Defective and poorly designed products can endanger consumers. It is vital for people to understand what product recalls are and how they affect the products they use. Recalls are issued to reduce the risk of victims suffering injuries from dangerous products and to lessen the likelihood of legal action being taken against manufacturers and distributors.

A manufacturer may issue a voluntary recall of one or more of its products after discovering safety issues or defects. Government agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) can also mandate a product recall, suggest the company issue a recall, or require the manufacturer to include a safety warning on products that potentially pose risks to consumers.

The product recall process

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are obligated to notify the appropriate federal agency if a potentially dangerous product is discovered or there is the reason to believe food products were tampered with or handled in an unsafe manner during the production process or shipment to retailers. The federal agency conducts an investigation and assists in notifying consumers about the recall. Companies that do not give proper notice about defective products may face substantial fines and other penalties. A personal injury lawyer can advise victims who are harmed by unsafe products of their legal options.

Obtaining Information about recalled products is a credible “one-stop-shop” for the latest recall information from six federal agencies with jurisdiction over consumer products, motor vehicles, marine equipment, food, medical products and medicines, cosmetics, and environmental products. The site also provides safety tips and information about how to report suspected unsafe products.


The NHTSA has jurisdiction over automobiles and automotive parts. Manufacturers have five working days to notify the NHTSA after discovering their products may have a safety-related defect. If the NHSTA determines a recall is needed, it assists in notifying consumers and monitors the ongoing recall process.

Consumer goods

Manufacturers and importers who have reason to believe their products pose the risk of causing serious injury or death have just 24 hours to notify the CPSC. Manufacturers may be obligated to repair or replace defective products already on the market.

Food and drugs

The FDA has three classifications of recalls: Class 1 is for products posing a serious risk of injury or death. Class 2 products may cause temporary health issues. Class 3 recalls violate FDA guidelines but are unlikely to cause illness.