Fisher Price executives ignored safety warnings about the company’s popular Rock ‘n Play incline sleeper for a decade as it raked in $200million before finally recalling the product after more than 50 infants died in it.
That’s according to a two-year investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which culminated on Monday with a hearing where the company’s Senior Vice President Chuck Scothon said the true number of deaths is nearly double what the congressional report concluded.
‘Today, we are aware of approximately, I believe it is, the number is currently 97 [deaths], although those numbers change as we are also finding that some of the products that had been attributed to the Rock ‘n Play were not Fisher-Price or inclined sleep,’ Scothon testified.
The committee’s report found Fisher Price didn’t properly test the product before releasing it in 2009 and then ignored repeated warnings that was dangerous in the years that followed.
By the time it was recalled in 2019, 50 infants had died after rolling over in the sleeper, according to the congressional report which was released before Scothon testified on Monday.
While the government presses Fisher Price, the company is defending itself against an ongoing federal class action lawsuit, which include at least 23 people.
The lawsuit says Fisher Price marketed the product as a safe way to let babies sleep for prolonged periods of even though the company knew of its dangers.
The Rock ’n Play ‘significantly increases the risk that the infant’s head will slip into a dangerous position, tilt to constrict the windpipe and/or cause the infant’s face to become pressed against the padded fabric in the sleeper and block airflow,’ the lawsuit says. ‘This increases the risk of death by asphyxiation.
‘In addition, because (Fisher Price) advises parents to keep babies strapped in restraints overnight while sleeping on an incline, the Rock ’n Play Sleeper increases the infant’s risk of developing flat head (plagiocephaly) and twisted neck (torticollis) syndromes, conditions that often require babies to wear expensive head-molding helmets and undergo costly physical therapy.’
One of the children who died was Sarah Thompson’s son Alexander, who would’ve been 10 years old on Saturday. She shared her story in an emotional video message during the hearing.
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Fisher Price executives ignored safety warnings about its popular ‘Rock ‘n Play’ incline sleeper (pictured) for a decade as the company raked in $200million before finally recalling the product after more than 50 infants died in it
Sarah Thompson speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing about the Rock ‘n Play on Monday – nearly a decade after her son Alexander died in the sleeper
Thompson shows a photo of her son, Alexander, who died in a Rock ‘n Play at three months old
When he was three months old in 2011, Sarah said she put Alexander in his Rock ‘n Play, helped her older daughter with a toy, went to the bathroom and 10 minutes later found him unresponsive and not breathing.
‘For almost a decade, I’ve had to question why did he die? How did he die?’ said Thompson, adding that she trusted Fisher Price and its parent company Mattel.
‘Had they just followed the regulations, Alex would still be with us today.
‘Unfortunately, our family has forever changed. We miss him everyday. We have two younger children who still ask about their older brother in heaven.’
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney said during the hearing, ‘What we found is absolutely shocking. It is a national scandal.’
Maloney said at the time of its release, the sleeper was the first product of on the market and branded for overnight sleep, despite evidence that sleeping at an incline could put infants at risk of serious harm or death.
The Rock ‘n Play holds the infant on its back at a thirty-degree angle, such that the infant’s feet are at a downward slope from the infant’s head.
There was no independent research – or even internal company research – showing that it was safe for babies to sleep at an angle, the report says.
‘On the contrary, research showed that sleeping on an angle was unsafe.’
Fisher Price became aware of real-life safety concerns as early as 2012 and warned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in February 2018 but didn’t recall the Rock ‘n Play until April 2019, according to the report.
‘It is shameful that Fisher-Price endangered lives simply to help its bottom line,’ Maloney said in a statement after the hearing.
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney said during the hearing, ‘What we found is absolutely shocking. It is a national scandal’
The Rock ‘n Play holds the infant on its back at a thirty-degree angle, such that the infant’s feet are at a downward slope from the infant’s head, which studies showed is dangerous for infants before it was released in 2009
Between February 2018 and the product’s eventual recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission hired a medical expert to evaluate the risk of infants rolling over and suffocating in induced sleep products and found the Rock ‘n Play was unsafe.
Chuck Scothon, general manager of Fisher-Price, testified that ‘the number is currently 97 (deaths)’
During the CPSC’s research, it had to remain quiet ‘because of laws preventing CPSC from disclosing information provided by manufacturers.
‘CPSC could not publicly release any information about the deaths or injuries associated with Rock ‘n Play or institute a recall without engaging in costly and drawn out litigation or administrative proceedings,’ according to the report.
The CPSC told Consumer Reports in early 2019 about the deaths associated with the product and inadvertently released supporting data, yet the CPSC or Fisher Price were not planning to recall the Rock ‘n Play until Consumer Reports said they were going to publish the data.
Within days, the product was taken off the market.
‘When product reports came in saying the product was linked to babies’ deaths, Fisher Price ignored those reports. Only when media outlets like Consumer Reports publicized the danger of their product did Fisher Price take them off the market,’ said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, head of the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee.
‘Fisher Price and (parent company) Mattel have showed that they cannot police themselves,’ Krishnamoorthi said during Monday’s hearing.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, head of the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, said during Monday’s committee, ‘Fisher Price and (parent company) Mattel have showed that they cannot police themselves’
A Fisher Price spokesperson emailed a statement to DailyMail.com:
‘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. T
wo 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.’
Ynon Kreiz, Mattel’s CEO, apologized in a statement to NPR.
‘On behalf of myself and everyone at Mattel, I want to convey my deep and sincere condolences to parents and anyone affected by the heartbreaking tragedies we will discuss today,’ said Kreiz, who joined the company in 2018. ‘I am a father of four children, and I can only imagine that there cannot be a more terrible loss than that of a child.’
The committee hearing comes just days after Fisher-Price recalled thousands of its baby Glide Soother products, after four infants were found dead from suffocation while using the products.
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the infants were placed on their backs unrestrained in the 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soothers, and were later found on their stomachs.
The suffocation deaths occurred between April 2019 and February 2020, and include a 4-month-old from Missouri, a 3-month-old from Nevada, a 2-month-old from Colorado and an 11-week-old child from Michigan.
Fisher-Price is recalling the 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soother after four infants died of suffocation while using it and the 2-in-1 Soothe ‘n Play Glider due to its similarity to the 4-in-1 product