Articles Posted in Consumer Safety

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Romaine Lettuce Recalls Raise Safety Concerns

In recent weeks, the romaine lettuce many Americans enjoy regularly has been under a cloud of concern with possible contamination of the bacteria known as E. coli. The bacteria is found in the environment and doesn’t always cause illness. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control notes that most E. coli are not harmful. The strains of the bacteria that we hear about can be very problematic, can cause illness and are transmitted in food, water and other means. The strain that is most often the problematic one causes thousands of illnesses annually and can result in hospitalization and can be fatal.

Not only can uncooked vegetables like tomatoes and lettuces be a problem, but the bacteria can also be found in raw milk, fruit and soft cheeses. Food that is not sufficiently cooked is also a danger.

Lawsuits Filed After Recalls and Outbreaks

Most Americans remember the major issue that the very popular Chipotle restaurants had in 2015. According the Washington Post in that serious outbreak 60 customers from 14 states were infected with the bacteria. The restaurant chain took extreme measures to correct this problem. But the cause of the outbreak was never determined. Many customers who became ill after eating at the chain settled lawsuits brought against the restaurant for causing their illnesses.

Food suppliers, distributors and restaurants are regulated by both federal laws and state laws. If you become ill after eating food or from store-bought romaine lettuce, for example, you may well be able to recover your medical expenses and other losses due to illnesses that are shown to have been the result of eating contaminated foods.

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christmas-tree-inside-house_2432104The National Safety Council (NSC) has a mission — preventing fatal injuries at home. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also has a mission — preventing injuries due to defective or dangerous consumer products. Each year, the NSC and the CPSC publish holiday safety tips to help Americans have a safe and healthy holiday season. Earlier this week we cautioned about toy safety and the recalled toys on the CPSC site. Additional safety reminders are always good to consider at this time of year. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of injuries each day during this time of year — doing simple things like decorating our homes. Here are five key areas to consider for safer holidays.

First, avoid fire by taking several important steps. Some traditions use lighted candles on trees. This is considered to be dangerous. The NSC discourages the use of lighted candles that are simply near trees. And never leave a candle unattended. The NSC also urge the use of a strong and stable water-holding stand to maintain moisture in the tree. When the boughs become dry, the electric lights on the tree can cause fire. Artificial trees are a great alternative, but choose one that is certified as fire resistant. The CPSC warns that electric lights on trees should be turned off when you leave your home or go to sleep. They also warn that lights can be an attractive risk to small children, so keep little ones out of the reach of the lights. Do not toss gift wrap or other refuse into a fireplace. You don’t know what you are actually burning when you do, so although tempting, it is not a safe practice.

Second, decorating can be dangerous if not done carefully. If you are putting up your own house lights, have more than one person there to spot you on a ladder. Make sure to use the proper ladder height carefully placed on level ground. If you are putting decorations up inside your home, do not stand on chairs or furniture. Make sure you either have both feet and one hand on the ladder OR both hands and one foot on the ladder. This will help with balance and keep your body more secure. There are many fatal accidents involving ladders every year in our country.

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pexels-photo-93009-300x200This is the time of year when children are excited and parents are overwhelmed. We take time to think about what to get for the little ones for the holidays. And as they are older, they might get what they told Santa they want. Sometimes parents have to just figure it all out somehow. No matter which holiday your family celebrates during this season, children’s gifts are likely to be a part of this wonderful time of year. Although we all try to consider the potential hazards in the toys we bring home for our kids or those given to them by friends or relatives, we might not know the particulars of every toy. That is when Boston’s World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) list becomes very helpful. Each year they inform the public of their view of the most dangerous toys out there. The list is published in several media outlets and can be viewed by clicking on the link above.

WATCH notes that there are many toys that are not on their list that could be hazardous to children at certain ages. They choose to publicize those toys that fail in their view to provide warnings, or adequate warnings, about potential dangers. The toys on the list include choking hazards, suffocation hazards and others.

