If a product you are using has a defect or unexpected side effects, use of the item could cause personal injury or even death. It is important consumers are alerted as soon as possible when it becomes apparent a product released for sale is dangerous. Recalls are used by manufacturers to provide alerts of product risks to the public and to remove dangerous products from store shelves and consumers' homes.
Manufacturers may voluntarily institute a recall, or the recall may be mandatory. For both voluntary and mandatory recalls, federal agencies frequently become involved. These federal agencies alert consumers to the fact that a recall has occurred and provide information consumers need to know about the risks of products being used. Different federal agencies handle different kinds of recalls and Life Hacker has a summary of the three primary kinds of product recalls.
Different Product Recall Types in the United States
There are three primary categories of recalls that products fall into. The first category is drug and food-related recalls. This category encompasses virtually all ingestible products, including pills, medications, foods (except for shellfish), and beverages (except for alcohol). One of two federal agencies will likely be involved in food and drug recalls, depending upon the product: the US Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration. USDA and FDA both provide notices to consumers and oversight of recalls of ingestible products.
There are three classes of food and drug recalls within this category:
- Class 1 recalls are for dangerous products, which can cause fatalities or permanent, untreatable and lasting harm;
- Class 2 recalls are for dangerous products which can cause physical harm, but the harm is temporary or the problems caused by the product can be treated; and
- Class 3 recalls are for products in violation of legal requirements or products with inaccurate labeling but with no real grave risk of damage.
Outside of food and drug recalls, the second primary category of recalls is cars and vehicle parts. Recalls of vehicles, car seats, car parts and other transportation-related products fall under the purview of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA investigates and becomes involved in recalls only under two circumstances: (1) when the vehicle or its components presents a substantial danger or (2) when there are a substantial number of consumer complaints on the same issue.
Finally, the third primary category of recalls is the broadest category and it refers to all other products except for vehicle-related items and ingestibles. Recalls of all other consumer products are overseen by Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC. CPSC recalls are initiated when manufacturers reach out to the agency or when consumers make many complaints about a product.
Consumers should regularly check these three agencies to determine if products they use are putting them at risk of injury. If a product does cause harm, victims may have a legal right to file a personal injury claim.