The government is powerless to help with product recalls during the shutdown - and it's leaving consumers at risk

toy recallKevin Wolf/AP Images

  • The ongoing government shutdown has hobbled the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • The CPSC is currently unable to assist companies in recall efforts, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • This could potentially lead businesses to make the wrong call when it comes to issuing a recall.
  • The upshot? Consumers are increasingly at risk as the shutdown continues to roll onward.

American shoppers are on their own for now.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been unable to support companies undergoing product recalls due to the government shutdown.

Businesses can usually rely on the federal commission to provide guidance on whether or not a product should be recalled. The CPSC also helps to raise public awareness about health and safety issues with recalled products.

The commission isn't the only federal entity involved with recalls. The FDA and the USDA also play major roles in public health recalls, and they have also had their inspection capabilities watered down due to furloughs.

The government shutdown, which has dragged on for 32 days, has also effectively hamstrung the consumer watchdog. Sure enough, the last recall campaign listed on the CPSC's site highlighted 3,400 units of Navien's tankless water heaters, which posed a risk of causing carbon-monoxide poisoning. The recall was dated December 20, 2018 - two days before the unprecedentedly lengthy shutdown kicked off.

Read more: Dog food is being recalled from stores including Kroger and Lidl after potentially toxic levels of Vitamin D were found in testing

The CPSC's website currently features a banner warning consumers that the commission is closed due to the shutdown and noting that information on the site might not be up-to-date. According to The Wall Street Journal, not all CPSC employees have been furloughed - a small minority have been kept on to deal with severe threats.

The current paralysis of the CPSC is an extreme situation, but US President Donald Trump's administration has long been criticized by consumer advocates. Trump has attempted to roll back at least 17 worker and consumer safety regulations since taking office, through a combination of Cabinet-level agency decisions and Congressional Review Acts, the Washington Post reported.

And he's promoted and appointed members of the commission with a history of seeking to "cooperate" with industries.

But what does the current shutdown mean for Americans? Well, US shoppers won't be able to rely on this government watchdog to publicize and provide assistance with recalls. That's sure to alarm plenty of consumers, given the number of high-profile recalls that 2018 brought about.

Last year saw plenty of recalls, from shower seats to children's jackets. And if the CPSC remains frozen as 2019 goes on, both US companies and consumers alike will just have to wing it until the shutdown finally thaws.

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