Survey reveals Americans' concerns over product recalls, information

WASHINGTON — A new Consumer Reports poll released Monday found that only one-fifth of U.S. adults were aware of having purchased food, medication or a product (other than a car) that was recalled in the past three years.

Americans surveyed believed it is important to know about product recalls, but they were not confident that they are getting adequate information delivered to them, the poll also revealed.

While only 20% of U.S. consumers were concerned that they personally missed a recall announcement in the past three years, some groups were more concerned than others. More than one-quarter of 18- to 24-year-old consumers were concerned they missed a product recall notice. This compared with less than one-sixth of all consumers ages 65 years and older. Parents of school- and/or preschool-aged children also were slightly more apt to be worried about missing such announcements than were other adults (26% versus 19%).

Consumers were more likely to find out about product recalls from the news than any other source. Nearly two-thirds of those consumers who had experienced a recent food recall and a slight majority of those who purchased a recalled medication found out about the recall from a news report.

Finding out about product recalls somewhat was more varied. While a plurality of those who purchased a recalled product were informed of the recall via the news, 1-out-of-6 found out about the recall from the manufacturer and a little more than one-tenth from family, friends or coworkers. Among the survey's findings:

  • Of the 20% of the population who believed they purchased a recalled product, nearly 40% responded that it was for food, almost 40% for a medication and 24% for a product;

  • Less than one-quarter of Americans researched a product they purchased to see if it was recalled;

  • More than one-half of Americans said they never or rarely filled out the registration cards that come with products; and

  • Half of Americans were not confident that manufacturers and retailers shared safety information with government agencies, while two-fifths lacked confidence that manufacturers and retailers provided consumers with appropriate product recall information.

The poll was commissioned by the newly formed National School Safety Coalition, convened by Consumer Reports, the National Parent Teacher Association and the National School Boards Association. Coalition partners include the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. The coalition distributes safety alerts and recall notices on children's products, including toys, food, medicines and furniture, through a Consumer Reports microsite, ClickCheckandProtect.org.

The "Consumer Reports Product Recalls" survey is based on a nationally representative sample of American adults, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. A total of 2,005 landline and cellular random digit dial telephone interviews were completed among adults ages 18 years and older. Interviewing took place between Aug. 19 and Aug. 29.