Toyota has had to endure a stressful and damaging public relations nightmare as it has recalled 4.3 million vehicles that have been found to accelerate suddenly. General Motors also recently announced that it is recalling 1.3 million cars in order to fix a power steering problem.
But the auto makers shouldn’t feel alone.
According to the U.S. Product Safety Commission there are more than 28,000 deaths and more than 33 million injuries related to consumer products each year. Products usually pose fire hazards, or can cause choking, drowning, electrocution, or illness. In 2009 more than 465 recalls were issued for millions of consumer products. Over the years toys, baby cribs, food products, and automobiles have topped the list of recalled items.
From flaming Fords to tainted Tylenol, Hoover’s Editors took a stroll down memory lane to recall some of the most infamous product recalls of the past several decades.
1. Terror struck the public in 1982 when Extra-Strength Tylenol laced with cyanide killed seven people in the Chicago area. Johnson & Johnson recalled 31 million bottles and temporarily halted marketing of the pain pills. Authorities never solved the mystery of who tampered with the Tylenol, but the recall helped launch tamper-proof packaging.
2. Ford Motors’ Pinto has been labeled by some as one of the worst cars of all time. It’s likely due to the car’s questionable safety record. Back in the 70s the Pinto (which was one of the first American-made subcompact cars) had the tendency to burst into flames during rear collisions. The problem was blamed on the location of the car’s gas tank. In 1978 Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos and its Mercury model, the Bobcat. Ford dealt with another flaming problem in 1996 when it recalled 8.6 million cars and trucks after reports surfaced that ignition switches were catching on fire.
3. Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires in 2000 after several reports and injuries were traced to tires used on Ford Explorers. Tread problems were to blame for several rollovers and some 200 deaths.
4. In 2007 Mattel recalled 21 million toys that contained lead paint or small magnets. The toys were made in China and the recall spurred a national outcry to improve the quality of imported goods.
5. Millions of pounds of tainted milk powder in China heightened the world’s view of the country’s product quality and safety standards, or lack thereof. Chinese milk producers added the industrial chemical melamine to their product in order to cut costs. The poisoned milk left six children dead and more than 300,000 sick. Last year China executed two men (a dairy farmer and a milk salesman) for their connection with the food safety scandal. Just last month Chinese authorities found more batches of poisoned milk powder.
6. Humans aren’t the only ones in danger by recalled products. In 2007 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received word that certain types of Chinese-made pet foods were sickening and killing cats and dogs. More than 180 popular brands such as Iams, Purina, and Science Diet were recalled. Again, that pesky chemical melamine was eventually found to be the cause of the poisonings.
7. Peanuts, spinach, tomatoes and even jalape?os all were erased from the menus and cleared from the produce aisles during separate recalls in 2008 and 2009. Salmonella and E. coli were found in the foods.
8. Children’s products are some of the most recalled products on the market. In 2008 and 2009 Simplicity Inc. recalled nearly 2 million cribs that featured a drop side that created a dangerous gap where babies could get caught and suffocate. Other companies such as Stork Craft, Delta Enterprise Corp, and Dorel Asia have recently recalled millions more cribs.
9. Computer companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony recalled more than 4 million laptop computers in 2006 after reports surfaced about lithium-ion batteries that overheated and burst into flames.