Oversight Hearing Reveals Previously Unknown Infant Deaths in Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

Jun 7, 2021
Press Release
Committee Released Staff Report with Findings From 20-Month Investigation

Washington, D.C. (June 7, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hybrid hearing on the Committee’s investigation into dozens of infant deaths associated with the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper sold by Fisher-Price, a subsidiary of Mattel, and grave flaws in the U.S. consumer product safety system.

 

Prior to the hearing, the Committee released a staff report detailing the findings of the Committee’s nearly two-year investigation into the design, safety, and recall of infant inclined sleep products.  Chairwoman Maloney issued this statement:

 

“Today’s staff report is damning,” said Chairwoman Maloney.  “The Committee’s investigation shows how corporate greed and weak federal oversight led to the deaths of dozens of babies in an unsafe product.  Fisher-Price ignored multiple warnings that the Rock ‘n Play was not safe for infant sleep, including reports of infant injuries and deaths.  Despite this clear evidence, the company continued to market the Rock ‘n Play for overnight sleep, reaping hundreds of millions in revenue during the ten years the product was on the market.  It is shameful that Fisher-Price endangered lives simply to help its bottom line.  The findings of the Committee’s investigation make clear that we must strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Act to put American consumers over corporate profits.  I am committed to doing just that.”

 

The Committee heard testimony from Ynon Kreiz, Chief Executive Officer of Mattel Inc.; and Chuck Scothon, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fisher-Price and Global Head of Infant and Preschool of Mattel Inc. 

 

The witnesses made the stunning admission that Fisher-Price has received 97 reports of infant deaths in the Rock ‘n Play—nearly  twice the number of deaths previously reported, and nearly 7 times the number that Fisher-Price admitted to the CPSC in 2018 when it was resisting efforts to recall the Rock ‘n Play.

 

  • When asked by Rep. Grothman how many children were known to have died in the Rock ‘n Play, Mr. Scothon stated:  “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.”

 

  • Chairwoman Maloney demanded accountability from Mattel and its subsidiary, stating:  “It is clear that Fisher Price has not been honest with the American public—with American parents—about the danger of this product.  So Mr. Kreiz and Mr. Scothon, I am asking that your company provide complete records on every single death in the Rock ‘n Play sleeper you sold.”  She continued, “We also need records of all infants who died in your company’s other products, including sleepers, rockers, and gliders.”

 

  • Following the hearing, Chairwoman Maloney sent a new letter to Mattel’s CEO seeking the urgent production to the Committee of all documents related to the deaths of babies in Mattel inclined sleep products, including the 97 death reports identified at the hearing.

 

The hearing showed that Fisher-Price ignored repeated warnings that the Rock ‘n Play put babies in danger of injury or death, while reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for a decade.

 

  • When confronted by Rep. Norton about a 2013 warning from a pediatrician that the Rock ‘n Play was unsafe, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz acknowledged that the company did no further study to ensure the product’s design was safe, did not make any changes to the product, and did not warn the public, stating, “we did not see an issue with what he raised.” 

 

  • In response to questioning by Rep. Pressley, the witnesses confirmed that even though Fisher-Price recently announced the recall of two additional inclined baby products, the company has not conducted a safety review of its other infant products that remain on the market.  Mr. Scothon acknowledged:  “No we have not published anything to that effect.”

 

  • Rep. Krishnamoorthi highlighted an internal document—revealed for the first time in the Committee’s Staff Report—with 2018 feedback the company received from parents expressing alarm about the Rock ‘n Play’s unsafe design.  One parents stated:  “It is obviously very unsafe.  Babies need a flat surface to sleep on, no incline!  It should absolutely not be marketed as a sleep space.”

 

  • Under questioning from Rep. Porter, Mr. Scothon acknowledged that Fisher-Price continues to sell an inclined product, called the Sweet Snuggapuppy Dreams Deluxe Bouncer, which is being marketed with imagery associated with sleep.  Rep. Porter asked, “How long can my child safely sleep at an incline? … Why are you marketing this as a product that will give people dreams if it’s not for sleeping?” Mr. Scothon acknowledged that babies fall asleep “wherever they might be” but refused to answer how long parents can safely leave their babies to sleep in the Dreams Deluxe Bouncer.

 

Democratic and Republican Committee Members expressed alarm by loopholes in the U.S. consumer product safety system that allowed Fisher-Price to put profits over consumers.

 

  • After Mr. Scothon acknowledged that international regulators had warned Fisher-Price that the Rock ‘n Play was unsafe for sleep, Rep. Fallon stated:  “It concerns me greatly that an American company would see that and have full knowledge that Australia and Canada wouldn’t allow this product to be sold.”  He continued, “maybe it was the legal thing, you know, legally, you could sell the product in the United States.  I just don’t feel it was the moral thing to do when you’re talking about 97 deaths.”

 

  • In response to questioning from Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, the head of Fisher-Price admitted that the company did not verify the 30 degree angle of the Rock ‘n Play was safe for infant sleep before bringing it to market.  Mr. Scothon testified, “We did extensive research, I can’t say it was verifying the 30 degree question.”

 

  • Under questioning from Rep. Speier, Mattel CEO Mr. Kreiz agreed to support CPSC’s disclosure to the public of information concerning child deaths associated with the company’s products.  Rep. Speier stated:  “You just said yes you would allow the consumer product safety commission to release the names and information of any products associated with deaths, that you have manufactured.  That’s what you just said, is that correct?”  Mr. Kreiz responded: “I said yes,” provided that the information is “vetted and confirmed.”

 

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117th Congress