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Mattel recalls Fisher-Price seat in United States, but not in Canada — why?

Mattel's decision to voluntarily recall a popular infant seat has left Canadians wondering why there was no recall here. Sean O'Shea reports.

After the deaths of more than 30 children using them in the last decade, Mattel decided last week to recall its popular Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. The company sold nearly five million units of the infant seat since 2009.

But despite the action in the U.S., Mattel, which manufacturers Fisher-Price products, has not stopped the sale of a similar product sold in Canada, or ordered a recall here.

The voluntary U.S. recall comes a week after Fisher-Price and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a safety warning on the sleepers. But The American Academy of Pediatrics urged Fisher-Price and the CPSC to recall the sleepers, calling them “deadly.”

READ MORE: Fisher-Price recalls Rock ‘n Play sleepers in U.S. after over 30 baby deaths

Fisher-Price and the CPSC did not specify how the infants died, but said the deaths occurred after the babies rolled over from their backs to their stomachs or sides while unrestrained. In an article, Consumer Reports found that some of the infants died from suffocation.

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The sleepers are marketed to weary parents looking for some rest.

“Get the soothing motion babies love and the break your arms need,” reads Mattel’s product marketing.

“Now babies can soothe and snooze in comfort while the inclined sleeper gently rocks on its own all night long.”

The sleeper is not sold in Canada. Mattel, instead, calls it something else: the Rock ‘n Play Soother.

“The Rock ‘n Play Soother is a similar product sold in Canada. However in accordance with Canadian regulations, this product is not to be used for unattended sleep per its instructions,” said the company in a tweet following the recall.

WATCH: Fisher Price recalls baby sleepers in U.S.

Fisher Price recalls baby sleepers in U.S.
Fisher Price recalls baby sleepers in U.S.

In a further statement to Global News, the company explained that the product is not marketed as a place for children to sleep.

“…the Fisher-Price Soothing Seat is sold exclusively as a playtime and soothing seat for infants and is not intended as sleeping accommodation for an unsupervised child,” the company wrote.

READ MORE: Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play faces U.S. consumer alert after reports of infant deaths

Health Canada, which regulates certain products in Canada, has not pressured Mattel to recall the product, even though Mattel acknowledges the Canadian model “is similar in design to the Rock ‘N Play Sleeper that is being recalled in the United States, but the two products have different intended uses.”

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Toronto mother Emma Schwab-Pflug owns the Canadian version and can’t see a difference, even in the way the chair was marketed.

“It was described as something that would help your baby sleep independently and to nap independently. And so I went for it on that basis,” she said.

Schwab-Pflug has stopped using the seat and contacted Fisher-Price to return it. While no recall has been issued, she says the company agreed to take back the item and issue a refund.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has written a letter to the federal health minister asking for the government to review available safety reports and “to determine if a recall is required in Canada.”

READ MORE: How restrictive baby equipment can hinder development

Dr. Catherine Farrell, the CPS president, asked the minister to “increase public awareness” about safe sleep recommendations and to “reduce the availability of U.S.-marketed and branded Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleepers in Canada.”

In response to requests for comment, Health Canada said products like the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Soothing Seat “are not intended to be a place for babies to sleep.”

Some Canadian purchasers, like Schwab-Pflug, say the company ought to issue a recall in Canada.

“I think that there is a responsibility of the company, if they are going to recall the product in the U.S., to recall it in Canada and also to look at how they are describing it and marketing it to Canadian audiences.”

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— With files from Megan King and the Associated Press

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