The recall of tens of thousands of defective breast implants in Europe in 2011-12 as well as new data on risks have raised questions about regulatory standards for these and other medical implants in the United States (U.S.) and European Union (EU). In the U.S., breast implants are regulated as high-risk medical devices that must be proven reasonably safe and effective in clinical trials and subject to government inspection before they can be sold. In contrast, clinical trials and inspections have not been required for breast implants or other implanted devices in the EU; approval is based on other information. As a result of these differing standards, the PIP breast implants that were recalled across Europe had been removed from the market years earlier in the U.S. than in the EU, a decision U.S. government health agencies can point to with pride. Nevertheless, the FDA track record on post-marketing breast implant research indicates poorly implemented studies and little meaningful enforcement to ensure that studies have been conducted correctly or findings reported accurately or acted upon. In sum, neither the EU nor the US has used their regulatory authority to ensure the long-term safety of breast implants. However, in 2012 the EU announced regulatory changes that could improve that situation. Copyright © 2012 Reproductive Health Matters. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.