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Too Many Product Recalls Threaten Consumer Health

Sometimes it seems there is a new product recall every day. In truth, the problem of defective and dangerous products is much worse than that. In 2011, there were 2,363 recalls, roughly 6.5 every day. The recalls affect all types of consumer goods from drugs and medical devices to food, toys, and personal products. The recalls were so numerous that there is a new concern that consumers will become fatigued and start ignoring recalls that could seriously affect their wellbeing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Product Safety Commission saw a 14 percent increase in recalls from 2010 to 2011. The number was a 62 percent over the recalls in 2007. Experts suggested that the increase is based more on oversight and improved communication than an increase in the number of unsafe products. Still, the risk exists that consumers will simply stop tracking recalls if they feel overwhelmed.

A study conducted in 2009 found that 40 percent of Americans have never looked for a recalled product in their homes. An additional 12 percent chose to eat food even after they found out it had been recalled. With recalls on the rise, it is likely that even more consumers will choose to ignore the dangers posed by recalled products. For their part, manufacturers and retailers are trying new methods of reaching consumers to inform them of the danger to their health.

Part of the problem comes from the fact that recalls can come from several different sources. Some retailers such as Costco can simply inform their members if a product is recalled, but most do not have contact information for every customer. The government does have a website dedicated to posting information about recalled products. Hopefully consumers will understand the risks involved with recalled products and will maintain vigilance in avoiding the harm they cause.

Source: USA Today, "Surge in products being recalled may be numbing consumers," by Christopher Doering, 10 June 2012

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