In 2009, Mattel’s Fisher-Price started selling the Rock and Play Sleeper, a recklessly designed baby bed. During the ten years that it was sold to parents around the world, dozens of babies died and thousands were injured due to the design of the Rock and Play Sleeper. In this episode, learn the results of a congressional investigation into how the Rock and Play Sleeper was invented, why Mattel and Fisher-Price refused to recall their their dangerous but profitable product, what the government did – or didn’t do – about it, and why we desperately need Congress to change to our product safety laws as soon as possible.
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Sound Clip Sources
Hearing: House Committee on Oversight and Reform, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, June 7, 2021
- Ynon Kreiz
- CEO of Mattel Inc.
- Chuck Scothon
- Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fisher-Price, Global Head of Infant and Preschool at Mattel Inc.
00:01 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: In 2019, this committee launched an exhaustive investigation and to how the Rock ‘N Play was developed, marketed and later recalled. Our staff conducted interviews and reviewed 1000s of pages of documents. This morning we are going to be releasing this report, which you can get on the core website or on my congressional website. What we found was absolutely shocking. It is a national scandal.
01:37 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: When Mattel released the Rock ‘N Play in 2009, it was the only product of its kind on the market. pediatrician said advice for years that infants should sleep on a firm flat crib mattress to prevent death or injury. But Rock ‘N Play was a padded seat holding infants at a 30 degree angle. Even though this new design conflicted with safety guidelines, our investigation shows that Mattel did not consult with a single pediatrician or conduct a single scientific study to find out if it was safe for babies to sleep at an angle. Internal documents also show that over the decade this product was sold, but Mattel repeatedly ignored urgent warnings from international regulators, pediatricians, and even its own customers that the Rock ‘N Play was unsafe.
02:34 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: For example, in 2010, a regulator in Australia warned Mattel that using this product as a sleeper “is at odds with widely accepted and promoted best practices.” In quote, in 2011, the company was banned from marketing the rockin play as a sleeper in Canada because of safety concerns.
03:13 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: Mattel also received a steady drumbeat of reports that infants as young as two months old, had stopped breathing or even died in the rockin play. Mattel employees admitted to the committee that the company knew about these deaths and injuries, but Mattel claimed that its product was not the problem.
04:35 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: In fact, Mattel only agreed to recall it after it became clear that the Consumer Reports was about to publish a very damning evidence that dozens of infants died using the rock in play.
05:07 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: On Friday, we learned that Mattel is recalling two more inclined infant infant products that the company marketed for sleep. The Rock ‘N Glide Soother and Sooth ‘N Play Glider after four infants rolled over in the Rock ‘N Glide and suffocated. In other words, they died because of the exact same dangerous product design as the infants who died in Rock ‘N Play.
25:58 Chuck Scothon: Around our headquarters in Buffalo, New York. After the product launch, Fisher Price regularly examined and analyzed any safety incident that was reported and regularly shares the reports of fatalities and serious incidents with the CPSC for its own analysis. We asked two top doctors to evaluate the safety of the product specifically related to observing the breathing of infants sleeping in an incline in the product. These doctors confirmed the Rock ‘N Play Sleeper was safe when used in accordance with the warnings and instructions. In 2018, we had extensive discussions with the CPSC about the rockin play. And as one of the top engineering firms to assess independently whether infants were at risk of rolling over when using the product. We are confident that all of our products are safe when uses intendance and intended in accordance with the warnings and instructions. At the same time, we take into account reports of injuries that are associated with other patterns of use. In light of the risks of accidents and the use of inclined sleepers, the safety restraints were not used. We decided two years ago to recall the rock and play voluntarily is the best way to reduce this risk.
27:14 Chuck Scothon: Recently we considered a similar situation with a 4-in-1 Rocking Glide Soother. Although this is not a sleeping product, the data indicated a risk of accidents if the safety restraints were not used, or children were left unsupervised. Based on this, we decided to recall the glider, which we announced last Friday. We also recall the 2-in-1 Soothe ‘N Play Glider, even though there are no reported fatalities associated with this product, because it is similar to the 4-In-1 glider. Importantly, with these two actions, we no longer make any products in either the inclined sleep category, or the glider category and we have no intention of doing so in the future.
