On the brink.

From billions of searches emerged a fascinating portrait of a culture on the brink — of environmental changes, political breakaways, celebrity breakdowns, and technological breakthroughs. Join us as we explore the top trends in 2007.

Recalling the Recall

top 10 consumer call-backs
By Vera H-C Chan, Buzz Senior Editor

In early spring 2007, reports of poisoned dog food spurred frantic searches into the pet food recall. For weeks, pet owners examined every brand of food to gauge its safety, and some resorted to looking up homemade recipes as a precaution. Thereafter, every few weeks seemed to bring word of another hazard on our shelves.

Thomas from Reuters

Peanut butter, that lunch-box staple, harbored salmonella. Toys bearing the likeness of Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, and Elmo suddenly carried the taint of lead paint. Organic foods posed choking hazards (Gerber's) or contained tainted seasoning (Veggie Booty).

Voluntary recalls have long been a protective measure of consumer life, but the sheer number of them in 2007 seemed to point to a systematic failure. Keeping track of recalls was no longer a simple task. We researched why ingredients or additives (wheat gluten, lead paint, food preservatives) were such a danger and sought out alternatives (homemade recipes). We also looked who could be held responsible, like Canadian pet-food manufacturer Menu Foods, toymaker Mattel, and meat factory Topps.

Private consumption became a global concern, as the call-backs put our ecosystem of trade under harsh scrutiny. China was fingered for supplying the offending ingredient in the pet foods, preschool toys, and a toothpaste. Its shockingly decisive action—in which a head literally rolled—got our Search attention, but the Middle Kingdom couldn't take the entire fall for these recalls: The diethylene glycol in fake Colgate came from South Africa, and the E. coli bacteria in ground beef patties was a home-grown American problem.

Ultimately, the commanding search surges into "food safety," "fda," and "consumer product safety commission" might have been more than just our diligent effort to stay informed. They might also have been a follow-up to see what steps were being taken to ensure our safety. Companies announced spot-testing measures to restore the faith of patrons, and governments made agreements to uphold safety standards.

Congress did began moving forward with reform proposals ranging from combining government agencies to making certain recalls mandatory (a recall of the recall system, if you will). Still, the queries, as well as the recalls, have yet to subside as consumers keep a close eye on what should be off our shelves.

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To come up with the Top Trends of 2007, we analyze search queries based on a number of factors, including absolute volume and growth versus previous periods, to see which themes and trends bubble to the surface. And of course, individual users and their searches remain anonymous.

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