Alarm raised over baby seat safety

By Shaun Gillham

SOUTH African parents who have bought a  Bumbo Baby Seat are being advised to request a free repair kit after a  recall over safety fears was initiated by the American government last week.

A total of four million of the seats have already been recalled in the US and Canada after parents complained their children had suffered head injuries, including skull fractures, from falling over while on the seat.

The seats are manufactured in South Africa but distributed abroad.

The company’s South African spokeswoman  Rene Tolmay has urged parents to stop using the product until the repair kit is installed. These kits include a safety belt.

“The safe way to use it is with the restraint belt on the floor, with adult supervision and never on a raised surface,” she said.

“Our goal is to make this belt available to all countries where the Bumbo is being sold. We will be sending them [parents] the whole kit, which will include an easy to use instruction manual, and [the whole kit] will be free of charge.”

The seats retail for about $35 (R290) in America, but cost between R350 and R370 in South Africa.

But despite the international fracas over the chairs, Nelson Mandela Bay mothers and Bumbo retailers have brushed off fears of potential injury to babies, contending that injuries can be avoided if babies are constantly monitored as they should be.

Bumbo retailers canvassed by Weekend Post in Nelson Mandela Bay this week are aware of the situation, with one large retailer, Babies R Us in Port Elizabeth, having removed the chairs from their shelves  “until the restraint belts arrive”.  

Marketed by Durban-based Bambino International, Bumbo “babysitters” are manufactured in Roslyn in Gauteng and widely distributed in South Africa as well as in a host of European countries.

The product’s packaging boasts selling points such as “The world’s first and only”, “Endorsed by Paediatric and Orthopaedic Faculties”, and “International Award Winning Baby Seat To Sit Baby in Upright Position”.

About 200 000 of the seats have been sold in South Africa.
 
The company has warned, however, that parents and caregivers should follow the instructions, which make it clear that they should never use the seat on counters, tables, chairs or any other raised surface, or as a bath or car seat.

This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, August 25, 2012.

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