28:11 Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: Mr. Kreiz, the report that the committee released today is based on interviews and internal documents from your company, Mattel, and these internal sources are damning. They show Mattel did not do any independent research. As to the safety to see if rockin play was safe for sleeping before starting to sell it in 2009. They show that Mattel did not consult a single licensed pediatrician to make sure that the product was safe. And they show that rockin play. After it came to market. They ignored Mattel ignored a pediatricians warning and writing and brushed off reports from mothers who had lost their children that babies had stopped breathing and even died from the product. They were worn from foreign countries that had taken it off the market. And the documents show that after the Consumer Product Safety Commission, raise concerns with Mattel in 2018, your company fought back for nearly a year. Even though you knew at least 14 infants had died in your product. 14 babies lost. This is a national scandal. It is breathtakingly irresponsible. It is corporate conduct that cannot be tolerated. And it has to change in the future. Mr. Kreiz, on behalf of Mattel Will you accept responsibility for this tragedy and apologize to the dozens of families whose children died using your product? Ynon Kreiz: Well, let me first say that our hearts go out to every family who suffered the loss. The Rock ‘N Play Sleeper was safe when used in accordance with its instructions and safety warnings. The Sleeper was designed and developed following extensive research, medical advice, Safety Analysis, and more than a year of testing and reviews. The product met or exceeded all applicable regulatory standards as recent as 2017. The CPSC proposed to adopt the SDM standard for 30 degree Sleeper as a federal law. After the product launched different independent medical and other expert analysis verified that it was safe when use in accordance with instructions and warnings. Two studies confirmed that the rock and play sleeper was as safe or safer than other slip environment such as cribs, and bassinets. And one of these studies found that the product Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: Reclaiming my time, The bottom line is 50 children, infants died 50. You did not conduct any studies. You didn’t even you didn’t even talk to a licensed pediatrician. You didn’t even talk to the medical profession. You didn’t do anything. But pump it out there and sell it.
35:19 Rep. Michael Cloud (TX): Okay, previously there had been pushback from authorities in Canada, UK and Australia. Do you think aggressively in retrospect, aggressively marketing the Rock ‘N Play as a sleeper in the US was the right thing to do? Ynon Kreiz: We consult with all regulators in all jurisdictions and meet or exceed every every standard. In the US The product was was approved. We met rather we met we met all their standards, all applicable standards.
44:35 Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) : Do you think that Mattel took Dr. Benner-Roach’s warning seriously enough? Ynon Kreiz: I’m aware of that interaction and I know we took his considered his recommendation and consider those seriously. That said, As my colleague just mentioned, we did not see an issue with what he raised because with the product did meet the bassinet standard. And while we did consider his his observation, we did not agree with them.
45:00 Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) : Mattel’s decision not his head Dr. Benner-Roach’s warning seriously seems to me to be inexcusable. It also demonstrates why it is important that we repeal section 6B of the Consumer Product Safety Act and stop letting corporations hide behind the law to hide deaths associated with their products from the public. Dr. Benner-Roach knew in 2013 the Rock ‘N Play was dangerous. At that time, Mattel also knew that infants had died and Rock ‘N Pay. Perhaps if the public knew as well. Dr. Benner-Roach’s warning would not have fallen on deaf ears.
51:26 Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : A July 2020 Consumer Reports found that 96% of American people believe that products that they buy for their home are governed by mandatory safety standards that are set by the government. But, as we know, on this committee for the vast majority of products on the market, that is simply not true. Most products, including the Rock ‘N Play are only governed by voluntary standards set by an organization called ASTM. International, the formally the American Society for Testing and Materials.
