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UK announcement sends shockwaves across European supply chain

Recalls of consumer products reached a total of 73 by 21 December against only one professional product this month according to RAPEX, the EU’s rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products.

Among the items were chemical products (4), childcare items (5), clothing (5), electricals and lighting equipment (11), jewellery (1), laser pointers (3), motor vehicles (17), protective equipment (1), pyrotechnics (1) and toys (25).

We covered the rise of toys and childcare items in our last blog and often give automotive a decent share of voice, but this week we are taking a look at protective equipment – why? Because personal protective equipment (PPE) has dominated the recall tables since March when Europe plunged into a pandemic.

Recalls of personal protective equipment were low in years gone by – 24 in 2019, 18 in 2018. By 11 September 2020, recalls of PPE reached 103, more than all previous years combined. It is only now that we are starting to see this trend go into decline.

Since January until December, there have been 167 alerts submitted to RAPEX for PPE, 151 or 90% of those were for face masks. The upward trend continued throughout the year, plateauing in September. It got us thinking why?

The answer is that countries now have enough stockpiled thus reducing the need to procure more from elsewhere in Europe.

Take the UK for example, where containers have been taken out of service to store PPE, which has in turn caused storage capacity issues at ports. By solving one problem, stockpiling PPE has created another.

The UK’s exit from the Single Market will undoubtedly lead to more delays for container traffic, but this is amplified more so by the ongoing pandemic.

On Saturday 20 December, following the UK’s announcement to re-introduce Tier 4 restrictions, countries including Germany, Italy and France halted all passenger flights from the UK.

Around 10,000 lorries pass through the port of Dover each day, much of these contain perishable goods. As of Monday 21 Dec, all traffic from France to the UK was suspended for at least 48 hours, which included freight.

It is likely that this will result in spoilage, and recalls will need to happen. Post the 48-hour hiatus, lorries from France will be able to come to the UK, however, UK goods might not be able to go out to other European countries.

France relies heavily on Scotland to satisfy its taste for seafood. Scottish seafood exporter Lochfyne tweeted “there will be Vivier trucks from all over Scotland heading in that direction, millions of pounds worth of seafood at the time of the most important market of the year and the last one before Xmas”.

Seafood recalls are also something we have seen a lot of this year, and with these new Government sanctions, it is highly likely that if the produce is permitted to cross even a few days late, there will be many recalls as a result.

We cover the rise and fall of recalls in all consumer goods and food items extensively and will go into greater detail on all of the above in our Q4 Insights report which will be published in February 2021.

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