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Stay informed about recalls

Earlier this year, McDonald’s recalled 12 million Shrek-themed glasses because they contained hazardous levels of cadmium.

Associated Press

Earlier this year, McDonald’s recalled 12 million Shrek-themed glasses because they contained hazardous levels of cadmium.

You read it in the newspaper or hear it on TV: Product "XYZ" is being recalled, either by the company that makes, markets or grows it, or it's being recalled by an alphabet soup of agencies such as the FDA, CPSC, USDA FSIS or NHTSA. What should be done in response to this news? How do you begin to determine what is being recalled and figure out what it means to you? Here are some tips on how to stay informed on product recalls. American Association of Poison Control Centers

Decide if the recall applies to you. Many of the recalls you read about are for products you may not eat, drink or use.

Don't panic. By the time the news of a recall gets to the public level, the actual problem may be resolved. This is especially true for food recalls related to illness outbreaks, because it takes a long time for public health agencies to realize that illnesses are connected and track down the source of the contamination.

Stay abreast of the recalls. Beyond the weekly recall column on Saturdays in the BayLink section, you can also visit, a one-stop website for consumers that covers nearly all federal agencies that conduct product recalls. You can also check Consumer Reports, company websites, online media, your local public health department, and your pharmacist or doctor if it concerns medicines. And you can always call your local poison center 24 hours a day for questions not only about recalls, but about the safety of products you use every day.

Food is recalled for a variety of reasons. It could be spoiled or contaminated, or it could be mislabeled. Many companies recall food products for undeclared nuts or undeclared dairy, ingredients that are a big deal if you have food allergies, but not much of an issue if you can consume nuts or dairy without problems.

Many recalls involve only certain lot numbers or batches of a product. If you use a product named in a recall, check the lot numbers or dates listed to see if the item you are using is actually affected.

Most jewelry recalls relate to excessive lead or cadmium content in children's items. In these situations, sudden illness is not expected since problems would most likely happen with long-term exposure. Still, take these recalls as seriously as you would any other product recall.

If a product is recalled, stop using it, and either return it to the place where it was bought or dispose of it. Read the recall notices thoroughly for instructions.

Check it out

If you feel ill and suspect a food, product or medicine is the cause you can take several steps:

Contact your local poison center about your symptoms and see if they know of any recalls of the item you suspect.

Contact your doctor for possible evaluation and/or treatment.

Check to see if there are others who may have eaten the same food or taken the same medicine when you did. If so and they are fine, chances are your illness is not related.

For questions about poison, recalls or the safety of the food you eat and the products you use, call your local poison center toll-free at 1-800-222-1222.

Stay informed about recalls 11/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:16am]
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