Trouble with recalls

Our survey finds that safety warnings don't reach most consumers

Last reviewed: February 2011
Image of hands holding a bunch of eggs
Food danger
The recall of more than 500 million eggs for possible salmonella contamination was one of the largest food alerts of the past year.
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Recalls for some food and drug products hit record highs last year. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission's latest annual figures show that at least 124.7 million other products were recalled, including toys, Roman blinds, and chenille bathrobes that caught fire. Overall, recalled products were associated with 26 deaths.

But that steady stream of news about faulty products was met with strong cynicism from consumers, according to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Many people do little to protect themselves, and many companies don't appear to be taking the strong action needed to make sure their customers are kept informed.

Half of the respondents said they were not confident that manufacturers and retailers shared safety information with government agencies. Almost half also believed the main reason companies announced recalls was to protect themselves from lawsuits rather than to protect consumers from dangerous products. And most Americans were not very confident that they were getting appropriate information from government agencies, the media, or schools.