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.