants began to roll over and die in the now-recalled product, the House Oversight Committee may be coming down hard on the corporation as Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) grilled the company over their controversial product.
Rep. Schultz claimed on Twitter that the company's CEO & Senior VP publicly admitted the controversial Rock 'n Play that has taken the lives of multiple infants, was not adequately researched for safety before releasing to the public.
In today’s @OversightDems hearing Mattel’s CEO & Senior VP admitted the company didn’t adequately research if the Rock 'n Play sleeper was safe before selling it. Corporate negligence took dozens of infants’ lives. We need stronger regulations to prevent these avoidable tragedies pic.twitter.com/POSJHgO6lO
— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@RepDWStweets) June 7, 2021
An investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform alleges that the New York-based children's products giant didn't adequately vet the sleeper for safety before putting it on the market in 2009 and then batted away criticism of the Rock 'n Play for a decade before recalling it in 2019 after more than 50 infants had lost their lives.
Among the investigation included heartbreaking testimony from a mother whose child died in the ten-year period the company ignored the problem. In 2018, Erika Richter, whose daughter died in a Rock 'n Play sleeper in August 2018, slammed Fisher-Price officials and called on lawmakers to fix the "broken system" that led to her daughter's death.
The company told the CPSC that it knew of 14 infant deaths in the sleeper as of February 2018, more than a year before it recalled the roughly 4.7 million units that had been sold. Fisher-Price earned at least $200 million in revenue from a decade's worth of sales of the sleeper, the report noted.
Big-name Democrats such as Rep. Schultz who sits on the Oversight and Reform Committee attributed the tragedy to corporate negligence calling for additional regulations, adding "Corporate negligence took dozens of infants' lives. We need stronger regulations to prevent these avoidable tragedies."
Schultz also said through a video posted on her Twitter that several of the corporation's employees interviewed could not confirm why the design for the product was constructed the way it was distributed.
In response to our request for comment, a Fisher-Price spokesperson furnished the following statement on behalf of the company:
There is nothing more important to Fisher-Price than the safety of our products and the trust consumers place in us. Our hearts go out to every family who has suffered a loss.
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. As recently as 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed to adopt the ASTM voluntary standard for a 30-degree angled inclined sleeper as federal law.
After the product launched, different independent medical and other expert analyses verified that it was safe when used in accordance with its instructions and warnings. Two studies confirmed that the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was as safe or safer than other sleep environments such as cribs and bassinets, and one of the studies found that the product had far fewer incidents than the SUID rates in cribs, bassinets, and playpens. In addition, we reported significant incidents to the CPSC beyond the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act.
Though the facts show the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was safe when used in accordance with its instructions and warnings, we voluntarily recalled it more than two years ago and have continued to work diligently to remove all recalled product from the market. We reaffirm our commitment to parents that we will always put their children’s safety first.