Number Of Product Recalls Hits All-Time High

Legal Experts Welcome Review of Recall System

17.03.2016

Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Following news that the numbers of product recalls in the UK have hit an all-time high, the government has announced an independent review into the system for the recall of unsafe products.

Legal experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell have welcomed this week’s announcement of the review by Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson.

The review, to be led by leading consumer campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood, will focus on how to make enforcement more effective and explore consumer understanding of the process.

The move comes after media reported that recalls had risen by a quarter in the last year, fuelled by a series of high-profile alerts in the motor vehicle and food industries.

Figures showed that recalls – which are issued after a health-and-safety risk that could affect public health, or a major design or production flaw, increased by 26% to 310 in 2014/15 from 245 the previous year.

Last year car recalls rose to a total of 39, a 30% increase from the 30 car recalls in 2013/14.

These included the scandal over General Motors’ failure to promptly recall cars with a potentially faulty ignition switch, the investigation into Volkswagen over emissions testing, and French carmaker Renault who recently recalled 15,000 cars.

Recalls relating to food and drink increased by 50%, last year. This increase is believed to be due to the launch of the National Food Crime Unit which was established in 2014 to uncover incidents of food fraud in the UK following the horsemeat scandal of the previous year.

Most of the food and drink recalls reported by the FSA involved unlisted or undisclosed ingredients such as nuts and sesame seeds, although there was a spike in incidents involving listeria in cheese.

In recent months there was a major international recall affecting 55 countries, of a range of chocolate bars after confectioner Mars raising concerns that consumers could choke on pieces of plastic.

The figures, which cover the year from 1 November 2014 to 31 October 2015, are based on information from the Trading Standards Institute, the Food Standards Agency, the EU’s Rapid Exchange of Information System (RAPEX) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Another recent product alert came after the government told consumers to think twice about buying hoverboards following concerns a large number of unsafe devices, which had the potential to catch fire, were shipped to the UK.

There have also been medical product recalls, such as the recall of the DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip implant in 2010 due to unexpectedly high rates of failure. 

Questions have also been asked about the system for authorising products to be marketed in Europe known as ‘CE marking’, especially in light of the PIP breast implant scandal. 

Expert Opinion
Whilst it is alarming that product recall figures are higher than ever, it is vital that manufacturers tell consumers as soon as possible when a safety issue is discovered in their products.

It good news for consumers that the current system is going to be reviewed, and we hope it will be made easier to find out if a product has been subject to a recall. The review needs to examine the way in which product recalls reach the public to ensure the right people are being told, and also to ensure prompt action can be taken to resolve the problem.
Tim Annett, Partner