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Product recalls

According to his report, while the number of recalls of Chinese-made toys has increased, the number of design issues attributable to the companies ordering the toys is far greater than the problems caused by manufacturing in China. Between 1998 and 2007, almost 75 percent of toy recalls were due to design flaws such as small magnets versus 10 percent that were due to manufacturing defects such as toxic paint or inappropriate raw materials.

Buyer beware
It's impossible to know if products such as food, vehicles or appliances are likely to be recalled. There is often no sign of bacterial contamination in food while vehicle or appliance recalls often have to do with interior parts or wiring that aren't easily seen.

"Instead of making a [purchasing] choice on a peripheral issue such as where an item is made, look at, 'is this product likely to fail?'" says Bapuji. "What is likely to wear and tear, and are those parts good enough?'" he says.

The bottom line is, whether the recall deals with a vehicle, a toy or frozen hamburgers, it's important for consumers to stay informed and take appropriate action.

"My message to Canadians is to take recalls seriously," says Patrick Charette, spokesperson for Transport Canada. "If we decide to put out the recall, it's because we have safety concerns, and we want to make sure your vehicle is modified or the part is changed to ensure there's no incident."

Once a recall has been announced, the accompanying notice will advise what to do -- destroy the product, return it for a replacement or full refund or order a fix kit.

How to stay informed
In Canada, there are four government agencies responsible for administering recalls, unlike the US, which disseminates information through the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

While recall announcements are disseminated to most media outlets, it's a good idea to bookmark the following websites for the most up-to-date information on product recalls and warnings:

  • The new federal Healthy Canadians website offers a searchable database for advisories issued by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for food and children's products (including toys, cribs and car seats).
  • Transport Canada has an online vehicle recall database where you can search for recalls by your vehicle's make, model and year.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides a searchable online list of food recalls and allergy alerts as well as a free Allergy Alerts and Food Recalls email service.
  • Health Canada's MedEffect website provides information on advisories, warnings and recalls on therapeutic drugs, natural health products and medical devices as well as a free e-notice that is delivered to your inbox.
  • Canadian Standards International has a searchable product recall page where you can check the recall status of various electrical, mechanical, plumbing or gas products with the CSA International certification mark by product type, manufacturer or model number.

Complying with a product recall can be onerous. To make it easier for yourself, always fill in and return the product registration card and don't remove stickers that contain information regarding the model number, manufacturing date and manufacturer name.

-- Posted: Dec. 5, 2007
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