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Recall Panic

January 20, 2010 by Wendy

Another day, another recall. Every day it seems, there’s another recall and for some reason lately, it always seems to be something that we have in our possession.

Today, it’s Graco strollers. I’m not so freaked out about that one, even though I’m pretty sure the stroller I have is one of the models being recalled due to finger amputations and lacerations. We don’t use the stroller very much anymore, so I’m not going to freak out about it. Plus, vomiting is not listed as one of the dangers, which, as anyone who knows me, knows that is my biggest phobia in life. (Another post, another time.)

It was a different story last week with the whole Tylenol/Motrin/Benadryl recall issued by Johnson & Johnson. People were vomiting from taking Tylenol! That’s all I needed to hear to get me in full panic/research mode. We have a lot of Tylenol products in our medicine cabinets. Thankfully, we don’t take it a lot (well, I do) but when it comes to bringing down a fever, it’s a miracle. I have no idea how it works, but it does.

Ironically, I was actually looking up how much Tylenol it takes to damage your liver (as I probably take it more than I should to manage my headaches) at the exact moment when an email from my dad with a link to the recall story dinged in my mailbox. Isn’t that ironic? Or is it coincidental? I don’t know, BK is always pointing out my improper use of the terms interchangeably, but let’s not worry about that now.

So back to my recall panic. The word “recall” always perks up my ears and sends me immediately to the computer to research it (especially when vomiting is a side effect), and then to my medicine cabinets/pantry/garage/kids’ rooms or wherever the offending product may be lurking. So here’s what my desktop looked like last week:


There I was, typing every lot number into the site’s search box to see if it had been recalled. Of course, this was after opening every bottle first and taking a whiff to see if I could detect the “moldy smell” that was being reported as the hallmark of these tainted products.

“Does this smell moldy to you?” I asked BK with each bottle opening. “They need to define ‘moldy’ better. What’s ‘moldy?’ Or is it mildew? I don’t know if I’ve ever smelled mold before. This smells kind of chemical-ly, is that mold?” I asked, I guess to no one in particular since no one answered me.

Come to think of it, I pulled out a lot of drugs from the medicine cabinet that day. And that was only from the kids’ bathroom. I didn’t even do ours yet. (Hmm, could this ample supply be the reason for my need to Google “acetaminophen and liver damage” that day?)

My friend Candi can so relate to this, but I’ll bet she has me beat in the arsenal of meds she’d be able to haul out of her cabinets. She was out of town for the weekend so I couldn’t call her and share my panic about whether I’ve given my kids these tainted medicines, seeing as they’ve been on store shelves for two years, according to some of the articles I read.

When I read the side effects of ingesting these moldy meds—nausea, vomiting, diarrhea—I thought back to the times my kids did vomit after I gave them a dose of these meds. Exactly twice, but I think one had swine flu that may have caused it, and the other time was more like three years ago. Did I poison them? Is it already too late? Has damage been done? All this went through my mind as I typed in those lot numbers.

None of them came up as the offenders, but how do I know they’ve all been tested? How do I know the company is telling the public everything? How do I know the site information is accurate?

Sometimes it’s so hard to live with myself.

When a product has been recalled, it’s pretty much banned for life in our house. (Just like if I or one of the kids vomits, whatever was last eaten is never to be eaten again, i.e., pork tenderloin, chicken chimichangas, Cornish hens, etc. But like I said, another post another time.) I still can’t bring myself to buy fresh spinach, I freak out if someone puts alfalfa sprouts on my sandwich at a restaurant, and the recent peanut butter recall? That was the worst.

That was a particularly busy day, and I had grabbed a few packs of those Austin peanut butter crackers for the girls and I to snack on while we were at some practice or a game. That night on the news, I heard “peanut butter recall” and waited for the brands to be announced.

Oh, good, it was just the industrial kind used in schools and hospitals, and my kids never buy school lunches so I figured I was in the clear.

Until they said it’s also sold in Keebler-brand cracker products. I knew ours were Austin, sold in that huge box at Costco, so I thought we were OK. But then during a commercial break, I decided to double-check and walked into the pantry.

There, in small print on the box, it said, “distributed by Kellogg’s.” It might as well have said “Danger: Contains deadly arsenic. Do not consume.”

Of course, I freaked, and it went something like this:

Me: “The girls and I ATE those TODAY!”

