Which Government Agency is in Charge of Recalling Certain Products?

There is no one government agency in charge of issuing recall notices for all products. Instead, different products fall under different jurisdictions, each of which is handled by a completely separate agency. In this article we will explain the jurisdiction of each of the six major government agencies in charge of recalling products and issuing recall alerts.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA is probably most thought of when the word “recall” comes up. It is obvious that the FDA deals with food and drug issues, but they are also in charge of testing, monitoring and recalling defective medical devices (pacemakers, contact lenses…), animal feed, cosmetics, and products with the potential to cause health-related side effects, such as cell phones and lasers. Although the FDA is in charge of “food,” they also share that responsibility with the next federal agency…

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The USDA was founded by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and has been involved in a variety of agricultural initiatives ever since. Not only is the USDA steward to our nation’s 192 million acres of national forests, and providing food to children through school breakfast and lunch programs, but the agency is also responsible for the safety of meat, poultry (including egg), milk and fish products. These responsibilities often encompass the study of pesticide use, which overlaps with the next governmental recall arm…

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The EPA, in addition to the many other responsibilities involved in protecting our environment, are charged with the recalling of products that threaten to harm humans, animals, or the environment in which we live. For instance, recently the EPA ordered five national retail chains to recall a brand of spray confetti string which contained banned hydro chlorofluorocarbons blamed for depleting the ozone layer. This very same product could have also been recalled by another government agency, however, for its highly flammable contents, which are often sprayed over people at birthday parties near flaming candles. The agency that would be responsible for this type of recall is…

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
The CPSC is in charge of protecting the public from “unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction”. They handle recalls for a host of potentially dangerous products, from toys with choking hazards to heaters with propensity to start a fire. Most products with a defect of some kind will find their way into the CPSC database of recalled consumer products. But if that product has wheels and an engine, or is a part of a product that has wheels and an engine, you might be better off researching at the next governmental agency…

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The NHTSA was established to reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. They set and enforce safety standards for motor vehicles and vehicle parts, and provide studies and reports on anything related to motor vehicle use, from tires and seatbelts, to SUVs and cell phone use while driving. If you want to know if the used car you just purchased has any defective auto parts, the NHTSA database is a good start. However, if you just purchased a used boat, the following agency is better suited for your needs…

US Coast Guard
You probably don’t think of product recalls when someone mentions the Coast Guard. However, in addition to their duties to patrol America’s coast line and assist those in distress, the Coast Guard also tests, reports on, and recalls boats, boating parts, and marine safety devices like flares and life jackets. But good luck finding recall information on the Coast Guard’s website!

As you can see, the responsibilities of each agency overlap to some degree with other agencies. Furthermore, issuing recall alerts is only a small part of each organization’s responsibility. This is why is can be difficult, time-consuming and frustrating to locate the information you’re looking for among these six websites. Luckily, this problem has been remedied by an ex-journalist with a passion for social corporate responsibility and citizen journalism…

US Recall News
US Recall News is a non-governmental website that brings together recall alerts from each of the six major government agencies listed above, and separates them into various categories. The alerts are then archived at the end of each month, and remain searchable from the website. In addition to these recall alerts, US Recall News also has a blog that serves as an editorial opinion vehicle to further discuss major issues in the world of corporate responsibility and product safety.

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