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The 6 Biggest Consumer Product Recalls In History

No business or industry wants to lose money or reputation by having to admit that a product is defective or dangerous, so if a company issues a recall, it obviously has reason to believe that the product could harm consumers. These six product recalls are among the biggest in history.

Peanut Butter

One major recall happened in 2010, when the Food and Drug Administration shut down Sunland Nut and Seeds because of a widespread salmonella outbreak. More than 60% of all those affected were children under the age of ten, and more than 50 of this company’s products, including peanut butter, were recalled due to potential contamination.

Ground Beef

A second significant recall concerns the ground beef industry. In 2008, the Westland/Hallmark Company recalled 143 million pounds of ground beef which had been sold both to grocery stores and to school cafeterias. Unfortunately, some of the meat had already made people sick by the time of the recall. According to the

Christian Science Monitor, this recall was especially frightening for the country, as the US Department of Agriculture was seen an ineffective regulator of the nation’s meat supply.

Drop-Side Cribs

A third important recall was prompted by infant deaths. In 2009 according to The Washington Post, the Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered Stork Craft to recall 2.1 million of its drop-side cribs after four children suffocated in them either because of faulty hardware or improper assembly by consumers. Soon after, Evenflo, Pottery Barn Kids and others also had cribs recalled. Near the end of 2010, drop-side cribs were outlawed, but not until more than 30 infants and children died over ten years because of this type of crib.

Firestone Tires

The fourth most significant recall concerns the auto industry. More than 6.5 million Firestone tires on Ford Explorers were recalled after a decade of trouble. The tread on tires tended to separate, and when that happened the top-heavy SUV had a high incidence of rollovers. In all, this problem was responsible for as many as 250 deaths over a decade before the Firestone tires were recalled, according to Time magazine.

Blinds and Shades

Blinds and shades are fifth on the list. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a 2009 recall for blinds with a looped cord, noting that more than 500 children since the 1980s had been strangled by this kind of cord on blinds and shades. That total is about one death a month, and that makes this product one of the most deadly in history, according to The Washington Post.


The final major recall began with murders in Chicago and is among the most significant recalls in American history. In 1982 Johnson and Johnson recalled more than 31 million bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol after cyanide-laced capsules were determined to be the cause of seven deaths, as reported by the NY Times. This recall cost $100 million but resulted in nationwide tamper-proof packaging.

Product recalls happen every day, but of course few of them are as grand in scope and consequence as the six listed here. Sometimes recalls are used to avoid expensive litigation, but the most significant recalls are also intended to save lives and help shape the nation’s product safety policies.