Monday July 30, 2012
CPSC Cannot Comment on Chick-fil-A & Sec. 15By Sean Oberle
CPSC could not comment to PSL questions about whether it has been negotiating with Chick-fil-A and whether the firm had made a Section 15 report related to pulling toys from its outlets, citing safety concerns. CPSC Office of Communications Director Scott Wolfson cited the agency’s 6(b) information release restrictions. Patty Davis of his office did later confirm, “CPSC has not issued a recall for this product.”
The situation involves online photos of notices that reportedly went up July 19 in some of the restaurant chain’s outlets stating, “Chick-fil-A has voluntarily recalled all of the Jim Henson Creature Shop Kids Meals toys.” The notices said there were no injuries but that there were reports of “children getting their fingers stuck in the holes of the puppets.” The action did not accompany the usual CPSC announcement, prompting the PSL queries about agency involvement. The restaurant’s February 2001 recall of a toy occurred with the usual CPSC press release and presumably involvement. PSL did not get responses to calls and emails to Chick-fil-A and to The Jim Henson Company.
Section 15 lapses are the most common allegations made by CPSC in its civil penalty cases, including two settled in the past few weeks – $400,000 to be paid by Battat (PSL, 7/16/12, p. 4) and $1.5 million to be paid by Burlington Coat Factory (see story on page 1). Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act requires companies, including retailers, to report “immediately” (within 24 hours) when learning of any safety-related incidents linked to products that they make, distribute, or sell.
Section 6(b) of that law limits what information the agency can release about a company without an administrative clearance that can include a lengthy process to allow for the company to give input or to protest the release.
The issue is politically charged because Chick-fil-A’s safety statements coincided with Henson announcing that it no longer would partner with the restaurant chain due to statements by Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy against same-sex marriage rights. The issue further involves a controversy over a possibly fake Facebook account for “Abby Farle” set up just hours before the person behind it posted comments in support of the Chick-fil-A action with the toys. The account used a stock image of a teen girl from shutterstock.com as its profile photo. Chick-fil-A has denied any involvement. The issue also generated erroneous press reports that the Muppets brand was involved. Disney, not Henson, now owns that brand and is uninvolved.