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  • Writer's pictureJo Soria

How Do Product Recalls Work?

We've all seen food and product recalls pop up in the news from time to time, but how do you find more information on a recall? What should you do if you suspect you've purchased a contaminated or defective product? This week, the #TRN team brings you the fast facts on recalls and how to handle them.

Woman standing in front of vegetable section; product recalls

The Product Recall Process

The most common trigger for a consumer product recall is a consumer complaint, or likely numerous consumer complaints that arise within a relatively short period and are filed with a regulatory agency.

In many cases, the investigating agency will be the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPS) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Still, based on the nature of the issue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may need to be involved.

Product recalls include anything from defective parts and fire hazards to mislabeling and food contamination. If a product poses a risk or proves damaging or dangerous to the public, even when used responsibly and according to the manufacturer's instructions, an investigating agency should be notified.

What to do if You've Purchased a Recalled Product

If you've already purchased an item and find out about its recall after the fact, don't panic. Recalls are often issued as precautionary measures, and the product you bought doesn't necessarily pose a life-threatening risk.

That said, if you haven't already used the product, you should avoid opening, eating, or using it. From there, the manufacturer will provide instructions on the proper return or disposal of the product, so check their website for information on what to do next. If you can't find any further information from the manufacturer or want to file a consumer complaint, check our cheat sheet below for the proper agency to contact.

Photo of miscellaneous store products; product recalls

What to do if You Suspect a Product Should be Recalled

If you purchased a defective, contaminated, or otherwise hazardous product but can't find any information about a recall, no agency complaints may have been made yet. Use our cheat sheet below for information about which agency to contact based on the type of product you used.

If using the product has caused bodily harm or property damage, you may need to consider contacting a liability or personal injury attorney as quickly as possible.

Product Recall Contacts and Resources (U.S. Only)

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPS) Search recalled consumer products:

Report unsafe consumer products:

Receive product recall notification emails and safety alerts:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Search food and drug-related recalls:

Report unsafe food and drug-related products:

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Search USDA recalls: Report unsafe meat, poultry, or egg products:

Subscribe to USDA food safety email alerts:' %20email%20subscription%20service%20is,enter%20a%20primary%20email%20address.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Search recalls involving pesticides, fuel emissions, and other environmental concerns:

Subscribe to EPA Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Bulletin:


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