The Ten Most Famous Product Recalls of the Last 5 Years

By Rob Stummer, Asia Pacific CEO, SYSPRO

In Australia, two people die, and 145 people are injured every day by unsafe consumer products, according to the ACCC. This amounts to a cost of at least $5 billion to the economy, including medical costs, lost wages, and lost productivity, not least to say the hidden costs of brand, reputation, profits or potentially criminal charges.

Approximately 650 products are recalled in Australia every year, but only about half of them are returned to the retailer. In October last year, the ACCC reported that there were about 1.7 million recalled products still in Australian homes, not including cars.

  1. Takata airbags

Without doubt the biggest recall in Australian history is still underway: potentially deadly Takata airbags can still be found in about half a million cars around Australia. The defective airbags were supplied to about 20 manufacturers globally including Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Toyota, Subaru, Mercedes, Mazda, and Mitsubishi, who then fitted them to as many as 60 million cars globally.

Most of the cars affected by the Takata airbag defect were manufactured between 2000 and 2015. Honda was the first manufacturer to issue a recall notice in 2008. To date, 23 people have died as a result of the exploding airbags, with 300 more injured. It has proven to be one of the most complex and costly recalls in history and was a disaster from which the company could not recover. Takata filed for bankruptcy in 2017, and its directors are faced with criminal charges.

  1. Needles in strawberries in 2018

In a food safety crisis beginning September 2018, numerous punnets of strawberries grown in Queensland and Western Australia were found to be contaminated with needles. Queensland Police reported that by November 2018, there had been 186 reports of contamination nationally, many turned out to be hoaxes, but 68 strawberry brands were affected, including 49 in Queensland.

The financial impact of this recall to the Australian strawberry producers was significant with tonnes of stock returned and destroyed. It turned out to be the work of a disgruntled ex-employee of the Berrylicious farm in Wamuran, north of Brisbane, who felt she had been mistreated.

  1. Salmonella in eggs in March 2019

An “exotic” strain of salmonella prompted a recall of some egg brands across four states and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of hens. This outbreak was linked to contaminated eggs and continues to be investigated by NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority with several affected egg producers being identified. Eggs were recalled from shops in Sydney after a cluster of 23 salmonella cases were uncovered. This led to egg supplier Eggz on the Run to voluntarily recall some products sold under the Glendenning Farm brand.

In what is supposed to be linked to the original outbreak in NSW, five people ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s contracted salmonella enteritidis linked to eggs produced by Victoria’s Bridgewater Poultry.

  1. E. coli in milk in 2020

In February this year, Lion Dairy and Drinks issued the recall of its one-litre and three-litre full cream milk manufactured at its Penrith site due to contamination of E. coli. The affected milk is sold in 7-Eleven and Aldi under the brands 7-Eleven, Aldi Farmdale, Community Co, Dairy Choice and Dairy Farmers. If consumed it could have caused illness including diarrhoea, vomiting and urinary tract infections. Serious cases may even cause pneumonia and meningitis in newborn babies.

  1. Frozen pomegranate recall of 2015

Entyce Foods issued a recall for its Creative Gourmet frozen pomegranate product after several Australian people who ate the product contracted Hepatitis A in 2015. As if that is not bad enough, in 2017 the same thing happened again, with a South Australian woman dying after contracting Hepatitis A from eating contaminated frozen pomegranate imported from China.

Nationally, there have been 24 cases to date of hepatitis A linked to the recalled product in 2017.

  1. Frozen vegetables listeria outbreak in 2018

Popular brands of frozen vegetables were recalled from supermarkets across Australia and around the world over fears of potential contamination by the deadly listeria bacteria, which killed six people in NSW and Victoria.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) issued an alert for a number of brands of vegetable products across Aldi, Woolworths and IGA stores. Some of these vegetables were imported from Europe, and the recall in Australia came after recent recalls in the United Kingdom over the same contamination fears.

  1. Apple charger electric shock risk in 2016

Apple issued a worldwide recall for its wall plug adaptor charger amid fears the device could break open and cause electric shock. The adaptors were used for iOS devices such as iPhones and Mac products sold over a 12-year period.

The recall applied to those adaptors used in Australia, New Zealand, Continental Europe, Korea, Argentina and Brazil. While only twelve electric shock incidents have occurred worldwide, the recall was issued as a matter of precaution.

  1. Samsung Galaxy 7 Note battery overheating issue

Who can forget the overheating Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco that led to airlines banning the devices? This might have been the biggest smartphone recall ever! Samsung had to recall some 2.5 million new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, amid ongoing reports that a flaw in the device’s batteries had made them catch fire and explode.

Samsung’s shares fell more than 8 percent, knocking $17 billion off the company’s market value. Market estimates say that Samsung lost more than $10 billion because of the phone’s problems.

  1. Volkswagen’s Diesel Engine Recall in 2015

Customers and shareholders were stunned when German car giant Volkswagen was caught cheating on diesel emissions tests. Known as “Diesel-gate,” it emerged that the company had for years employed software that allowed its turbocharged diesel engines to cut their emissions to meet regulatory standards when being tested. Under real-world conditions, the engines emitted pollutants up to 40 times above safe levels.

The fallout was massive. VW recalled 11 million around the world and was forced to set aside more than $18 billion to cover recall costs, legal claims and other related expenses. Shares in VW, which trade over the counter in the U.S., tumbled and took two years to recover.

  1. Hoverboard catching fire issue in 2016

More than 500,000 balancing scooters, better known as hoverboards, were recalled because of the risk of fire or explosions in 2016 and 2017. The devices were extremely popular gifts at Christmas in 2016. There were at least 99 incident reports of them overheating, sparking, smoking, catching fire and/or exploding. Resulting in several manufacturers and retailers recalling the devices over the hazard and airlines subsequently banning them.

 Plan for the worst

Manufacturers today need to ensure they have a comprehensive traceability plan in place. That includes having a product recall plan in place, and the ability to implement it, through regular “mock recalls”. Being able to trace and account for every suspect item throughout the value chain; track lots; have good contact management to be able to quickly identify and begin correspondence with affected customers is essential. The ideal ERP solution should provide a traceability system that offers full visibility throughout the value chain to ensure quality and to remain compliant.

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