WASHINGTON Six major retailers are pulling from their shelves Simplicity bassinets linked to the deaths of two babies after a company refused to recall them.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Toys "R" Us Inc., Kmart Corp., Big Lots, Target, J.C. Penney have recalled the "close-sleeper/bedside sleeper" because the products pose a strangulation hazard, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recall affects nearly 900,000 bassinets.
Last week a 6-month-old girl from Shawnee, Kan., was strangled when she became trapped between the bassinet's metal bars. Last September, a 4-month-old girl from Noel, Mo., became trapped in the product's metal bars and died.
SFCA Inc., the company that purchased the assets of Simplicity Inc., based in Reading, Pa., earlier this year, has refused to recall the products. SFCA maintains that it is not responsible for products previously manufactured by Simplicity.
Rick Locker, a lawyer for SFCA, said the company "is not recalling a product that it did not make and sell."
He said the agency asked the company whether it was willing to recall the product on a voluntary basis, and the "company said it could not do it."
"They wouldn't be able to be in business if they did that," Locker said.
CPSC says the Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets have metal bars spaced farther apart than the maximum 2 3/8 inches allowed under federal crib safety standards. The bars are covered by an adjustable fabric flap that is attached by Velcro, which can fall if not properly attached and allow an infant to slide between the bars.
Julie Vallese, a CPSC spokeswoman, said consumers should return the bassinets to the store where they were purchased for a full refund or store credit.
Simplicity recalled about 1 million cribs on Sept. 21, 2007, after reports of three deaths and seven babies who had become trapped in its cribs. Locker said the recall put Simplicity out of business, and its assets were purchased by SFCA in April.
The bassinets have been on the market for about seven years, in stores and in homes across the U.S.
Wal-Mart, one of the largest distributors of the product, said Thursday it was pulling the bassinets off of its shelves and its Web site.
"We are working with the supplier and CPSC and are directing store managers to remove product identified in the CPSC press release from store shelves and initiating a register block to prevent sale," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "In addition, we are in the process of removing this product from sale at Walmart.com".