What do lunch kits, worm probes (yes, worm probes), slow cookers, prepackaged salads, maple pumpkin cranberry streusel cake, child restraint systems, gas ball shut off valves and hedge trimmers have in common?
Certain makes and models of those items, like tens of thousands of other consumer products used or consumed in or around the home, are the subject of a federal recall or some government-announced product warning.
Chances are, given the vast numbers of recalled items from air cleaners to wheelbarrows, one or more may still be in your home.
Now, however, you can surf online to one location to ferret out potentially harmful products that may be lurking in your home.
Recalls.gov puts in one online portal, access to recalls from six federal agencies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC -- consumer products); Food & Drug Administration (FDA -- foods, beverages, drugs, cosmetics); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA -- environmental products); Department of Agriculture (USDA -- meat and poultry products); United States Coast Guard (USCG -- water vessels and equipment) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (motor vehicles and equipment).
And you thought only the CPSC did recalls.
The effort is in response to the Bush Administration's mandate to improve interagency information sharing and to streamline public access to information crucial to public security.
Remember Hurricane Katrina? You get the idea.
Much less busy than the bureaucratic workings of government, Recalls.gov is immediately smart and easy to navigate beginning with a top-of-the-home-page menu of seven recall topics -- "Consumer Products," "Motor Vehicles," "Boats," "Food," "Medicine," "Cosmetics" and "Environmental Products".
Each menu choice takes you to the responsible agency's page, which includes a search engine, database of recalls and product warnings and recent recall/alert list, along with other information that makes it easy to quickly begin to hone in on suspect products.
The homepage also contains a button to take you directly to the latest recalls from each of the six agencies. Click and you get six scrollable windows, one for each agency with each agency revealing from several to a dozen or more recalls in straightforward press release form.
For example, CPSC this month announced recalls on models of tower fans, cribs, vaporizers and boy's sweatshirts; the FDA issued an allergy alert on both a stuffing and a tuna salad and a recall on a smoked salmon brand and variety of shampoo cap with conditioner and the USDA announced recalls on certain ham, chicken sausage, beef wieners, ground beef and ready-to-eat beef products.
Recall.gov's homepage is also a portal to a single page with a search engine for each of the six agencies. You can key in search words or terms to find products by name, brands, etc.
From Recall.gov, three agencies, the CPSC, FDA, and USDA, will also let you subscribe to their individual mailing lists that zing recalls and alerts right to your email box as fast as the media often gets access to the information.
With a Spanish-language mirror website, Recall.gov also provides homepage links directly to the websites of the six sponsoring agencies where you can obtain even more specific information about the recall process for each agency.
Full of fast-flowing text, and necessarily single-minded content -- both unencumbered by graphics, illustrations or advertisements -- Recall.gov is a good example of how government should work for taxpayers, especially those with immediate concerns about what's doing with all the stuff in the household.
This website does what it was designed to do -- quickly.
Bookmark it before the federal budget recalls its funding.
"Site To See" reviews are occasional, but timely critiques of content-heavy real estate-related websites with broad appeal. The websites are deemed unique, consumer-friendly, informative and easy to use.