European product recalls increased in 2022, with heightened regulatory activity expected in 2023

March 17, 2023

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According to Sedgwick’s 2023 State of the Nation Recall Index report, product recalls in five key European sectors increased in 2022 for the second consecutive year. The 10,545 recall events in 2022 represent a 4.3% increase over 2021 numbers for the automotive, consumer product, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries.

Our latest State of the Nation report analyses UK and EU product recall data and trends for all of 2022. In addition to data analysis, the report also provides unrivalled insights and predictions from our brand protection experts on the key product safety trends and regulatory developments expected for the remainder 2023.

2022 product recall trends in review

While European product recalls increased 4.3% from 2021 to 2022, this is less than the 23.3% increase from 2020 to 2021, indicating that the rapid post-pandemic growth in recall activity may be slowing down. The increase in the number of recall events in 2022 was largely driven by the automotive sector (+31.7%), as well as the three constituent sectors classified as consumer products – toys (+43.4%), electronics (+7.7%), and clothing (+58.3%). Conversely, the food and beverage (-3.3%), pharmaceutical (-16.4%), and medical device (-4.6%) sectors all experienced a decline in recall events year-over-year in 2022.

How Q4 2022 recalls compared to the previous quarter

  • Automotive recalls increased in the fourth quarter, from 167 in Q3 2022 to 195. Injuries accounted for 157 of these events (or 80.5%), followed by ‘Fire’ and ‘Fire and injuries’ with 27 and five events respectively.
  • While food and beverage recalls increased 7.8% in Q4 from Q3 2022, the total number of recalls in the sector declined 3.3% from 2021 to 2022. ‘Contamination – other’ was the top concern listed for food and beverage recalls for the fourth quarter in a row.
  • Recalls in the pharmaceutical sector increased 73.3% in Q4 2022, rising from 60 in Q3 to 104 in Q4. Accounting for 42 events (40.4%) ‘Safety’ was the leading cause of pharmaceutical recalls. This was followed by ‘Failed specifications’ with 18 (17.3%), and ‘Mislabelling’ with 15 (14.4%)
  • The number of medical device recalls increased 14.6% from Q3 to Q4 2022, with 740 events. ‘Software issues’ were the most common reason for medical device recalls for the sixth consecutive quarter.
  • Electronic product recalls increased 25.8% in Q4 2022 to 78 events, rising from 62 in Q3. Lighting products were the most recalled category with 14 events (or 17.9%). This was followed by ‘Extension leads and cords’ with 10 (12.8%) and ‘Laser pointers’ with 5 (6.4%).
  • There were 217 toy recalls in Q4 2022, more than double (114.9%) the number in Q3, likely as a result of a higher demand for toys around the Christmas period. Plastic dolls were the most recalled toy in Q4, making them the most commonly recalled toy for the fourth consecutive year.
  • Similarly to toys, the number of clothing recalls increased by 114.3% in Q4 2022, rising from 35 events in Q3 to 75 in Q4. Children’s apparel was the most commonly recalled product category, accounting for 60.0% of all clothing recalls in Q4 2022.

What lies ahead in 2023

Regulatory bodies spent 2022 laying the groundwork for new rules in 2023, with proposals impacting everything from labelling and ecodesign to carbon emissions and product liability. As these proposals work through the legislative process in 2023, manufacturers may find themselves responsible for their products throughout the entire product lifecycle. UK regulators are also finalising the separation from the EU and are expected to make determinations in 2023 about whether to retain or replace hold-over regulations.

Furthermore, European regulators are continuing to focus on moving forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that lessons learned – not only about healthcare but also about supply chain resiliency and vulnerability – inform laws going forward. 2023 will also continue to bring new economic threats with unstable geopolitics impacting consumer prices and commodities.

In the face of continued regulatory and political change, it is imperative that companies plan for risks across a variety of areas and to engage third party experts to prepare their brand for whatever challenges may arise.

Learn more > Discover the full picture on European product recall data, trends and predications, along with unrivalled insights and analysis from some of our strategic partners in the 2023 European State of the Nation Recall Index report – available for download here.

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