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Excerpt from Chapter 2 — “Inadequately Tested Baby Products Hit the Market”

"Consumers have a sense that the product wouldn’t be sold if it weren’t safe, that the government is actively checking," says Consumer Federation of America general counsel Mary Ellen Fise, who has been tracking the industry for fifteen years. This is simply not true.(17)

A 1999 Coalition for Consumer Rights survey of Illinois voters found that seventy-five percent of adults believe, erroneously, that the government oversees the pre-market testing of baby products. Seventy-nine percent of adults mistakenly assume that manufacturers are required to test the safety of children’s products before they are sold.(18)

The Draco All Our Kids portable crib underscores the danger of voluntary standards. Draco, a Taiwanese company that maintained a small office in California, sold 13,000 All Our Kids portable cribs between 1992 and 1995.(19) The CPSC was alerted to a problem in May 1994, when a Rhode Island mother reported that her toddler was standing in his crib, leaning on the top rail, and fell when the rail collapsed (see Appendix 2-1 for illustration).(20) The child sustained minor injuries.

The CPSC launched an investigation: The Draco crib design was similar to that of the Playskool Travel-Lite, a portable crib that had been recalled in 1993, after three children were killed.

CPSC investigators asked Draco about the pre-market testing of its cribs. A Draco employee claimed that president Jerry Teng, along with his chief engineer "John" Wang, had supervised the All Our Kids’ crib development and testing. But when the regulators asked for proof of this testing, the employee responded, "At the time of development in Taiwan, product development data was not recorded and notes of ‘analyses,’ ‘evaluations,’ and ‘pre-market test and reports’ were not kept, therefore, are unavailable."(21) Trying to assess the crib’s durability, the CPSC asked Draco to estimate the expected life of the crib. The company replied that the crib would last, "the length of time the product will be used by one child and one child only."(22) Perhaps because the All Our Kids crib had not yet seriously injured or killed a child, the CPSC took no action against Draco.

By April 1996, two more children had been killed by top rail, center-hinge portable cribs, one in a Baby Trend crib and one in Evenflo’s.(23) The Baby Trend crib had been recalled in 1995; now there were three brands of center-hinge cribs left on the market: Evenflo, Draco, and Century Products. CPSC engineers decided to run their own tests on multiple models of the Draco All Our Kids and Century Fold-N-Go cribs.(24) Multiple CPSC documents suggest that the two brands were both designed and manufactured by Draco, although Century Products’ brand name appeared on the Fold-N-Go.(25)

Excerpt from Chapter 2 (pp 31-33) of It’s No Accident: How Corporations
Sell Dangerous Baby Products

References

  • 17 Mary Ellen Fise, general counsel, Consumer Federation of America. Interview with author, August 15, 1998.
  • 18 Coalition for Consumer Rights study, Chicago, IL, released October 29, 1999.
  • 19 CPSC press release #98-128, June 18, 1998, www.cpsc.gov
  • 20 CPSC "Consumer Product Incident Report," Task #94115CAA102, October 19, 1994.
  • 21 Gary L. Smith, All Our Kids/Draco. Letter to Marc Schoem, CPSC Division of Corrective Actions, November 14, 1994.
  • 22 Ibid.
  • 23 State of Michigan Standard Crime report, Incident #172994, August 30, 1994 (Baby Trend death); Sue Lindsay, "Playpen Maker won’t Recall Product
    in Death of Baby," Denver Rocky Mountain News, April 4, 1994, 28A.
  • 24 John Preston, CPSC engineer. Memo to Zuma Soto and William Moore, April 22, 1996.
  • 25 Century never publicly announced that the cribs were manufactured by Draco, and the recall announcements did not acknowledge this relationship between the two companies. Yet CPSC documents indicate that Draco did indeed make Century’s portable cribs. Specifically, the April 22, 1996 memo written by CPSC engineer John Preston to his colleagues states that the All Our Kids Model #741JT "appears to be the same as the Century model 10.810JGF playpen, sample T-7930223." Then, on November 21, 1996, an internal CPSC memo announcing the Draco All Our Kids crib recall reads, "The test has been negotiated with Century Products. Any changes must be conveyed to compliance."

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