52:09 Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Mr. Scothon, I understand that the Rock and Play and Glide and Sooth glider were all subject to a voluntary standards set by ASTM International, is that right? Chuck Scothon: They were… Yes, they were set by the ASTM standards, as well as the CPSC guidelines where appropriate. Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right. And ASTM is comprised of and again, I hate to use acronyms, but the American Society for Testing Material International, is comprised of a bunch of different groups and individuals, including product manufacturers, like shelves, testing labs, some consumer advocates and others. But what many consumers don’t know that, Is that the ASTM committees, manufacturers, like yourself, can influence the voluntary standards that are set for their own products, is that correct? Chuck Scothon: We are involved in those standards. It’s a consensus based organization, which takes into account all of the different expertise from all of the different individuals. So that consensus is really designed to ensure that no single company or group can influence Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right but Mattel employees, including the people who helped design the rock and play actually sit on the ASTM committees that design standards foot for infant products, don’t they? Chuck Scothon: They are involved in the asdm standard setting process. Correct? Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right. And when they participate in AFC ns work to set safety standards they are doing so as representatives of the company and not as independent individuals. Is that correct? Chuck Scothon: Well, they are representatives of the company, but typically their roles are to facilitate the process to focus on getting the groups together to aggregating and putting all the information together and coming back with consensus points of view.
1:00:04 Chuck Scothon: The incident rate up until approximately February we’re looking at we were aware of approximately 14 in 2018. We are aware of 14 incidents through 2018. That is when we filed the 15B report with the CPSC. Throughout the course of those previous years, we were notifying the CPSC upon learning of any incident immediately, right? Rep. Glenn Grothman (WI): How many children have died totally in this toy or whatever, how many total died? Chuck Scothon: Today we are aware of approximately believe it is the numbers currently 97. Although those numbers change, as we are also finding that some of the products that have been attributed to the Rock and Play, we’re not Fisher Price or incline sleep. So the data one of the things are in it’s why it’s making it more difficult is typically when we find into report the data is very inconsistent. It is sometimes inaccurate or incorrect. That is why we investigate things individually. And that is what we did. Rep. Grossman: Sorry, the only give us five minutes here, is 97. Is that for all over the world or just United States? Chuck Scothon: I believe that as a US number. Rep. Glenn Grothman (WI): Okay, so it could be significantly more how many other condoms is marketed. Chuck Scothon: I’d have to get back to it specifically on that. And by the way, I believe that actually is a worldwide number. I apologize, but it was a worldwide number.
1:14:15 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL): I think that the statement was made Mr. Scothon and you said that essentially the rockin play comported with the bassinet standard, didn’t you? Chuck Scothon: That’s correct at the time of launch, it was part of the bassinet standard. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL): And I’m looking at I’m looking at the CPSC website right now and the final rule clearly states that the standard limits the allowable angle to 10 degrees incline, so your Rock ‘N Play absolutely did not did not comport with the bassinet final rule.
2:16:12 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Now it’s been well established at this point that incline sleep can be harmful even deadly to infants. And today Mr. Scothon, Fisher Price and Mattel are no longer selling any inclined sleeper products. Is that correct? Chuck Scothon: That is correct. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): And you’ve recalled all inclined sleeper incline sleepers and you’ve notified parents that they’re dangerous Is that correct? Chuck Scothon: The Rock and Play was our inclined sleeper product that was recalled in 2019. And we have done all the outreach to try to bring the product back. Yes. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): You mentioned, I asked about all inclined sleepers and you responded about the Rock ‘N Play? Do you have other inclined sleepers on the marketplace today? Chuck Scothon: No, once again, to clarify, there is an inclined sleeper which is something that is considered for long term or overnight sleep. And then there are other products that are intended where a baby may fall asleep. But we suggest that are then move to a hard flat surface. So the rock Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Babies, babies like exhausted moms can fall asleep anywhere because they need sleep. But Mr. Scothon and you’re a marketing expert. So I want to ask you a marketing question drawing on your expertise. If you wanted to sell someone a product related to sleep, would you mention things like counting sheep, catching some Z’s having Sweet dreams? This sleeping and dreaming are pretty closely tied together and folks minds you can’t dream while you’re awake. Correct? Chuck Scothon: Yes. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, so I want to ask you about a fisher price product that I found on target’s website. It is called the Fisher Price, The Sweet Snug-A-Puppy Dreams Deluxe Bouncer. What a baby sleeping in this fell asleep in this dreams. Deluxe bouncer has been an incline. Chuck Scothon: If a baby fell asleep, yes, they would be at an incline. