Keep An Eye Out for Product Recalls
As a savvy consumer, you should always keep an eye open for product recalls.
Given the huge economy we enjoy here in the U.S. (and the watchdog organizations that keep an eye on it), it's inevitable that there would be fairly frequent product recalls. They've affected us all at some time or another, generally because something didn't go right with a common product.
What a Product Recall IsIf you've heard or seen a news item reporting that a certain food product was found to be contaminated, or something wasn't working right on a particular model of car, followed by a recommendation that you return the item to have it replaced or repaired, that was a product recall.
Recalls are a sad necessity, because manufacturers make mistakes, design flaws become obvious, refrigerators go bad, and contaminants are occasionally introduced -- most often by accident, sometimes through sabotage.
Recalls are most common with motor vehicles, foods, medicines, and cosmetics, all products that can be seriously hazardous to human health if something goes wrong.
When Product Recalls Occur
Sometimes the government forces a recall by applying legal pressure to the manufacturer of the faulty or contaminated product; more often, however, the distributor, manufacturer, or producer steps forward on its own to issue the recall to media outlets.
Most companies that issue recalls do so out of concern for the well-being of their customers, even if the danger is a small one. And, of course, they do it to avoid lawsuits. If a manufacturer issues a recall promptly and properly, there are legal recourses that can limit their liability.
What You Should Do
Needless to say, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the media in order to stay current with any recalls, especially localized ones. However, recalls for most products don't catch the media's attention, if only because the danger is relatively minimal.
For example, manufacturers often recall food products because they might be contaminated. They know it's best not to wait to be certain.
Manufacturers are also becoming extremely sensitive to food allergies, so they often recall products when they forget to put allergy warnings on their packaging. On August 11, 2011, for example, Unilever recalled a few boxes of Sugar Free Popsicles because they forgot to mention they might contain milk.
Why Didn't I Hear About This?
The Popsicle recall wasn't national news, since the number of boxes was very limited. The distributors and stores may have heard about it, but not necessarily the general public. Fortunately, it was posted on the website Recalls.gov, along with dozens of other recalls in the past week.
Not to be alarmist, but it's a good idea to bookmark the government recalls site, and to check it occasionally for product recalls that might affect you.