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CU urges holiday shoppers to use caution

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

With Product Recalls Up 19 Percent,
Consumers Union Urges Holiday Shoppers to Use Caution
Children’s Products Account for Two-Thirds of Recalled Products in FY 2008

YONKERS, N.Y. – A new report by Consumers Union (CU), the publisher of Consumer Reports, says product recalls were up 19 percent this year, and two-thirds of the affected products were for children.
With the rise in recalls, Consumers Union is urging holiday shoppers to use caution when buying gifts this season, especially when they buy used products or shop at dollar stores.
The report, entitled “Still Not Safe,” says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced 563 recalls during the 2008 fiscal year from October 2007 through September 2008. That’s an increase of 19 percent over the 473 recalls announced in fiscal year 2007. More than 43 million products were recalled during the 2008 fiscal year, according to CU’s analysis.
Nearly 97 percent of all products recalled were imported; 81 percent were made in China. Two-thirds of all products recalled were children’s products, including toys, nursery items, and clothing. The CPSC tallied 121 recalls, involving more than 12.2 million products such as toys and children’s jewelry, due to high levels of lead.
During tough economic times, holiday shoppers may look for bargains from consignment shops, web sites that sell secondhand products, and dollar stores. The CU report says three dollar stores — Dollar General, Dollar Tree Stores, and Family Dollar — generated 12 recalls collectively for a variety of low-cost, hazardous goods, accounting for almost 3 million products, in the 2008 fiscal year. That is equivalent to 6.5 percent of the total number of recalled products, and more than three times the amount these three retailers recalled collectively last year.
When shopping for new or used products, CU urges consumers to check the web site recalls.gov to see if these items have been recalled.
Large toy manufacturers such as Mattel/Fisher Price and RC2 had far fewer recalls this year compared to last year, and some retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R’ Us have ramped up their testing programs and established tougher standards for product safety. But Consumers Union says every link in the supply chain – manufacturers, importers, and retailers – must step up and take their share of responsibility for ensuring that the goods they bring to market are safe for consumers.
The increase in recalls might lead some to argue that the oversight of the marketplace has gotten better, but CU says that recalls only catch dangerous products after they arrive in stores and homes. The real solution, it says, is making certain that products are properly tested before they get to store shelves.
Congress passed a sweeping law in August to raise safety standards for consumer products. However, CU says that many of the major provisions of the law do not go into effect until 2009 or later, and the CPSC currently lacks the necessary staff to thoroughly monitor the marketplace.

David Butler
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.