UK product recalls reach new high
Written by staff reporter
The number of UK product recalls has hit a new high, increasing 48% in a year to 575 in 2015/16 from 388 in 2014/15, according to City law firm RPC.
The number of recalls of food and drink products where potentially dangerous allergens had not been properly labelled increased by 62%, to 144 in 2015/16 up from 89 in 2014/15, following the introduction of new EU legislation. The legislation, introduced in December 2014 by the EU, requires all food labels to display information on 14 different allergens. These new food allergy laws have led to a growing number of products, which fail to meet these labelling requirements, being recalled.
Whilst this new legislation on the labelling of food allergens has helped propel a jump in food and drink recalls, there have been increases across all broad categories of product recalls. These have included food (non-allergens), such as Morrisons’ recall of its ‘Busy Bee Cake’ due to possible traces of salmonella, and pharmaceutical recalls such as Asda and Superdrug having to recall St John’s Work herbal medicine tablets because they were contaminated with toxic substances. Other recent recalls also include consumer durables, such as the recall of the SupportPlus stainless steel kettle which was found to carry a risk to the user of electric shock.
RPC says the costs of recalling a product are significant and include: advertising; the transport of products; the destruction of products; and associated legal fees. Businesses may also suffer from loss of customer loyalty and reputation, which are more difficult to recoup.
Gavin Reese, Partner at RPC, said: “Businesses are starting to feel the effect of the EU’s tough new laws on the labelling of food allergens. In addition, it may be that businesses are being increasingly sensitive to the risk of mislabelled allergens following a series of recent tragic deaths caused by nut allergies.”
Several retailers were forced to recall products last year due to the tighter rules. Lidl recalled its ‘Alesto Honey Peanuts’ because ‘peanut’ was not declared in English on some packets, while Tesco had to recall its ‘Multi-seeded Bloomer’ for not specifying that the loaf contained sesame seeds.
The number of food and drink product recalls, unrelated to allergens, increased by 78% last year, to 137 in 2015/16 from 77 in 2014/15. RPC suggests that the high number of food and drink recalls might be partly caused by the more stringent and effective testing of products. Manufacturers and retailers may now be more willing to recall products earlier to limit any reputational damage caused.
Away from food, there was a 25% increase in Consumer Goods product recalls, to 267 in 2015/16, up from 214 in 2014/15. Of those, motor vehicles made up 60 recalls, and electrical appliances and electronic goods 56 recalls.
The high number of motor vehicle recalls could be due to the increasing complexity of cars and their reliance on electronics and software programmes. There were several high-profile recalls of motor vehicles last year. For example, Vauxhall had to recall its Corsa D 1.4 Turbo model because it posed a fire hazard, while Land Rover had to recall its Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque models due to an electronics problem which meant the engine could cut out at any time.
In the electrical appliances and electronic goods category there was also a particularly high number of recalls, including the popular Groundspeeder hover board.
RPC’s Reese added: “Regardless of the product, recalls can be very costly to businesses. This is because recalls can result in a loss of market share both during the recall itself and once the dust has settled, when reputational damage becomes clearer.
“Product recalls in the UK are at an all-time high. Businesses are having to navigate an ever tougher regulatory landscape and they must be careful not to fall foul of regulators.”