New data shows European product recalls hit record high in second quarter of 2023

September 6, 2023

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European product recalls increased 7.8% in the second quarter of 2023, marking a fourth consecutive quarter of aggregate growth across the automotive, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer product sectors. According to Sedgwick’s latest edition of the 2023 European product Recall Index, the 3,141 recalls in Q2 2023 accounts for the highest level of recall activity recorded in a single quarter for more than ten years.

The Recall Index report includes analysis of recall data from the second quarter of 2023 for five key European sectors. In addition, the report also provides industry-leading insights and predictions from our brand protection experts and strategic partners to help industry stakeholders navigate the latest product safety and regulatory developments in the remainder of 2023 and beyond.

Second quarter product recall trends in review

The record-breaking number of recalls in the second quarter of 2023 was driven by three sectors: consumer product, which saw recalls increase 31.8%; automotive, where recalls increased by 12.6%; and food and beverage, where recalls rose 2.3%. Both the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors saw recalls decline by 14.0% and 4.3%, respectively. In the second quarter, lawmakers across the EU and UK turned their attention to artificial intelligence (AI) as the emerging technology became increasingly prevalent in new and existing products. As we noted in our recent first quarter Index report, regulators continued to prioritise the environment and the EU Green Deal, taking steps to advance circular economies, reduce waste and promote sustainability. Another trend we’re watching is the recent push from U.S. and European regulators to protect consumer safety from unscrupulous practices in secondary markets, which may result in increased responsibilities for retailers.

How Q2 2023 recalls compared to the previous quarter

  • European automotive recalls increased 12.6% to 214 in Q2, from 190 in Q1 2023. Injuries were the leading cause with 146 events, followed by fire risk with 43 events. Passenger cars were the most recalled vehicle type with 151 events. The UK remained the country with the most recall alerts with 93, up slightly from 83 in Q1 2023.
  • In the food and beverage sector, European recalls rose 2.3% from Q1 2023, with 1,181 events recorded in Q2. The leading cause of recalls for the sector was ‘Contamination (other than bacterial),’ with 456 events, or 38.6% of all food and beverage events. The most common contaminants of concern were chlorpyrifos and aflatoxins.
  • European pharmaceutical recalls decreased 14.0% in Q2 2023 to 74, down from 86 in Q1. Safety risks were the leading cause of recalls in Q2, accounting for 30 events. France submitted the most recall notifications for the ninth consecutive quarter, issuing 19 in Q2 2023.
  • Recalls in the European medical device sector decreased 4.3% from 790 in Q1 2023 to 756 in Q2. Device failure was the most common cause for recall with 102 events, followed by software concerns with 100 events. Germany issued the most recall notifications in Q2 with 199.
  • Consumer electronics recalls increased significantly (+93.1%) in Q2 2023 from the previous quarter, marking the highest number for the sector in ten years. Electric shock was the most common risk with 73 events. Lighting chains were the most recalled product with 27 events. Sweden issued the most recall notifications for electronics with 60 in Q2 2023, a dramatic increase from the three alerts in Q1.
  • The number of European toy recalls decreased 19.5% in Q2 2023 to 120 events, down from the 149 recorded in Q1. Chemical risk was the most common cause for toy recalls, accounting for 49 events. Plastic dolls were the most common type of toy recalled in Q2 2023 for the fourth consecutive quarter, with 28 events.
  • European clothing recalls increased by 51.9% from Q1 to 117 recalls in Q2 2023. This marks the highest quarterly figure in the past five years and the only quarter with more than 100 recalls in that timeframe. Children’s apparel was the most recalled item with 77 events in Q2.

What’s ahead in the second half of 2023

Artificial intelligence will remain a major priority for lawmakers in Europe and around the world as it becomes increasingly relevant across industry. Both the EU and UK are advancing proposals to regulate AI, although the two governments have adopted different approaches. The EU’s AI Act is leading the way in regulations for AI and will impact all sectors, but other sector-specific guidance for medical devices and consumer products may create confusion around which AI guidelines apply in which circumstances.

As we’ve seen in the first half of 2023, regulators in the EU and UK will continue to address similar product safety issues at the same time, albeit with different regulatory regimes. This could create additional confusion for businesses that operate in both markets. In an increasingly crowded regulatory landscape, and with consumer scrutiny a continued risk, businesses should take every opportunity to update and practice their existing recall and crisis response plans. 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 Recall Index report, click here.

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