Food recalls get a lot of attention, but motivating action is another story, according to a Rutgers Food Policy Institute study. It showed that many Americans simply fail to check their homes for recalled food products. The study involved a telephone survey of 1,101 Americans  from Aug. 4 to Sept. 24, 2008.

Only about 60 percent of those in the study say they have ever looked for recalled food among their supply; only 10 percent said they had ever found a recalled food product. What's more, even when people found a recalled food product, the study showed consumers don't do what they're told. About 12 percent reported eating a food they thought had been recalled. More than 25 percent said they had discarded food products after hearing about a recall.

"Our research points out that instructions to consumers must be clear and understandable if you want them to act appropriately after a food recall," says William Hallman, a professor of human ecology at Rutgers. "We found that clear, direct messages such as 'throw the food in the garbage' or 'return the food to the store for a refund' should motivate action."

Nearly 75 percent of survey participants said they would like to receive personalized information about recalls on their grocery store receipts, and more than 60 percent said they also would like to receive recall information via e-mail or a letter.

Cara Cuite, a researcher at Rutgers Food Policy Institute, and Neal Hooker, a researcher at The Ohio State University, also authored the study, funded by USDA and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.