Toy makers have said in response that toys sold in America are required to pass safety review. But we do know that although toys can seem safe, they can also be subject to recall. A current list of recalled toys can be found at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These toys should not be found on shelves at this point since they have been recalled. However, sometimes parents might inadvertently buy a toy at a garage sale or hand-me-down, that has been recalled and they don’t know it. Checking the CPSC site for your toys is a good safety measure. This past year, Toys ‘R’ Us recalled pacifier clips for a choking hazard, Dazzling Toys recalled a chicken toy that also presented a choking hazard. Alex Toys recalled an infant building play set for the same hazard. Auldey Toys recalled its Sky Rover toys due to fire hazard and Flying Tiger Copenhagen recalled wooden toys also due to choking hazards.

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iStock_000016030629XSmallWhen parents create living spaces for their children and choose furniture, safety is part of the consideration. The last thing a parent wants is to worry that their child or children might be hurt or killed due to unsafe furniture. Once a week in America, a child loses his or her life due to tipping furniture or tipping televisions. A curious child putting weight on a piece of untethered or unanchored furniture can cause it to topple. And we know kids can unwittingly do something dangerous in seconds. In recent weeks, IKEA Group has recalled nearly 36 million chests and dressers in the United States and Canada due to child injuries or death caused by tipping dressers. These accidents ALL involve dressers that were not anchored to the wall. One of the IKEA dressers involved are in the group called MALM — this includes many versions of this dresser from small to tall. The dressers were made between 2002 to 2016 and can be identified by looking at the labeling on the inside top or side panel. IKEA is offering refunds/returns or repair kits for these dressers.

In recent years, three toddlers died in separate incidents when IKEA dressers fell on them. In all cases, the dressers were not anchored to the wall. IKEA is working with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on this massive recall. The CPSC has warned the public that these dressers have proven to be too dangerous when they are not anchored. Although there have now been six deaths associated with these and other dressers, this has not been an issue in other countries in which they are sold.

The recall is very expansive and includes those dressers that fail to comply with United States performance requirements. The problem with the recalled dressers is instability when not anchored. The company did offer a repair kit for the dressers after two children had already died from injuries suffered when the dressers fell on them. Sadly, even after the repair kit was announced one death and 17 injuries occurred with chests or dressers that were not anchored. Other dressers that have caused death are the GUTE 4-drawer, the RAKKE 5-drawer and the KURS 3-drawer. Parents can check the IKEA website to identify the dressers that are considered unsafe.

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hoverboardOne of the “hottest” holiday gifts last year were hoverboards; those two-wheel devices with no handles. Riders stand on them and travel while standing, but hold on to nothing. The hoverboard has begun to lose its appeal due to some pretty bad fires and injuries. A Wired magazine report last month noted that hoverboard fires were on the rise and provided some answers to this worrisome situation which we will share in this post. Hoverboard owners are concerned that their homes could be lost or damaged or family members could be seriously injured by these seemingly “fun” rides. The rash of fire incidents around the country has also brought this device to the attention of tech geeks and gadget enthusiasts alike.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission is now paying close attention to the situation and has recently issued a press release regarding the fires. They are warning that consumers cannot be assured that fires won’t happen even when there is a UL mark on the label. They are continuing to work on helping the public protect their homes and personal safety.

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1330873_27868463The popular “fast food” chain Chipotle Mexican Grill is not having a good year so far. Last year was undoubtedly its worst. Chipotle, which has been very successful at capturing a solid quality fast food market share, has seen those long lines dwindle and its stock value fall. Fans of the chain are accustom to waiting for the “fast” service and flavorful Mexican fare. But Chipotle has been plagued with food safety issues that have caused many to become ill. Investors are angry and apparently so are federal authorities.

Reuters reports that investors have now filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York claiming that the popular restaurant did not have adequate food safety processes. They allege that investors purchasing shares during the period from February 2015 to January 2016 were misled by Chipotle’s failure to disclose the quality control issues.

The federal government is also taking legal action against Chipotle, which is said to be cooperating with the authorities. The matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Food and Drug Administration through its Office of Criminal Investigations. USNews reports that Chipotle was served with a subpoena recently and is the subject of a criminal grand jury investigation relating to the norovirus at its Simi Valley, California location. This location was apparently the source of illness to nearly 190 restaurant guests and nearly 20 employees. The virus causes the type of symptoms generally thought of as “food poisoning.”

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