October 2nd, 2012 10:15am
A recently announced recall by the FDA illustrates the importance of proper warning labels for products sold to consumers. On Sept 27, 2012, the FDA reported a voluntary recall by General Mills of certain boxes of granola bars. It seems the wrong type of individually wrapped granola bar were packaged in a box that did not have a “may contain peanuts” type of warning. The individually wrapped bars had the proper warning label, but the box did not. Before anyone goes to accusing the FDA of overreacting, we must remember that peanut allergies can be deadly and some consumers may look for the warning on the box and not on the individual granola bar.
We can see from this example that one seemingly minor difference in the labeling can have a big impact on consumers. Also, the FDA and the company were in a better position to recognize and remedy the situation than the average consumer. The problem with the “personal responsibility means never suing anyone” crowd is the disregard for a professional approach to the business of selling products to consumers. Where harm can be avoided by the manufacturer, it should be avoided. No one wants to see a person rushed to the emergency room from unknowingly ingesting peanuts, nor does anyone want to pay those medical bills. It is just too easy to say, “Well, the consumer had a responsibility to read the individual wrapper,” but that ignores one entire party to the transaction, the manufacturer. Most manufacturers really have no problem putting problem warning labels on their products. The problem too often comes in the pharmaceutical context because drug manufacturers know that more warnings and more severe warnings mean lower sales. Doctors just do not prescribe medication as frequently when they have black box warnings and major safety concerns. For this reason, drug makers are constantly negotiating with the FDA over what constitutes sufficient warnings, and will all too often hide test results that could hurt their sales.
Please visit our FDA Recall website
M. Robert Blanchard is a former prosecuting attorney, trail lawyer and writer living in Gulf Breeze, FL.