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How does a recall work?

Eggs can be part of a health recall. Stock photo by Getty Images

Canada’s consumer safety laws provide pretty strict guidelines. There are plenty of hurdles just go get a product on the market, but what happens when one of those products presents a risk?

Here’s how recalls work in Canada.

Generally, a product is recalled when they’re discovered to pose a threat to public health or safety.

This covers all manner of goods, including food, drugs, toys and cars.

There’s an expectation that a company will voluntarily recall any potentially hazardous products, but the Consumer Product Safety Act allows the health minister to order recalls as well.

When those recalls occur, the manufacturer or the government, or both, will issue notices explaining the problem, the risks and what comes next. Sometimes it’s returning the product, or maybe a way to safely dispose of it. Follow their instructions or, if there aren’t any, contact the company for more information.

The situation is different for vehicles though.

Vehicles are exempt from the Consumer Product Safety Act and Transport Canada doesn’t have the power to mandate recalls. Instead, it relies on voluntary action from automakers.

That creates some risks. Recalls are expensive and they’re bad publicity, so some manufacturers instead try to quietly fix the problem while some drivers continue driving unsafe cars. Some companies have faced lawsuits over delayed notifications of serious safety problems.

Manufacturers must tell Transport Canada when problems emerge and they’re also required to notify the car owner. However, they often end up notifying the car’s original owner when the car itself has been sold.

Read more:

Consumer Product Safety Act

Healthy Canadians recalls and alerts database