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, and they would be asleep in this incline situation. It’s marketed as dreams Deluxe bouncer. But nowhere in your sales information on your website on target’s website or Amazon’s website. Does it say that a child should not be allowed to sleep in it? In fact, in response to a question in a on the Mattel’s website, it just says it shouldn’t be used for prolonged periods of sleep. What is prolonged mean? Chuck Scothon: Well, the way the fact is, we know that babies with the amount of hours that they sleep in a year will occasionally fall asleep wherever they might be. And that’s why we recommend in the warning statements, state to not leave them unsupervised to move them and don’t use it for prolonged sleep. And it’s why we bought… Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Reclaiming my time. How long can my child safely sleep at an incline? Chuck Scothon: Again, if you’re I don’t have that specific number I you know, what I would say is that if you are when you’re a child, Rep. Katie Porter (CA): But spending my time how long can they have sweet snuggle puppy dreams? Why are you marketing this as a product that will give people dreams? If it’s not for sleeping? Chuck Scothon: Again, we referenced that as as a product where a baby will sit and play and Susan and I understand your point. But Rep. Katie Porter (CA): You market it, just reclaiming my time, Mr. Scothon, you market it as a product where babies will dream, aka sleep. And yet it is not safe for a baby to sleep in this position. So I have two questions for you. Will you commit to parents, consumers right now to change the name of this product to avoid and remove any mention of dreams or sleep from the name. Chuck Scothon: Back in 2019, we removed any reference to sleep on all those products, I will commit to going back through all of our current offering evaluating everything and to ensure that we are as clear because again, our commitment is to safety. And I will commit to going back through every item to make sure that we’re sending the right message. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, last question. Will you commit to including in all future bouncer or similar products like this, clear information for their parents that their children should never be allowed to sleep in these products because right now the only way you can find that is visiting the Fisher Price Q&A. Will you put it on the product and in the description of the product that it is not shown and should never be allowed to sleep? I will, we will, we do put that there. We have also committed to the safe start campaign which is an educational video campaign to help parents understand this just goes on Rep. Katie Porter (CA): It does not say on the target webpage not to allow your baby to sleep on this product. And it’s called the Dreams Bouncer. Look at it. Look how cute the snuggle puppy is. I feel like taking a nap right now. Mr. Scothon, please don’t market things about dreams or sleep or counting sheep or catching some Z’s. If the product isn’t safe to sleep in, I’m sure it’s a wonderful bouncer. I raised my kids and Fisher Price products. I care about your company. I counted on your company. Please commit to taking action so that other parents can count on their kids getting safely to the teen years like mine have. Thank you very much and I yield back.
2:31:08 Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney: I want to be clear that I hold the federal government to the very same standard. And just this last week I reintroduced 3716 along with Congresswoman Presley with whom I’ve worked on the Children’s Protection Act. Right now, federal agencies are not required to analyze or disclose the impact of regulatory changes on children, and they rarely provide evidence that their policies do no harm to America’s youth.
2:32:16 Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney: HR 3716 would require federal agencies to undertake a childhood trauma impact study, before a rule is finalized to ensure the health and well being of all children are prioritized. These analysis would be conducted by review panels with expertise in children’s health and education, as well as experience in advocating for the health and welfare of all children. It is absolutely crucial that the actions of industry and government alike are informed by expert analysis when it comes to the health and well being of children before it is too late.
Hearing: Hazardous Products and Consumer Safety, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, June 20, 2019
- Ann Marie Burkle
- Acting Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Robert Adler
- Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Elliot Kaye
- Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission
16:45 Robert Adler: I must caution that much of our work has been stymied by several statutory roadblocks. When the agency was established in 1973, we promulgated numerous critical safety rules, dealing with hazards that ranged from flammable children’s sleepwear, shattering glass panes and unsafe toys. And we did it under the traditional rulemaking approaches in the Administrative Procedure Act. by my count, the agency wrote 24 safety rules in its first eight years or about three per year. In 1981, however, Congress imposed a set of cumbersome procedures on CPSC that have had the effect of stalling and lengthening our rulemaking efforts. And here’s a statistic in the following 38 years since 1981, we’ve managed to eke out only 10 safety rules under these procedures, and that’s about one every three and a half years versus three per year. And we’ve really written only one safety rule using these procedures in the past 10 years. Let me be blunt. I have little doubt that lives have been lost in injuries incurred because of these delays in our rulemaking, with no particular improvement in the quality of the standards that we write.
