On Tuesday, December 13, Cuisinart issued a nationwide recall after receiving several reports that customers found metal shards in their prepared food. These customers allege that the shards are pieces of their food processor blades, which the official recall confirms can crack and disintegrate over time.
Who Makes The Affected Products?
Cuisinart is the only company involved in this recall. The manufacturer has been offering electric food processors on the American market since 1973, and was in fact the first to introduce such a gadget to consumers in the U.S. The company widely expanded its product offerings throughout the 1980's, and was bought by the Conair Corporation in 1989.
Which Products Are Affected?
According to the terms of the recall issued by Cuisinart and rebroadcast by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over twenty models of food processor are possibly affected by the defect, to the tune of approximately 8 million units. The list of specific unit model designations reads like a roll call of unpopular Star Wars droids: CFP-9, CFP-11, DFP-7, DFP-11, DFP-14, DLC-5, DLC-7, DLC-8, DLC-10, DLC-XP, DLC-2007, DLC-2009, DLC-2011, DLC-2014, DLC-3011, DLC-3014, EV-7, EV-10, EV-11, EV-14, KFP-7 and MP-14.
The recall stresses that the only models affected are ones in which there is a pair of blades secured to a beige plastic wheel by four metal rivets. If you have a Cuisinart food processor with such blades, I encourage you to take a peek at its label and determine the model number. If it's not included in the recall, so much the better, but if it is, I'm glad to help you avoid a mouthful of metal.
How Widespread is the Problem?
Given that the recall encompasses 22 models of food processor sold at times between July 1996 and December 2015, those 8 million units are probably scattered all across the country. The CPSC is also working in tandem with Canadian health services, where a similar recall is said to affect an additional 300,000 units.
At the time of the recall, Cuisinart had received 69 reports in which consumers had found metal shards in their prepared food. Of those reports, 30 involved oral lacerations or cracked/broken teeth from diners unlucky enough to bite down on the metal pieces.
What Can Be Done About It?
Consumers with any of these models are strongly discouraged from continuing to use them until they have contacted Cuisinart. The company will ship out a free replacement blade, which is presumably easy to install. It is too late for this measure to prevent some injuries, but hopefully many others can be prevented.
With that said, the company's primary means of contact seem to be strained by the major influx of customer outreach. Its recall page briefly went down on Tuesday evening, most likely from heavy traffic. Customers also reported the company's phone line at 1-877-339-2534 was not answering some calls, and was dropping others partway through the call. Some of these problems seem to have been compensated for since the initial reports; Cuisinart may not have been prepared for the news to spread so quickly.
What Does All This Mean?
As we've discussed on many other occasions, companies ideally do not release consumer products until they have been extensively tested and proven safe for normal use. From food to automobiles, it's not hard to get behind the idea that a manufacturer wouldn't want the bad PR of hurting people with its products (or in the case of firearms, hurting the wrong people).
A problem arises when the manufacturer believes it has found a way to make the same product at reduced costs. Technological advancements often make this idea practical; even if a food processor serves the same function today as it did in 1973, the internal components have likely seen some upgrades over the years. Likewise, metallurgy has made progress since the 1970's, so it is possible that newer models have been released with "stainless steel" blades when they are in fact tempered with an additional metal, like aluminum. These alloys are often lighter weight, cheaper to produce, and hold a sharp edge almost as well as steel. It sounds ideal, of course, except that apparently for the last twenty years the blades the company has produced have been somehow beneath the appropriate manufacturing standard. While I'm sure that some users may have idly wondered exactly how sharp the blades were and fed chicken bones or rocks into it (perhaps inspired by a popular video series about blenders), it's unlikely that every reported case can be attributed to user carelessness. Cuisinart would seem to agree that their food processors shouldn't suffer blade disintegration, and has therefore issued the recall in an attempt to address these products' shortcomings.
The 30 people who suffered personal injury most likely have the makings of a products liability lawsuit on their hands. In manufacturing a series of food processors with defective blades--ones capable of leaving metal debris in foods, cutting mouths and damaging teeth--Cuisinart and its parent Conair did not exercise an appropriate standard of care before allowing their product to reach store shelves. It is to be assumed that the composition of their blades has not changed a great deal since 1996 or so, given that the recall reaches back to that year.
The injuries may not be entirely catastrophic, but oral surgery isn't cheap, and I shudder to think how dark a turn things could have taken if sharp metal pieces had been swallowed.