Monday, August 16, 2010

CPSIA - Did Anyone Think to Test the Lemonade for Lead???

Am I the last person in America to hear about the seven-year-old girl in Oregon whose lemonade stand was shut down by County health officials for not obtaining her $120 food handler's license?

After I got done laughing at the contemptible stupidity of the national trend of obsessive rule following (I'm not done laughing, actually), this certainly brought to mind the awful CPSIA and its potential to inflict this kind of mindless regulatory "enforcement" . . . AGAINST YOU AND ME.

That subject is no joke, I am afraid. As I have been repeating endlessly, the current testing frequency rule that the CPSC recently published without a blush will force our company to spend $15 million a year on testing, including the destruction of 81,000 units of our products (54 units per test times 1500 products). That's not over my lifetime but in the course of ONE YEAR. And our fearless CPSC leader seemingly can't WAIT to enforce these rules against bad people like me. Chairman Tenenbaum has tirelessly promised to refocus her agency on enforcement in the coming year. She wants to shut somebody down to prove how tough she is.

If you think this lemonade example is something that would "never" happen at the hands of our responsible federal government, well, you and I disagree. Let's consider the legal basis for lead-in-paint recalls. Heaven knows the CPSC has imposed many of those during Ms. Tenenbaum's tenure. As you may remember from prior posts, the derivation of recall authority comes from the FHSA which restricts the authority to "imminent hazards". Section 12(a) of the FHSA provides this definition: "As used in this section, and hereinafter in this Act, the term 'imminently hazardous consumer product' means a consumer product which presents imminent and unreasonable risk of death, serious illness, or severe personal injury."

Strangely, today's CPSC policy on lead-in-paint is one of strict liability. This means that EITHER the agency has reached the legal conclusion that any amount of lead-in-paint constitutes an imminent and unreasonable risk of death, serious illness or severe personal injury, which is tacitly impossible, or the agency has decided to just IGNORE THE LAW. No one's asking these questions publicly, but that's the nub of it. This interpretation allows them to demand a recall for a dot of paint in the center of the pupil of the eye of a doll, something they have certainly done, and assert that they have protected you from something dangerous.

Nice but it's not within their legal authority to make up fairy tales to sell to the press.

So the CPSC is already dinging other companies in the children's product industry for inconsequential "offenses" that are arugably OUTSIDE its authority. The exercise of judgment, at least on lead-in-paint, is now against agency policy.

Who will be the next lemonade stand shut down? Don't assume it will just employ seven-year-olds. The proprietor might look a lot like you . . . .


halojones-fan said...

What you often see in discussions of the CPSIA are "oh, well, they only mean big companies, mom-and-pop shops are beneath their notice".

I can't help but wonder what people who say that think about stories like this one.

Ben S said...

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I'll just skip voting this year and move to Finland (cf. Newsweek).