Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CPSIA - McDonalds Recall Urged by CPSC - WHY?

The CPSC has put in writing that the Shrek glasses recalled by McDonald's last week are "non-toxic". Nonetheless, the CPSC (perhaps the commission itself, as noted in certain press reports) "urged" the company to make the recall.

So now it appears that the CPSC thinks it's okay to ask a company to recall a product for reasons that it acknowledges pose no safety issue. Why?

Let's not forget all the expense that this move imposes on the company coerced into making the recall. The law restrict the power of the agency to take this step, in part to preserve the incentive to make "at risk" investments in new products. There's also that small detail called "due process". My previous post noted that the CPSC does not have the authority to make recalls of products absent a "substantial product hazard". This suggests that the CPSC was exceeding its authority in the McDonald's case. By almost any measure, the CPSC's actions were inexplicable. Why demand a recall of a safe product?

I cannot answer this question for the CPSC or its Chairman, Inez Tenenbaum. However, here's a few salient facts to chew on:
  1. The Member of Congress (Jackie Speier) that "tipped off" the CPSC about this matter is a Democrat.
  2. Jackie Speier represents a California Congressional district (12th) that abuts Nancy Pelosi's district (8th).
  3. Shortly after first being elected to Congress in a 2008 by-election, Speier was appointed by Pelosi to serve as a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, then chaired by none other than Henry Waxman. Waxman resigned this chairmanship to take over as Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  4. Ms. Speier has publicly endorsed the "black box" requirement for cars that Mr. Waxman supports. She also wants to create a federal law restricting cadmium in jewelry. Her concept of Congressional activism is very closely aligned with Mr. Waxman, another California Democrat and patron of the Democratic majority on the Commission.
  5. Today, Speier is a member of three committees. Besides Oversight, the other two committees are chaired by Edward Markey and Barney Frank, two close allies of Waxman and Pelosi.
  6. Jackie Speier is running for reelection in one of the most phobic of states, California. The Democrats need every seat they can get in this Mid-Term election.
  7. One of the three Democrat Commissioners appointed by Obama was a member of Henry Waxman's staff for several years (Adler).

And can anyone imagine a Democrat-controlled CPSC telling a Democratic Member of Congress from the San Francisco area that her highly-publicized call for investigation of Shrek glasses because of cadmium was, in fact, unmerited, that the product was perfectly safe and the large corporation responsible for the glasses had protected consumers very well? In an election year with Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House and Henry Waxman directly overseeing the agency?

Nope, can't think of a single reason why the leadership of the CPSC would urge McDonald's to recall the safe glasses.

At least the CPSC won't have to pay the costs of the recall. That's McDonald's problem.

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