Top 5 most important product recalls in US history

Product recalls are a common feature of the American landscape. That's a good thing, because it means companies are being careful and taking responsibility to fix problems when they need to. And while a new recall seems to crop up nearly every day, some stand out for their sheer size or industry significance. Here is a countdown of five of the most important product recalls ever, in industries ranging from automobiles to peanut butter. Can you guess which recall had the greatest lasting impact?

5. Sunland Peanut Butter and nut products

Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal/AP/File
This 2005 file photo shows the peanut butter production line at Sunland Inc's peanut plant in Portales, N.M. The FDA shutdown of Sunland's nut processing plant marked the first time the FDA used its authority to close a food handling facility since it was granted that power by the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010.

Date: Sept.-Nov. 2012

Why it’s important: The Sunland peanut butter recall wasn’t’ the biggest food recall ever – it wasn’t even the biggest peanut butter recall. But the Sunland incident, which finally wrapped up in November 2012, marked the first time the Food and Drug Administration used its new authority to shut down a facility in the name of public safety.

It started back in September, when the FDA issued a limited recall of Trader Joe’s Valencia salted peanut butter. The batch had been linked to a growing outbreak of salmonella in several US states.

Over the next few months, the outbreak spread, and the recall expanded to over 200 peanut and nut-based products manufactured in the Sunland nut processing facility in Portales, N.M. After an investigation revealed multiple safety concerns, the FDA shut down the plant.

The reason it could do so? The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in January 2010. The law beefed up federal food safety regulations, requiring food handlers and distributors to register with the FDA and keep detailed safety records. It also gave the agency the ability to suspend registrations and shut down a facility without going to court. It exercised that power for the first time nearly two years later.

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