The FDA website provides the following Background and Definitions on product recalls.
Recalls are actions taken by a firm to remove a product from the market. Recalls may be conducted on a firm’s own initiative, by FDA request, or by FDA order under statutory authority.
• Class I recall: a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
• Class II recall: a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.
• Class III recall: a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.
• Market withdrawal: occurs when a product has a minor violation that would not be subject to FDA legal action. The firm removes the product from the market or corrects the violation. For example, a product removed from the market due to tampering, without evidence of manufacturing or distribution problems, would be a market withdrawal.
• Medical device safety alert: issued in situations where a medical device may present an unreasonable risk of substantial harm. In some case, these situations also are considered recalls.
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