BK: “So?”

Me: “So, they might have salmonella in them!”

BK: “Oh, the chances the ones you had are tainted are so miniscule, and then even if they were, you won’t get sick.”

I’m so not like him.

Already feeling nauseous, I immediately consulted my BFF Google to find out what to expect if you’ve ingested Keebler crackers. My research indicated that the incubation period of this salmonella contracted from the peanut butter was 1-5 days. Those five days were the worst. It was the only time I envied people whose kids had a peanut allergy, because they certainly didn’t have anything to worry about with this particular recall. I was on high alert for the onset of any symptoms from any of us, and when we all came through without as much as a single stomachache, we celebrated on Day 6. No, we really did. I think we toasted at dinner. (Well, I did. No one else really seemed concerned.)

I’m still stressing about the recent recall of cheap children’s jewelry imported from China and sold at Claire’s because it contains toxic cadmium and lead, because, well, I have twin tweens! Are there any tweens who don’t covet that cheap stuff from Claire’s? Their jewelry boxes are loaded with the stuff!

Here’s what BK says about that: “Oh, I’m sure it’s fine, as long as they’re not putting it in their mouths, which I don’t think they are at this point.”

“No, it’s even if it touches their skin!” I say, adding “Clean out girls’ jewelry boxes” to my to-do list.

This is almost as bad as the whole Polly Pocket recall a couple years ago, after which we decided to just throw everything away if it said “Made in China.” We didn’t though, once we realized that would be enough stuff to furnish two entire toy aisles at Target, and poor Little Miss’ toybox would be empty!

What isn’t made in China? Didn’t Walmart once have that campaign touting that everything they sell is made in the USA? What happened to that? I’m pretty sure most of their inventory comes from China. A lot of it has that “Made in China” smell.

And there is a definite smell. A few years ago when I was hosting Thanksgiving, I bought a set of chargers from Costco, and was so proud of my Martha Stewarty table. But when we all sat down, everyone kept saying, “What’s that smell?” and “I smell gasoline.” After we figured out it was the chargers—which sure enough, had a “Made in China” sticker on the bottom—we discarded them immediately. The table was less pretty, but it sure was nice to smell stuffing and turkey rather than bug spray and petroleum. From then on, I’ve been able to detect that smell, whether it’s on a toy or even a pack of stickers or greeting cards.

But now I’ve got more lot numbers to type into drug-recall site. If you want to join me, you can find it at the McNeil Consumer Healthcare site. If anything, it’s a good excuse to clean out your medicine cabinet anyway. I actually found some nasal spray that expired in 2004 and some Nyquil from the 1900s. Well, it was only 1998, but I wouldn’t risk it. It might cause vomiting.


  1. Sonya says:

    Can I just say that ignorance IS indeed bliss? I had not even heard about this—my life as a consumer of “the news” has been quite a bit lacking lately—but now I get to check everything in our medicine cabinet, too. Thanks (I think!) for keeping me informed about what’s going on in the world. (Yes, I know there was an earthquake in Haiti, but somehow I haven’t seen one minute of TV coverage. Is that terrible?)

  2. Mom Blogger's sister Laurie says:

    I think I need to take an anxiety pill after reading that blog! As neurotic as I am about most things, I don’t much freak out about these kinds of recalls. I always just think there’s as much a chance of me having the batch of tainted goods as winning the lottery! Stupid and naive, I know. Also, having a sister who is a freak about it and researches it way better than I ever could, why should I? I would hope she would just pass on any pressing info, even though she never alerted me of the tornado warning the other day when I had no clue. Now that freaked me out!

  3. DawnMarch says:

    I can so relate to this. Reminds me of I was convinced my family had all contracted Hanta Virus after a weekend at our cabin because we all came down with a cold the following week. Why does the common cold have to have the same symptoms as every deadly disease out there (including, I’m sure, moldy Tylenol poisoning)? How are we supposed to know?! :D

  4. sophie says:

    Hey there,

    Just checking in on you, sorry your experiencing anxiety over the whole tylenol thing, it is pretty scary. I think that the “moldy” smell is a smell you’ll be able to detect almost immediately from what I gather so I’m sure you’d know if you had a bad bottle of tylenol. Hope the kiddo’s and the big Mister are all well. Kisses to all.
    Love Sophie

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