Late last week, there was news that legal resolution is near for both the tainted pet food and toy scandals that shook up U.S. consumers, threatening the health of their kids and pets, in 2007.
In the first, Mattel and its subsidiary Fisher-Price, agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty for violating laws that prevent the use of toxic lead in toys, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. According to the CPSC, 95 of the toy makers' toys -- 900,000 individual toys -- violated the 1978 law limiting the amount of allowable lead in children's products. The toy makers denied knowingly violating the law.
Exposure to lead, particularly when children are under the age of 6 (or in the womb), can lead to permanent brain damage, behavioral problems and other health and developmental issues.
The penalty is the third-highest in CPSC history and the highest "for violations involving importation or distribution in commerce of a regulated product."
Also last week, there was word that those responsible for sickening thousands and killing an unknown number of pets with tainted food have agreed to plead guilty. ChemNutra Inc. and owners Stephen and Sally Miller allegedly imported and sold pet food that included the industrial chemical melamine, which artificially boosts the apparent protein content of their product, but which is toxic. They are expected to plead guilty to 27 misdemeanors and one felony, but the penalties to be imposed have not been revealed.
These cases raised the profile of the problem of toxic consumer products, and it's good to see those responsible held accountable. More comforting, though, is this: Congress has since tightened standards for lead (and phthalates) in toys and strengthened the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and it is considering strengthening the Food and Drug Administration, so that regulators will be better equipped to prevent the distribution of these products before they reach consumers.
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