Product recall warning as cases surge

Companies have been warned to brace themselves for sweeping regulatory change as the number of product recalls in Europe increased by more than 25% in 2021.

The latest ‘State of the Nation Recall Index report’ by risk firm Sedgwick revealed a total of 9,415 recall events, a 7.4% increase on 2019’s annual figure, and a return to pre-pandemic levels.

The recall index report assessed seven product categories: automotive, pharmaceutical, medical device, electronics, clothing, toys, and food and beverage. It collects and analyses data from regulators across Europe, including the UK and European Union, to provide businesses with impartial and reliable recall data, product safety trends, exclusive insights and guidance valuable to their operations.

“In the aftermath of the pandemic and Brexit, there have been significant supply chain disruptions and swift replacements resulting in a spike in 2021 recalls. Businesses have been forced to adjust what would have been normal operations two years ago, said Julie Ross, international business development director at Sedgwick. “Regular risk assessment protocol was side-lined, causing recalls to increase in every industry, with the exception of toys.”

Last year European automotive recalls rose 18% (to 571) in 2021, compared to 485 in 2020. The leading cause across each quarter was injuries. Whilst patterns remained stable, there were notable regional differences, including increases in France and decreases in the UK.

Pharmaceutical recall events increased by 48% (to 372) in 2021. The leading cause of recall activity was safety, which accounted for 33% (123) of the total. France topped the list for both origin and notification of events, with 108 (29%) in each category.

Medical device recalls surged 40% in 2021 from 2,061 (in 2020) to 2,886. ‘Quality issues’ accounted for the majority of events (at 630, or 21.8%). Devices originating in Germany registered 790 recalls, (27.4%), followed by Italy (668) and France (604).

The electronics industry saw a nearly 45% increase in recalls compared to 2020, according to the report. This marks the second year that figures have increased, though the jump to 326 events is more significant than increases in prior years. For the third consecutive year, USB chargers were the most recalled appliance. Hungary topped the list of recall notifications, with 104, or 31.9%.

Luke Evans, Sedgwick recall consultant warned the year ahead will see new challenges for firms.

“There are now sweeping changes ahead for all industries in 2022. In many cases, regulators are updating laws written before the widespread adoption of online marketplaces and connected devices,” he said. “The goal of these changes is to protect consumers, and in some cases the environment, however they are likely to cause challenges for businesses who may need to make significant adjustments to their business processes to comply with new regulations.”

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