Dangerous products

Some real-life pyrotechnics prompt recall of Wii recharge stations

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

rechargedock.jpgIf you’ve got a hot hand at Super Mario Galaxy, it may be more than the excitement of the game. Minneapolis-based Griffin International Co. is recalling 220,000 recharge stations made for Nintendo Wii gaming controllers, sold under the Psyclone Essentials and React brands. The Chinese-made units developed a bad habit of overheating. Two users have gotten minor burns on their hands, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports, although the company claims “no injuries have been reported.” The units sold for about $50 at Target, Best Buy and other retailers nationwide from January 2008 through last month. “Brand names are on the front of the packaging and the model numbers, Psyclone (PSE6501) and React (RT530), can be found on the bottom side of the product,” the CPSC reports. Consumers can call Griffin International (888-344-4702) about how they can turn in the defective units and get a free replacement.

Salmonella in “Dairyshake” powder leads to investigation of SE Minnesota co-op and food recall

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Nobody’s gotten sick, as far as food safety folks know. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s discovery of salmonella in a 100-gram pouch of “Dairyshake” powder (not for retail sale) prompted a search for the source of the contamination. That led to the identification of a key supplier, Plainview Milk Products Cooperative in southeastern Minnesota, where inspectors discovered equipment contaminated with the harmful pathogen, according to a news release from the Food and Drug Administration.

The recall includes two years’ worth of “instant nonfat dried milk, whey protein, fruit stabilizers, and gums (thickening agents)” none of which were sold directly to the public. No products have yet been pulled from store shelves, but a raft of federal and state agencies are looking into the situation. It’s clear that they’re eager to show an aggressive response, following the widespread criticism of the nation’s food safety and response network prompted by the peanut contamination earlier this year. “This recall is an appropriate precaution to protect public health,” said David W.K. Acheson, M.D., associate commissioner for foods in the Food and Drug Administration, in the FDA news release.


Two years after pet food contamination scandal, woman will never know what killed Buddy Boy

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

This week, a Las Vegas, Nevada couple pleaded guilty to knowingly distributing a pet food ingredient from China that was tainted with an industrial chemical called melamine. Melamine is the stuff that’s in the shelves in my house. It’s not supposed to be eaten, by any creatures. Yet it’s a cheap way to make wheat gluten and other food constituents appear to have more protein. In early 2007, pet owners discovered to their horror that it had ended up in dozens of brands of pet food, poisoning untold numbers of cats and dogs, who often died in sudden and gruesome ways. The international scandal once again focused attention on the failures to ensure the safety of products in a globalized industrial marketplace.

The Department of Justice news release about the guilty pleas of Sally Qing Miller, 43, her husband, Stephen S. Miller, 56, and their company, ChemNutra, describes the suspected toll of the contamination:


What happens when defective electric leaf blowers explode, thanks to FOIA

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I reported last year about the massive recall of about 900,000 Power Sweep electric blowers manufactured by Toro that had a bad habit of firing pieces of broken plastic at high velocity. The Consumer Product Safety Commission described 28 minor injuries from the defective blowers. I wanted to know more about what the CPSC considers a “minor” injury, so in December, I filed a Freedom of Information Act for all reports of injuries related to the Power Sweep blowers.

I got the records last week, about four months after I asked for them. They consist mainly of documents called consumer contact reports, from Toro, and the names and addresses of most of the consumers have been redacted. The CPSC said exemptions in FOIA and another federal law enabled them to withhold “portions of the records that identify injured persons, persons treating them and other consumers…” There are also letters from consumers, some of them identifiable. Altogether, the records do support the assertion that these were minor injuries, although the exploding blowers certainly gave their users an alarming experience.

(March 23, 2006, Neal Goldman, Woodland Hills, Calif.) I’ve used it no more than a dozen times and when I turned it on a few days ago, the motor started up and about 2-3 seconds later it just exploded for no apparent reason.

(Dec. 5, 2006) I am extremely disappointed with the Power Sweep. Today, I turned it on and the plastic blew off everywhere, hitting me in the face and cutting me on my chin and other places.