Two more product recalls have been issued in the last 24 hours, and you may be wondering what to do. Do you have the products in your home? Can you get your money back? What do you do with the recalled products?
Here are a few things you should know, and resources where you can find more information or receive updates on the recalls.
What is a Voluntary Recall?
A product recall is issued when a product is either defective or potentially harmful.
Product recalls typically involve products that may be unsafe, contaminated, mislabeled, do not conform to manufacturer’s specifications, or are missing allergen or other hazard warnings. Very rarely, recalls are issued for products that have been adulterated or tampered with in some way.
Almost all product recalls are voluntary actions, and are issued by the company responsible for manufacturing or producing the product. Their goals in recalling a product are:
- to locate the defective products
- to get unsafe and/or defective products out of consumer hands as quickly as possible, and
- to communicate information about the problems and remedies quickly and effectively.
The manufacturer decides the exact response based on the danger, where and how the product was marketed, who uses it, the estimated shelf life, etc. The specific recall actions also take into account the regulatory requirements, financial restraints, and manufacturer’s specific policies.
If the company does not initiate a recall, the government may request that the company do so. The government has limited authority, however. If a company refuses to recall a product, the government agencies have legal authority to:
- seize available (unsold) product
- stop operations
- and initiate a court request for a product recall.
The government itself cannot recall a product or require customers be reimbursed.
Why does a company voluntarily recall a product?
Recalling the product allows the company to destroy, replace, and/or alter the problem product. In addition to protecting consumer health, the company must demonstrate they have corrected the problem and are complying with existing rules and regulations. The company also needs to minimize the cost of the recall, while regaining and improving the company’s reputation for future sales and business.
What should I do if I have a food or drug product that has been recalled?
If you have a recalled medical product, talk to your health professional about the best course of action. For other products, take it back to the place of purchase and ask for a refund. Stores generally have a return and refund policy when a company has announced a recall of its products. You can also contact the company for specific directions and information; you can find contact information and website for most name-brand products here.
Who pays for the Recall?
The manufacturer/company is responsible for all of the costs involved in this process. Most companies carry product recall insurance to assist with the costs of the recall.
Can I get my money back?
All recalls are voluntary, and the terms are determined by each company when a recall is announced. Each company evaluates the costs of removing products, replacing products or reimbursing customers, and of future “corrective” marketing (restoring the public's trust in purchasing their products), as well as the amount of recall insurance they have purchased, to determine what they can afford and how to proceed.
In general, a company will refund the suggested retail value of the recalled item(s). The company may choose how to reimburse customers, including:
- cash or check covering the suggested retail price, or
- product exchange (damaged product is replaced with a new product without charge), or
- voucher (coupon for a free product that replaces the damaged product).
Are receipts required for a refund?
Recalls are based on returning a defective product to the manufacturer, and not the actual purchase. Receipts are generally not accepted, unless returns are made directly to the store at which it was purchased.
Manufacturers generally require the actual product to be returned (and tested or destroyed by their facility). Receipts are not generally required, since the manufacturer's goal is not to prove that you paid for the product, but that you have it. To prove that you have the product, they often require the entire product be returned, including any unused portion. This also allows the company to test returned product, and confirm which products, lot numbers, production lines, etc., have problems, and that any hazard has been removed and destroyed…and also helps the company protect against fraudulent claims.
How many can I return?
In general, all items recalled may be returned for full refund or exchange.
However, since all recalls are voluntary, the company issuing the recall may choose to evaluate “unusual” returns on a case by case basis, according to the actual distribution of the product, “resonableness”, and their own financial constraints.
Why the does Company/Manufacturer Need all that Information?
The goal of any product recall is to retrieve, repair, or replace products already purchased or on the shelves. Maintaining accurate records about each product is essential for a company to conduct an effective, economical product recall.
Generally, the following records are key both to identifying product defects and conducting recalls:
- Records of complaints, warranty returns, insurance claims, and lawsuits.
- Production records: lot numbers and product codes associated with each run, the volume of units manufactured, component parts or substitutes use, and other pertinent information which will help the company identify defective products or components quickly.
- Distribution records: location of each product by product line, production run, quantity shipped or sold, dates of delivery, and destinations.
- Quality control records.
- Product registration cards.
Role of Government Agencies
The FDA monitors the progress of a recall and perform audit checks at wholesale or retail customers to verify the recall's effectiveness. You can learn more from the FDA FAQs page.
Is there an FDA food safety hotline?
For general food safety questions, call the FDA Food Safety Hotline at 1-888-723-3366. If the situation is critical, phone FDA's emergency number, 301-443-1240, which is staffed 24 hours a day. If your questions involve meat or poultry products, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture's hotline at 800-535-4555. More on food safety can be found at www.foodsafety.gov.
Is there an official site for updates on recalls?
The main point of information is at recalls.gov
Home pages for federal regulatory agencies participating in recalls.gov include: