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2011 in review: The Top 10 most-searched product recalls

Consumer Reports News: December 27, 2011 12:08 PM

Bacteria-tainted food, flawed vehicles, smelly bottles of medicines... 2011 could be considered the year of really awful consumer product news, judging by the amount of safety recalls made by regulatory agencies. But which product recall of 2011 really lit the fire for online searches in the U.S.?

Google analyzed the billions of queries its search engine received in 2011 to develop its Zeigeist 2011, which outlines the m,ost-searched for topics among the global online realm. Among Web users in the U.S., here are the 10 fastest rising product recalls:

10. Harley Davidson.
In October, over 250,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles were recalled in the U.S. for faulty switches which caused the bike's brake lights—or even the brakes themselves—to fail. Worldwide, the problem affected more than 300,000 Harley "hogs."

9. Mazda 6.
The news: The Japanese sedan could catch fire—which would be reason enough for an official recall of more than 52,000 Mazda 6 cars back in March. But news of the root problem—spiders infesting the cars' fuel vents—undoubtedly kept the search for Mazda's recall news alive for months.

8. Ford F-150.
Ford's popular pickup trucks wasn't literally buggy. It was plagued with problems. In late January, 280,000 F-150s were recalled for door handles that can open during crashes. In late February, 144,000 F-150 were recalled for air bag issues—which expanded to a recall of more than 1.2 million Ford pickups by April. In May, 2.7 million Ford F-150s were being investigated for fuel tank problems. In late July, more than one million Ford trucks—including the F-150—were recalled for faulty fuel tank straps.

7. Sony TVs.
Searches for Sony Bravia LCD TVs spiked in October because the Japanese had literally hot flat-panel TV models. More than 1.6 million Sony TVs were recalled worldwide after reports of some sets caught on fire in homes. (No fires were reported among the 400,000 TVs recalled in the U.S., though.)

6. Medela.
In January, Medela recalled a "limited number" of breast pumps for power and suction issues. Nursing mothers also turned to the Web in April for news about safety issues regarding the power adapters included with its breast pumps. (Consumer Reports offers breast-pump safety tips online.)

5. Baby monitors.
In February, 1.7 million corded baby monitors were recalled after two incidents of strangulation. Consumer Reports safety experts have warned about crib and playpen dangers—including risks of sleeping children entangling themselves in the power cord of baby monitors. (See Consumer Reports Buying guide to baby monitors for more safety tips.)

4. Topamax.
In April, more than 57,000 bottles of the anti-seizure medicine were recalled because consumers complained of a foul, moldy odor emanating from the drug's bottles. As with recalls of Tylenol in 2010, a chemical called 2,4,6 tribromoanisole, or TBAs, is believed to be responsible for the stench.

3. Stihl.
The company had to recall of 2.3 million lawn and yard tools—string trimmers, leaf blowers and other gear—in May. News of the massive recall, which involved tools that could leak gasoline (because of fuel additives such as ethanol) and possibly burn users, drove Google searches.

2. B.O.B Stroller.
The baby strollers suffered two hits. More than 330,000 strollers were recalled in February for loose canopy drawstrings that could possible choke riders. In October, nearly half a million B.O.B strollers were recalled for the same issue.

1. Turkey.
It was a very bad year for fowl meat. In April, 27 tons of turkey burgers were recalled because of possible Salmonella contamination. But in late July, a whopping 36 million pounds—18,000 tons—of ground turkey meat were recalled nationwide for the same health concerns. And in September, U.S. officials recalled an additional 185,000 pounds of tainted turkey meat, which is believed ties to at least one death and nearly 80 cases of food-borne illnesses.

Microbe-tainted food that brings illness, baby strollers that strangle, lawn and yard tools that catch fire, medicine bottles with foul odors... Which product recall was the most significant to your personal safety in 2011?

Fastest Rising Recalls of 2011 [Google Zeitgeist 2011]

Paul Eng

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