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Experts Worry about Consumer Recall Fatigue

In 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversaw 495 product recalls for tens of millions of items -- more than one recall for every day of the year. As a result, government regulators, retailers, manufacturers and consumer experts are concerned that ubiquitous recall notices across a range of goods are causing the public to suffer from "recall fatigue."

The following are just a portion of the recalls that occurred in June 2010:

  • 12 million glasses from McDonald's with Shrek character designs that contain cadmium
  • 28 million boxes of Froot Loops and other Kellogg's cereals that can cause temporary digestive problems
  • 15 million pounds of Campbell Soup's SpaghettiOs that may contain under-processed meatballs
  • 2 million cribs with faulty railings that pose strangulation and suffocation risks from seven manufacturers

Recall Challenges

The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that the greatest challenge with recalls is getting dangerous products out of homes. In some cases, people are not aware that they have a product that has been recalled. More often, though, consumers ignore calls to destroy or return defective goods.

A recent study found that 12 percent of Americans who knew they had recalled food at home ate it anyway. When Hasbro recalled the Easy Bake Oven in 2007, the company received 249 reports of injury from using the recalled oven in the six months after the recall.

An executive for quality assurance and food safety at a major warehouse retailer says they call it the "Chicken Little syndrome": if producers keep raising the alarm, people become immune to the message.

The good news is there are resources available to help consumers wade through the recall morass. The government maintains a website, www.recalls.gov, that offers information about all kinds of recalls, and people can subscribe to e-mail alerts about specific products.

Federal officials also have created a smartphone application so consumers can check recalls as they shop. With the application, shoppers can type a product's name into their phone and learn immediately whether that product has been recalled. The application also provides photos of recalled products and information on what to do with a recalled product in your home.

It is important to pay attention to recalls not only for safety, but also because failure to do so may affect one's ability to recover money damages for injury in a lawsuit. If you have been injured by or become ill from a product that has been recalled or may be defective, seek the advice of a personal injury attorney. An attorney experienced in handling defective products cases can investigate any legal claims you may have and help you understand how recalls affect your chances of recovery.

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