It's true. The FDA has no authority to order a cosmetic product's recall. So whenever you read a statement "The FDA orders the recall of . . . " then you can be in the know, and know that the media has their facts wrong.
However, the FDA does act in a supportive role in the product recall process. They monitor the recall process, help in public notification, evaluate health hazards of the product involved, as well as ensure the products are destroyed or corrected. The FDA can sometimes request a company to recall a product that the FDA has deemed unsafe, but it is at the company's discretion to act on this request or not. Only in cases of human tissue products, medical devices, and baby formulas, does the FDA have more power to order a recall.
But this is not all bad. After all, many recalls are done without intervention from the FDA. And there are questions as to whether the FDA should have such power anyway. The FDA is notoriously prone to serious conflicts of interest within the organization and with their scientists' financial interests as well (more on all these issues in coming blogs!).
So what can we do? Do you want to stay on top of product recalls? The FDA maintains a website that lists current (and frequently updated) recalls, market withdrawals, and health hazards. Click here for that website.