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Can Families Count on Product Recalls to Keep Them Safe?

Nichol & Associates, Attorneys at Law Jan. 30, 2020

It often seems Americans hear about every product recall under the Sun, from automobile airbags to chicken nuggets. But the federal government issues well over 4,000 every year, averaging roughly one recall every two hours. Almost nobody hears about most of them.

So how can we know whether any given home, car or office is using any recalled products? How many recalled products do you own? Americans have no straightforward way of answering that simple question.

A recent article from Consumer Reports takes a closer look at some reasons why recalled and sometimes dangerous products often stay in our homes.

Dangers Can Continue for Years Before a Product Recall

A federal agency has the power to order automakers to issue auto-part recalls, warn car owners and offer repairs.

But when a 2013 salmonella outbreak sickened 634 Americans, the food company issued no recall until 16 months into the outbreak. Consumer Reports says one reason it took so long is simply that the USDA has no power to order a food recall.

There are plenty of excuses for delaying an expensive and embarrassing food recall. Sometimes it takes a loud public outcry to get a recall underway.

To make matters worse, many people do not report foodborne illnesses to authorities and most people eat food from multiple producers daily. It is challenging to firmly link a specific food to a given case of illness.

Recalled Products Still Dangerous if They Stay in The Home

Even after a recall, products often remain right where they are. Consumer Reports identified a link between certain “inclined sleepers” and the deaths of at least 73 infants beginning in 2011. Three months after the recall of inclined sleepers, one survey showed 1 in 10 daycare centers was still using them.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) needs a company’s permission to release any information about safety problems. After getting permission, the CPSC must negotiate with the company to draft the public statement, Consumer Reports says.

Even with a recall, many consumers never hear about it. Acting on a recall may mean uninstalling, disassembling and shipping the product, and then waiting for a replacement.