18:00 Robert Adler: I’d also must mention the owners information disclosure restrictions under which CPSC must operate. I refer to the provisions of Section 6B. Unlike any other federal Health and Safety Agency when CPSC wants to warn consumers about a particular hazard associated with the company’s product, we first have to run our press release past the company to see whether they have any objections to it. And especially in recalls, that means companies can object to our proposed hazard warning, can threaten to sue us unless staff waters down the release.
32:33 Elliot Kaye: As I stated during our house oversight hearing earlier this year, people die because of Section 6B. It is that simple.
59:24 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Don’t you agree that the public is better informed when you use the word recall rather than information campaign, they have no idea what an information campaign is, especially when products are sold secondhand on the internet. Ann Marie Burkle: I think that you’re absolutely correct. Recall a certain clear than an information campaign. However, our recalls, mostly all of our recalls are voluntary. And so whenever we put out a press release, it has to be the parties have agreed to this press release and the language in it. In the event in the Britax. situation, the decision was made, we need to get this information out, and rather than suing it and be in prolonged litigation, as we have been, in other cases, the Magnus case in particular, where the consumer ends up with no remedy. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): But this lawsuit itself is a warning to consumers, correct. It’s a public act. Ann Marie Burkle It can be. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): It’s saying this product is unsafe. Ann Marie Burkle: But it isn’t clear, it certainly raises the issue, but it isn’t clear to the consumer what their remedies, and the lawsuit doesn’t provide any remedy to the consumer. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): It eventually can provide remedies, but the lawsuit itself sends a signal when you allege as the CPSC that a product is unsafe. That’s much more informative and dramatic to consumers then saying that this company has an information campaign, wouldn’t you agree? Ann Marie Burkle: I agree, except for the the concern of the agency has to get unsafe products out of the marketplace. And is it in the magnets case that we get that case was sued and for six and a half years, we had no remedy for the consumer and the product is this in the marketplace to this day. And so the concern with britax or any other product where we’ve identified an issue with it, how we can get that out of the market quickest and away from the consumer to avoid any additional injuries or incidents is really the goal.
1:02:55 Sen. Ed Markey (MA): Instead of issuing recalls to protect the public, CPSC has increasingly relied on voluntary settlement agreements. And it has not even tracked whether the companies that have entered into these settlement agreements are adhering to them. Instead of loving civil penalties against bad actors, CPSC has been turning a blind eye to their wrongdoing, and instead of finalizing mandatory safety standards CPSC has continued to kick the can down the road allowing products like dangerously inclined infant newborn sleepers to proliferate.
1:03:42 Sen. Ed Markey (MA): Chairman Berkel since 2012, The CPSC has been aware of spontaneous crashes caused by the popular Bob jogging stroller made by Britex. crashes resulting in broken bones, torn ligaments and smashed teeth. After months of investigating the CPSC staff recommended the stroller be recalled. And in 2018 the commissioners voted in support of that recall with you Chairwoman Burkle being the lone dissenter. After the CPSC shifted to a Republican majority, the commission drastically changed his position instead of a recall. It decided on a voluntary settlement agreement with a stroller company, which centered on a one year public safety campaign. We are now almost halfway through the year. What evidence, Madam Chair, do you have that this information campaign has adequately addressed the hazard? Ann Marie Burkle: Sir, if I could, I would just like to correct the record. It wasn’t a recall that I voted against it was a lawsuit because the company refused to do a recall and the recalls that we do at CPSC for the most part are voluntary. We reach an agreement with a company to get that product as quickly as we can out of the consumers hands to avoid any additional injuries or deaths.
1:06:15 Elliot Kaye: It is anticipated by Commissioner Adler and I that this education campaign would be a total debacle. I think that that has played out. And I think consumers have been very poorly served by it. And I’ve seen zero evidence that what has been done to date has been even remotely effective.
1:08:00 Elliot Kaye: But I do think the culture of the agency has changed from in my experience from one that was driven hard to try to take these products off the market, to making sure that industry was not upset with whatever is being done.
Fight Club – The Recall Coordinator’s Formula, Montag Beeblebrox, December 28, 2009
Warren G – Regulate (Official Music Video) ft. Nate Dogg, Warren G, December 24, 2009
Design by Only Child Imaginations