Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week John Mather explains product recalls.THE BASICS When a company or regulator deems a product unsafe, it is recalled. Pricey litigation has made recalls commonplace for some of the world's largest corporations over the past 30 years. Most recently, Toyota recalled around nine million vehicles for faulty accelerators in some models, faulty brakes in others.
HOW IT WORKS Recalls can range from a simple warning that a commodity should be repaired to an all-out "whatever you do, don't use this product". Most countries have laws and regulatory bodies that determine when a recall is needed. For instance, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority recalled 500,000 bottles of Masafi water in December for "impurities visible to the naked eye". Once a recall is issued, the authority works to publicise the information - and the media is often quick to oblige.
WHAT'S BEEN RECALLED In one of the first widely publicised recalls, in 1982, Johnson & Johnson pulled every bottle of Tylenol in the US after cyanide was discovered in some containers. Since then, other recalls have included toys speckled with lead paint, milk laced with melamine, exploding computer batteries, e-coli-contaminated cookie dough and self-shattering coffee makers.THE CONVERSATION Remind anyone concerned about recalls of the Ford Pinto. In the 1970s, Ford decided it would be cheaper to settle lawsuits than to repair the car's explosion-prone petrol tank.