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New analysis reveals scale of recalls in UK has previously been under-represented.


Lack of searchable archive means many traders at risk of legal action

© consumer risk limited 2012

SummaryAn extensive analysis of records of recalls in the UK of unsafe consumer products (excluding food, medicines and vehicles) reveals that for several years the actual frequency of such announcements has been considerably greater than indicated by any single published monitor. This was particularly so for 2007, which now clearly emerges as the record year for recalls in the UK (as it was already known to have been in many other countries). Although there may never be agreement on the total number, it is now reasonable to assume that over 200 product ranges were withdrawn for posing potential  safety risks in that year.

 The figures presented here for 2011 are similar to those for 2009 and 2010 – about 160 per year. (One published source suggests higher figures for 2011, but this includes vehicles). The current rate of consumer product recalls is more than 3 times the average numbers for the 1990s and through to 2003. The powers granted to Trading Standards Authorities in 2005 to order recalls are likely to have been responsible - in part - for this increase, although the pattern also partly reflects trends in recalls in the USA.

The major discrepancies revealed between the figures and trends for product recalls in the UK according to different monitoring sources –which this article investigates - offer a poor basis for making policy decisions about product safety measures or judging their effectiveness. The confusion arises because - unlike in the US - there is no single official database of product safety recalls and withdrawals for the UK – and no searchable public archive. It is not just consumers for whom this poses hazards: small importers and retail businesses risk commercial losses at best and prosecution or injury claims at worst if they are offered batches of grey, market goods  that have in fact previously been seized by customs or withdrawn because of  safety issues. Meanwhile, charity shops or pawnbrokers are at risk of unknowingly selling single items that have had been the subject of a recall notice because there is definitive source against which to check the wide range of products they are offered.

chart of UK product recalls 1990-2011

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Last Updated ( Friday, 23 March 2012 19:16 )