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FDA - Recall Types

Not every recall is for consumer goods like cars or electronics. Companies that make food, cosmetics, or drugs can also issue a voluntary recall of their products if they think that they pose a danger to public health, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can require those companies to issue a recall.

In either case, the FDA monitors the recall and consults with the company regarding the recall's effectiveness and whether the products are safe to be put back on the market.

This article discusses how FDA recalls work, the types of recalls, and what you should do if you have a product that has been recalled.

How Do FDA Recalls Work?

An FDA recall begins when people within the FDA learn that a product that they regulate may be a danger to public health. The FDA finds out about dangerous products in many ways:

  • The producing company discovers a defect in their product and contacts the FDA;
  • The FDA receives reports of health problems stemming from a particular product;
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notices a trending health problem related to an FDA-regulated product; or
  • FDA employees conduct an inspection of a factory and determine that there is a likelihood that problems will arise.

Once the FDA determines that a recall is necessary, it works with the manufacturer to ensure that the product is removed from stores, hospitals, and doctors' offices. Many times this happens without the public's knowledge. The FDA only alerts the media in cases where the potential harm from the product is "serious." However, information about all product recalls is always available on the FDA's website, Additionally, you can sign up for a newsletter about FDA recall information, getting the safety alerts sent straight to you.

The FDA will issue a public warning by listing the product and brand name that has been recalled. They will also list the reason for the recall, such as undeclared ingredients (like nuts, for example) or specific bacteria that has been detected (like salmonella or listeria monocytogenes). The FDA will also provide an FDA Enforcement Report, which determines the recall strategy, such as market withdrawal or correction of a label.

Recall Classifications

The FDA splits its product recalls into three classes:

  • Class I: Recalls for products that could cause serious injury or death;
  • Class II: Recalls for products that might cause serious injury or temporary illness;
  • Class III: Recalls for products that are unlikely to cause injury or illness, but violate FDA regulations.

What Should I Do if I Have a Recalled Product?

Even though we all try to be careful consumers, any one of us may end up purchasing a product that later gets recalled. If you discover that one of your products is the subject of an FDA recall, don't panic. Read about the reason for the recall; it's possible that the product only poses a danger to pregnant women or immunocompromised patients or some other narrow segment of the population. If there is a drug recall, call your doctor to find out whether you should keep taking the drug or if you need a new prescription.

If, after your research, you think the product may pose a danger to you, stop consuming it. If the product is non-perishable, like pills or cosmetics, you may want to keep the product in a safe place -- away from your other drugs or cosmetics and away from children -- since it may be important evidence if you decide to sue later.

In the event of a food recall, and the product is perishable, like meat or greens, you may wish to simply throw it out after saving your receipt and any relevant labels. After a food recall has been issued, and you have gotten rid of the contaminated food, it is important to employ food safety techniques to prevent any other foodborne illnesses from spreading.

Food products that touched the recalled food should be thrown out, too. Any utensils, countertops, or any other surfaces that touched the recalled food should be thoroughly washed. Failing to clean everything can be a health hazard since it may cause cross-contamination. For more information about food poisoning and foodborne illnesses, please visit FindLaw's sections on Food Poisoning.

Be sure to raise any health concerns stemming from a recalled product with your doctor as soon as possible. After you are recovered, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages. This branch of law is fairly complicated, and you will need the guidance of an experienced local products liability attorney.

For more information, see FindLaw's sections on Toxic Chemicals and Materials and Defective Medical Devices.

Learn More About Types of FDA Recalls From an Attorney

If you've been injured by a recalled product, you may have a cause of action against the maker, seller, or anyone else in the stream of commerce (for example, a distributor) under product liability law. In a successful suit, injured individuals can receive compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

To learn more about whether you have a viable product liability claim, it's best to contact a skilled drugs and medical devices attorney in your area.

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