European product recalls up 25% in 2021

Product recalls in Europe increased by 25.5% in 2021 to 9,415 recall events, as numbers returned to pre-pandemic levels. Pharmaceuticals saw the greatest rise in events, followed by electronics and medical devices.

This is among the findings of Sedgwick’s State of the Nation Recall Index Report, which assesses automotive, pharmaceutical, medical device, electronics, clothing, toys, and food and beverage recalls across both the UK and the European Union.

Pharmaceutical recall events increased by some 48% (to 372) in 2021. The leading cause of 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.

The electronics industry saw an almost 45% increase in recalls compared with 2020, in the second year of increases. For the third consecutive year, USB chargers were the most recalled appliance. Hungary topped the list of recall notifications, with 104, or 31.9%.

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).

In food and beverage, recall activity increased 25% in 2021 (to 4,676 events), compared with 3,737 events in 2021. Almost a third (1,680) of recalls were due to “contamination – other”, with Germany experiencing a 46% increase in recall notifications compared with the prior year.

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

“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.”

Indeed toy recalls fell by 28.1% in 2021, with 433 events. Plastic dolls were the most recalled; and Poland overtook the UK as the leading notifier with 102 recalls.

Recalls for the clothing sector were up, but only by 6.3% (to 151 events) compared with 2020 (142). For the second year in a row, children’s sweatshirts were the leading cause (27). Nearly one-third of all recall events were notified by Bulgaria (49 instances, or 32%).

Luke Evans, Sedgwick recall consultant added: “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. 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.”


See the March-April issue of CIR Magazine for Sedgwick’s product recall predictions.

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