European product recalls increase for fifth consecutive quarter

December 7, 2023

The world's leading product recall company
Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on X

The number of European product recalls increased in the third quarter of 2023 for the fifth consecutive quarter, according to Sedgwick’s latest European Recall Index report. Across the five industries tracked in the report, there were 3,227 recalls in Q3 2023, which marks the highest level of recall activity in a single quarter for more than ten years. This tops the record previously set in Q2 2023. 

The European Recall Index report includes analysis of recall data from the third quarter of 2023 for five key European sectors. In addition, to assist stakeholders in preparing for regulatory changes and evolving product safety risks their industry may encounter in 2024, the Index report also provides key analysis and guidance from our strategic partners at leading European law firms.

Third quarter product recall trends in review

The record-breaking number of recall events in Q3 2023 was driven by increases in pharmaceutical and medical device recalls, which rose 48.6% and 17.2%, respectively. The automotive and food and beverage industries saw recalls increase as well, though marginally at 1.4% and 1.1% respectively from the previous quarter. Consumer products was the only industry where recall activity decreased, falling 10.5% from the previous quarter. In the third quarter, regulators in the EU and UK focused on measures to support sustainability efforts, foster innovation across sectors, and make online shopping safer for consumers. Artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity also remained a priority as regulators worked to balance technological advancement with product safety and data security. 

How Q3 2023 recalls compared to the previous quarter

  • The number of European automotive recalls increased 1.4%, from 214 in Q2 2023 to 217 in Q3. This marked just the third quarter in over ten years with more than 200 automotive recall events. Injuries were once again the leading cause, with 164 events, while passenger cars were the most recalled vehicle type, with 147 events. The UK issued the most recall events for the seventh consecutive quarter.
  • European food and beverage recalls increased just 1.1% from Q2 to Q3 2023. Non-bacterial contamination was the leading cause of recalls with 470 events, with aflatoxins and chlorpyrifos the most common contaminants of concern. Fruits and vegetables remained the product category with the most recalls with 192 events.
  • Pharmaceutical recalls increased 48.6%, from 74 events in Q2 2023 to 110 in Q3. This places pharmaceutical recalls on track to reach a three-year high for 2023. Safety risks were the leading cause of recalls with 22 events, which is down slightly from the 30 events recorded in Q2 2023.
  • There were 886 European medical device recalls in Q3 2023, an increase of 17.2% from the previous quarter. Software was the most common reason cited for medical device recalls, with 114 events. Germany issued the most recall notifications with 199.
  • The number of consumer electronics recall events fell by just over one third (34.5%) in Q3 2023, from 168 in Q2 to 110. The most common risk was electric shock, which was linked to 56 recalls as a standalone cause and 66 when combined with other factors. 
  • European toy recalls decreased 14.2% in Q3, from 120 in Q2 to 103 in Q3. While this marks a third consecutive quarter of decline, a significant uplift is expected in Q4 as we approach the festive period. Over the last 5 years, recall activity has increased 56% in the final quarter. Accounting for 18 events, Soft toys surpassed Plastic dolls as the leading product category in Q3.
  • There were 59 clothing recalls in Q3, a 49.6% decrease from the 117 events in Q2. However, last quarter was the only quarter since Q4 2017 to exceed 100 clothing recalls. The combination of injuries and strangulation was the most common reason for clothing recalls, cited in 35 events in Q3 2023.

Looking ahead in preparation for 2024

Across all industries, we are seeing an increasing number of regulations that build on each other or are modelled after existing laws. This trend is evident with extended producer responsibility rules, as well as proposed rules supporting the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork strategy, and the Circular Economy Action Plan. Perhaps most notable of all is the varying approach to regulating AI, which may be regulated at the national level with the EU’s AI Act and with sector-specific guidance for industries like medical device and consumer products. The risk of a misstep in maintaining compliance may increase for businesses as the web of interconnected regulations continues to grow.

As European recall events continue to rise, and a more stringent (and interconnected) regulatory landscape continues to evolve, businesses face a complicated risk landscape with little margin for error. As we enter 2024, a strategic and well-planned approach to product safety and recalls will set businesses on the right foot.

The European Recall Index is published every quarter by Sedgwick’s brand protection experts. It is the only report that aggregates and tracks recall data across the UK and EU to help industry stakeholders navigate the regulatory environment, product recalls, and other in-market challenges.

To download your copy of the latest European Recall Index report, click here.

Tags: AI, AI technology, Artificial Intelligence, Brand, brand crisis, brand management, Brand protection, brand protection and recall, brand recall, Brands, clothing, consumer products, consumer recall, EU recall index, European product recall index, Medical devices, pharmaceutical recall, pharmaceuticals, pharmacy, Preserving brands, Product recall, product recall index, product recalls, recall, recall data, recall trends, regulation, Safety, sustainability, toys