Democratic candidate for attorney general calls for product safety law

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 | 2:28 p.m. CDT; updated 4:05 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY—Democratic attorney general candidate Margaret Donnelly on Wednesday called for Missouri to enact a children’s product safety law that could penalize businesses that don’t quickly inform consumers of product recalls.

Donnelly wants Missouri to model its measure on one in Illinois, which makes it illegal to sell children’s products that have been recalled, are subject to safety warnings or don’t meet federal standards.

Her proposal comes amid a recent spate of highly publicized toy recalls, several involving concerns about lead paint in products imported from China.

“The whole issue of unsafe products is escalating every day, and I think the laws have to change to meet the challenge,” Donnelly said in a telephone interview. “It’s important that we have a law to specifically deal with children’s safety.”

Donnelly, a member of the state House of Representatives from St. Louis, declared her candidacy for attorney general last month. She said her announcement Wednesday, made at news conferences in St. Louis and Kansas City, marked her first policy proposal in the attorney general’s race. Donnelly will still be in the House next year, and she said she plans to sponsor the product safety legislation.

The Chicago-based group Kids In Danger, which advocates for the children’s product safety act, said Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Rhode Island also have enacted it, and New Jersey passed similar legislation this year.

The group said Vermont and Missouri currently have parts of the law on their books. A 2002 Missouri law requires licensed child care providers to remove unsafe products.

If Missouri were to adopt the rest of the Illinois provisions, the state would have to maintain a Web site with a comprehensive list, updated daily, of unsafe children’s products.

The Illinois law also requires manufacturers and wholesalers to provide notice within 24 hours of children’s product recalls to their commercial customers.

That law requires retailers to remove recalled children’s products from their shelves within three business days of receiving notice and to post recall or warning notices in prominent places in their stores within five days. If mailing or e-mail addresses are available, retailers also must send recall notices to individual customers within 30 days.

Businesses that violate the Illinois law can face fines of up to $500 a day.

Donnelly also proposed to amend Missouri’s existing unlawful merchandising law to specifically include the sale of unsafe products.

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