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What is a Product Recall?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated: May 17, 2024

A product recall occurs when a product is found to be harmful or otherwise dangerous to consumers. The term can relate to any number of products from food, medicine, or health and beauty aids, to electronics, appliances, furniture, and even vehicles. In some cases a product recall simply indicates a warning to the consumer that some part of the product may be faulty and require replacement or repair. In other cases, the product may need to be returned to the manufacture for complete replacement or refund.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is a government agency that assembles a product recall list and includes as many details as available concerning each recall. You can sign up for an email alert or search the website. You can also call the hotline number, 1 (800) 638-CPSC, for more information.

Sometimes, companies are forced into issuing a product recall although many times they issue a voluntary recall. In serious cases, there may be a market withdrawal where products are completely removed from the shelves and are no longer for sale until they can be proven safe.

The CPSC generally attempts to give as much information as possible concerning a recall, not only to warn consumers but also to help reduce panic. Learning that the item you own is not the one indicated on the product recall list can be a relief. For example, if a certain make and model of dishwasher made in a certain time frame has been responsible for a fire, you need to know which one to ensure that you don’t own the recalled model.

If your appliance is the subject of a product recall, you will be informed of what action you should take. However, you may be able to relax after learning that your model number of the year your appliance was made does not coincide with the product recall. In some cases of recalls, there are also simple fixes or replacement parts that will be provided at no cost to you, which will make your product safer.

Other publications and websites also offer information on recalls. If you are concerned that you may have a faulty product, you can look it up online or call the manufacturer or the CPSC. You can also report defective products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and your report may result in a product recall. Making a report may well help other people avoid injury, damages, or even expensive replacements of faulty products.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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Discussion Comments
By sehiggins — On Jun 25, 2011

Sometimes, I think a product recall is just what a company could use in order to realize that it needs to make a change.

I used to work at a company that makes children toys. Although we said that making safe products was our number one priority, in reality, saving money was. Often times, we would substitute cheaper material for stronger, more durable material.

Needless to say, some of the toys we made had to be recalled. The cheap plastic could easily be chewed off by small children, so it created a choking hazard.

After this incident, my company decided to reuse the stronger material in our toys. We started to look for other ways to save money, and going through the recall is what lit the fire under us.

By wearedr — On Jun 24, 2011

@SuperJD - I think you bring up a good point. There should be stricter codes and regulations when it comes to product reduction.

The government, although, cannot be expected to monitor every single company that makes a product. That would be take to much time and be too expensive, and the tax payer would probably have to pay for it all.

I think the responsibility ultimately comes down to the manufacturers. It should be their number one priority to make a product that is safe for their customers. If they don't, they risk public scrutiny and the permanent loss of customers.

When recalls do occur because someone was injured or killed by a product, it's up to the public to make the company know that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. When we buy a product, we trust the manufacturer that this product will perform as it should. Producing and selling a faulty product is a breach of that trust.

Perhaps state governments should fine companies when they are forced to recall a product, if they don't already. At the very least, it could be another source of revenue for the state, which is certainly needed!

By SuperJD — On Jun 21, 2011

I can't remember the exact year and month, but when my son was a small child, I remember receiving a notification in the mail that the crib I had bought for him was built with a defect. Apparently, children were falling out of their cribs after leaning along the side panels. I returned my crib to the retailer I purchased it from, and they gave me a full refund.

After that incident, I signed up for email alerts from the CPSC. Every time there is a recall or issue with a product made for children, I know about it.

It has been extremely helpful knowing which products to avoid when buying things for my son. His safety is my number one priority.

You would be surprised just how many products, like toys, strollers, and cribs, get recalled on a monthly basis. It makes me wonder if government regulations, or product testing codes, are strict enough.

By goldenbears — On Jun 20, 2011

I find it especially scary and disturbing when the Food and Drug Administration orders a recall on fruits and vegetables. It seems as if at least twice a year, there is some massive recall of spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, or another vegetable that my family and I eat often.

After the current issue that Europe was having with their spinach being infected with traces of e. coli, I decided to permanently start shopping for my produce at farmers' markets.

I may have been overreacting, considering that Europe is a long way from my home in California, but I didn't want to take the chance that somehow, the tainted spinach could make its way over here. Although produce at farmer's markets tend to be more expensive than produce at grocery stores, the extra money I spend is worth the peace of mind.

It's crazy how dangerous our food can be sometimes. Always pray over it first!

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