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Bassinet ordered off store shelves

August 29, 2008|Annys Shin | Washington Post

In the first test of its powers under a sweeping safety law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Thursday directed retailers to pull a bassinet linked to the deaths of two infants off store shelves and give customers refunds.

The directive came on the heels of a warning the agency issued to parents Wednesday night to stop using "close-sleeper/bedside sleeper" bassinets made by Simplicity of Reading, Pa.

The commission acted after a 6 1/2 -month-old girl from Shawnee, Kan., was strangled to death Aug. 21 when she got caught in the bassinet's metal bars. The agency said 900,000 of the bassinets are in circulation.

The commission said it issued the warning and turned to retailers to pull the bassinets because SFCA Inc., the firm that bought Simplicity's assets in April, refused to cooperate and conduct a recall.

SFCA is an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital, a Bethesda, Md., private-equity fund with $88 million under management. SFCA is chaired by prominent Washington banker Robert Pincus, and its board is studded with such luminaries as James A. Baker IV, a son of the former secretary of State.

The commission has the authority to mandate recalls, but that route takes time. So most recalls are voluntary.

Rick Locker, an attorney for SFCA, said the company was not responsible for products made and distributed by Simplicity, which is no longer operating, and that SFCA had fully cooperated with the agency.

He said SFCA bassinets now on the market were different from those involved in the deaths and were safe. He complained that the warning didn't distinguish between safe products and the older, unsafe ones.

The commission issued its warning about the Simplicity bassinet under a 2-week-old law that allows the agency to alert the public more quickly.

The law, which is the most sweeping reform of the nation's product-safety system in more than 20 years, was passed in response to last year's recalls of millions of lead-tainted toys.

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