Child safety
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Sun Sentinel – Child safety: New registration system alerts parents to vital recalls

Your child’s safety is in the cards — the product registration cards that come with strollers, cribs, car seats and other products where youngsters sleep, sit and play.

Under new federal regulations, which were fully phased in last month, these cards will enable manufacturers to quickly contact parents and child caregivers if an item is recalled. They are simple to fill out, cost nothing to send and, unlike registration cards in the past, can’t be used by manufacturers or retailers to target potential customers.

“We think they were so full of marketing material before, people were discouraged from filling them out,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger. The child safety advocacy organization, along with the Consumer Federation of America, pushed for the change.

But the cards won’t do any good if they aren’t completed and sent in, Cowles said. “Our goal is to get as many people as possible to do this,” Cowles said.

More than 57 million so-called “durable juvenile products” — items designed to be used until a child outgrows it and often passed down to others — were recalled over the past 10 years because of their potential to harm or even kill children. Yet a survey by Consumer Reports, in its February issue, found only a fifth of 2,005 people polled were aware of having purchased recalled food, medications or products other than a car over the past three years.

Corrine Brown, of Lake Worth, said she rarely checked the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for recalls after her twin boys were born about a year ago and usually didn’t send in her product registration cards. She changed her ways after 5 million containers of the Similac she was feeding her children were pulled after insects were found in the infant formula.

Brown said she found out because Costco, the buying club where she shops, had a record of her purchase and called her. “Now I fill out those product cards,” she said.

The new registration law, which was part of the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, mirrors regulations that have been in place for child car seats for years. As of last month, manufacturers must provide marketing-free registration cards for 19 different types of durable children’s products, attaching them so consumer’s easily see them.

The cards must be postage-free. Manufacturers or importers must maintain a database with the purchasers’ information and are responsible for notifying them if there is a recall. Online registration also must be offered.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association said it supports the recall registrations, and some large retailers are promoting it. In August, Toys “R” Us launched a product safety vigiliance program that gives parents tips on tracking recalls, and a record sheet to help them track purchases.

Joe Sabag, owner of Strolling in Style in Boca Raton, said he’s always maintained records of who buys his strollers and car seats, and contacts them if there is recall. “In many ways, this will be more helpful for people who do business with big box retailers,” he said.

The new system also allows consumers who bought second-hand merchandise with no cards to register online. That’s important, Sabag said, as many parents buy strollers and similar items from thrift stores or through the classifieds.

Or they purchase new items online or out of storefronts that are returns or extra inventory from larger retailers, and have had serial numbers and registration material removed, Sabag said. “In this economy, a lot of people are turning to second-hand products,” he said.

Source: Sun Sentinel
Story posted 2011.01.07 at 11:13 AM EST
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