February 25 2014
Another toy has been recalled after the Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was too dangerous for kids. Only trouble is that as the government watchdog admits, no one was actually hurt by playing with the Go Gaga Squeeze & Teethe CoCo Monkey teething toy. This is the point of silliness to which we’ve arrived in alarmist America.
According to the CPSC, Infantino, the company that makes the teething toy in question, “has received seven reports of infants choking or gagging on the monkey's tail. No injuries have been reported.” And yet all 191,000 sold exclusively at Target have been recalled. Got that? Even though it is only a potential hazard – “a child could potentially choke on one of [the toy’s] parts” the recall states – everyone who has one of the teething monkeys should stop using it immediately and return it to the store.
Seven reported cases of gagging isn’t a statistically significant number in terms of the numbers sold and yet Infantino is going to have to bear the cost of replacing every one of these monkeys should consumers demand it as the government has now demanded.
It is also useful to consider the language used by the CPSC. This toy is a potential hazard. Last night at dinner my six-month old gagged on a spoon. Should we stop using spoons in my house? In fact, it might just be good for him to gag once in a while so he learns not to shove things too far into his mouth. That’s what we call learning and aren’t we supposed to be encouraging that in our children?
Also, you should understand that recalls don’t work. "The return rate of recalls is really abysmal," said Nancy Cowles executive director of Kids in Danger. "The government makes announcements, but people don't hear about them or don't respond." Given that reality, that most product recalls are completely ineffective, you might think the CPSC would limit the number of recalls to only those that are most important, such as the products that have actually caused some serious harm. But that’s not how it works for an unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy. Instead, the 500 (or so) CPSC employees are busy recalling, warning and banning nearly 900 toys a year and another 1267 “children’s products” annually.
Finally, if you think the CPSC is just in the business of warning people against dangerous products and leaving us to our own (free) decisions, think again. The commission doesn’t take too kindly when a private company tries to answer CPSC criticism. In the case of Craig Zucker and the recall of his adult desk toy Buckey Balls, the CPSC is suing him and the now defunct company to pay millions of dollars he doesn’t have for the recall they demanded.