Recalls are issued when a drug, medical device, food, or some other product has a serious defect or might otherwise cause harm to those who use it. Typically, manufacturers will issue a recall voluntarily upon finding a defect or becoming aware of a health hazard. In some cases, government regulatory agencies will issue mandatory recalls, especially if the hazard is severe.
While recall notices are public, they can be difficult to find. Government agencies like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) post notices online. However, their websites are often difficult to search and read. Company websites differ greatly in the amount of information they provide about recalls, and notices may be buried deep within the site behind sales and marketing info.
Our goal at ConsumerSafety.org is to provide recall information that is easily searchable and that provides essential details at a quick glance. We also provide additional resources to help keep consumers safe, such as safety guides and news stories about safety-related issues.
Recalls are often issued with one or more of the following goals in mind:
The recall itself will indicate the goal of the recall.
Any type of product that is sold in the U.S. can be recalled, including prescription drugs, medical devices, food, and consumer products used every day, such as toys, vehicles, furniture, etc.
Often, the company that makes the product will announce a voluntary recall after discovering some kind of defect or a health-related issue. Other times a company may recall a product when a government agency – such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), or another agency – raises concerns.
In rare cases, if a product is especially dangerous or linked to numerous injuries and/or deaths, a government agency may issue a mandatory recall.
There are several things that can lead to recalls:
Design defects – These are problems with the engineering of the product itself. Such defects are often caught during product development, but some defects can still find their way to market.
Manufacturing defects – These defects are introduced during the making of a product. While the product itself might have been designed safely, errors during production can cause the item to become dangerous or fail in unexpected ways.
Contamination – Drugs and food in particular can become contaminated with foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, or undeclared allergens such as nuts or gluten.
Dangerous Use – An item may not have a defect, but it could still be used (or misused) in dangerous ways, such as when a child tries to swallow a small item.
The details included in a recall notice depend on the type of product that is being recalled. Typically, it will include:
Companies are generally required to notify owners when a product is recalled. Therefore, it is generally a good idea to submit warranty and/or registration info when you purchase a new product.
Companies will often post notices about the recall on their own websites, and government agencies like the FDA and CPSC collect recall notices on their sites as well. However, recall information is scattered across these sites and can be difficult to find.
ConsumerSafety.org has an easily searchable database to help you find information about recalls of drugs, medical devices, food, and consumer products. Simply type the name of the product you are looking for in the search bar and select the appropriate item.
The recall notice should specify what action to take if an item you own or use regularly is recalled. This may include:
If you hear that there may be a recall on something you own, always check the recall notice before taking any action. The recall database here at ConsumerSafety.org offers a convenient and easily readable way to check recall notices.
When an item is recalled, the company will usually offer replacement, refund, or repair of the recalled product. In such cases, you have the right to exchange, return, or fix the product according to the details of the recall.
In the event that a defective or dangerous product causes injury or death, users (or their family) may be able to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, or other expenses. A reputable product liability lawyer may be able to advise you appropriately about your legal rights in such cases.