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Why So Many Recalls? And Who is Actually Paying Attention?

Craig McClellan

Consumer products get recalled every day. In fact, too many products may be recalled every day.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 2,363 recalls in 2011. This translates into 6.5 recalled products each day.

And the 2011 numbers are up almost 14 percent from 2010, which saw only 2,081 recalls (average of 5.7 per day), and almost 62 percent from 2007, which saw 1,460 recalls (average of 4 per day).

So what explains this major jump in recalls in the past five years?

Safety experts think that the increase may be due to better testing of consumer products, increased regulatory oversight and social media. Yes, you read that right. Thanks to more companies being engaged in social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it is easier for consumers to send manufacturers and retailers complaints about products. And when the manufacturers and retailers receive the concerns they are responding.

While it is great that companies are paying more attention to the possible defects in their products, the sheer number of recalls that occur each day is alarming, especially when you factor in the possibility of "recall fatigue."

When so many recalls occur, consumers tend to pay less attention to them, and often may not respond in a timely manner or at all. This, of course, raises the question of how to effectively handle recalls.

A study in 2009 found that 40 percent of Americans had never even looked for recalled products in their homes. But could the rise in social media use allow companies to reach consumers that they haven't previously? That may be the case, but companies need to remember that consumers use different social media channels - and those engaged in all channels may find themselves even more fatigued.

Source: USA, " Surge in products being recalled may be numbing consumers," 6/8/12.