Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Video showed dangers of turkey fryers pre-Thanksgiving; news footage shows reality

Several years ago Whirlpool recalled millions of microwave ovens, including our Sears-branded model, for reasons not made clear. I did a bunch of digging and found that a filter tended to cause grease to accumulate, and there had been something like 17 cases of the microwave emitting smoke -- zero injuries, zero property damage.

In the last few years turkey fryers have been popular items on the market -- standalone frying baskets on stilts. Before Thanksgiving, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) distributed video demonstrating that these things are incredibly dangerous. You've got a vat of hot oil perched precariously. If it tips, you have a fire. If you put an unthawed turkey into it, it explodes. They warned that these things could burn your house down, and they provided vivid video evidence.


No doubt UL made this video available to TV networks and local stations prior to the holiday. But no one covered it. They covered "the busiest travel day of the year" and "the busiest shopping day of the year."

It turns out that in at least one city. the turkey fryer nearly destroyed a house, causing over $150,000 damage.


Question for national and local TV producers: do you really think about, and analyze, new stories, or do you just pull up last year's Thanksgiving stories and recycle them?

Question for the Consumer Product Safety Commission: do you really think through relative risk of product safety? I can't imagine how the microwave recall that affected me and millions of people saved a single life. But it seems clear that these cheap fryers pose a clear threat. How do you rank risk? Why haven't you acted on this obvious risk?