On a high shelf in our kitchen resides a Magic Bullet — one of those mini-blenders which are sold heavily through infomercials and at discount stores. We bought it years ago; It came with an assortment of containers and lids, designed to everything from puréeing fruit to making milkshakes.
We have used this product for many years (albeit infrequently). It has always stood up to whatever use we gave it, and that includes occasionally using it to crush ice. During a short-lived (and ultimately unsuccessful) effort to introduce “juicing” to my diet last year, I gave it a pretty good workout for a few days, and it performed flawlessly.
But a descendant of the Magic Bullet has recently been the subject of concern. The “Nutribullet”, which is described as “taking the Magic Bullet to another level”, and so on, has a more powerful motor (600 watts vs. 250 for the Magic Bullet) and a higher price. Both are marketed by Homeland Housewares, a division of Alchemy Worldwide.
Recently, the makers of the Nutribullet complained to Consumer Reports after the watchdog organization called the Nutribullet a “Don’t Buy Safety Risk”, after performing lab tests in which they crushed ice cubes repeatedly to determine its durability. Several broken blades later, Consumer Reports issued the warning, stating that the broken blades could fly off and cause injury, or even leave bits of metal in the blended product. Consumer Reports sent a copy of their findings to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as part of their standard practice.
The CPSC declined to take any regulatory action on the issue, prompting the Nutribullet manufacturer to write back to Consumer Reports and request a retraction. They based their request on the assertion that Consumer Reports’ testing went far beyond normal or recommended use, and that since it the CPSC alarm bells didn’t ring, neither should Consumer Reports’.
But Consumer Reports stuck to its guns, saying that the tests are fairly applied to all blenders, and furthermore, that the Nutribullet literature doesn’t prohibit the product’s use to crush ice. You can read their response here.
Certainly, there are two sides to this story — as there are to all stories. But without the help of independent agencies, the world would likely be a less-safe place. With the wide variety of products out there in today’s marketplace, testing all of them is nearly impossible, and ultimately, government agencies such as the CPSC can often only serve as a safety backstop in the event of injuries or in high-profile cases. Private organizations such as Consumer Reports (run by the nonprofit Consumers Union) do a good job of helping fill in the details for the rest of us, and in many cases can serve as a sort of “canary in the coal mine”, spotting potential problems before they become big ones. Consumer Reports is famous for not taking any advertising ( thus avoiding potential biases), and aggressively limiting the way companies can use favorable reviews for marketing.
There is a lesson here for consumers: before investing your hard-earned dollars, it’s a good idea to do your homework, and don’t just rely on official government agencies.
Now, as to which blender to buy (or none at all)? It’s up to you. Just check it out first, please; remember, it’s your money.