A month into 2011, and manufacturers have already pulled what may seem like a startling number of products from the market due to mandatory or voluntary recalls.
But these recalls, affecting products nationwide from clothing to antacid, are more common than consumers might think, according to local health officials.
These officials, whose job it is to look for recalls that may affect those on the Eastside, also say that while consumers may be ill-informed when it comes to nationwide recalls, there are both new and tried-and-true ways the public can stay up-to-date with the latest news.
“There are numerous recalls everyday,” said Dr. Rick Johnson, Inyo and Mono counties’ public health officer, “and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the numbers. So, we (Johnson and the Inyo-Mono Environmental Health offices) have decided to limit our press releases to recalls that have local impact.”
Johnson said he and his staff closely comb through the huge lists of food and medicine recalls everyday looking for products that may have been sold or offered locally.
“When we have been aware of local recalls and we go out to the business, we have found it very gratifying that almost every time we do, the manufacturer has already notified the proprietor and the product is off the shelf by the time we get there,” Johnson said.
There doesn’t seem to be an increase in shoddy production or value, Johnson said, rather, “we now have a better, stringent surveillance system. We’re looking harder.”
He added that while it can be overwhelming to be aware of so many recalls, it’s important not to become desensitized.
Following is a look at a small fraction of the products recalled in the past week.
• Arctic Cat, Inc. of Thief River Falls, Minn. recalled 16,500 snowmobiles due to front lower suspension arm problems.
• White-Rodgers, of St. Louis, Mo., is voluntarily recalling about 180,000 programmable thermostats in the United States and 8,300 in Canada, due to a fire hazard.
• Avalung backpacks by Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. of Utah, are being recalled because the air intake tubing can crack under cold temperatures, causing the unit not to function as intended, posing a suffocation hazard.
• SnoThro 30LE Deluxe Snow Throwers were recalled by Ariens Company, of Brillion, Wis. because of concerns about its design posing safety hazards.
• At the wholesale level, various products from Tylenol, such as its eight-hour, Arthritis Pain and Benadryl and Sudafed lines due to labeling and contamination concerns.
Johnson suggests that those with small children or with chronic illnesses or those who consistently take a particular medication to fill out the product registration cards included in or on nearly every product. These cards are used, specifically, to inform consumers of recalls directly and quickly.
A Consumer Reports Online survey from Jan. 4, 2011 found that, “One in five consumers was aware they had bought medicine, food or a product that was subsequently recalled in the past three years, and more than half had learned about the recall from news reports. Not surprisingly, one in five Americans was concerned that they missed a recall.
“Most Americans are very concerned that they are not receiving adequate safety information,” Consumer Reports states.
Subsequently, the data in the report revealed that 58 percent of those surveyed never filled out those product registration cards.
Considered the consummate watchdogs of public safety, Consumer Reports Online and the National School Safety Coalition have created a website that has that the latest information on recalls, specific to products, food and drugs for school aged children that can be accessed by educators and parents. The website is clickcheckandprotect.org.
Johnson said that consumers also have a responsibility to stay informed.
The latest and most accurate recall information can be found at the websites of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at www.fda.gov , the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.usda.gov  and the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission at www.cpsc.gov .