At some point during the product lifecycle a manufacturer may have to issue a product recall. This may be for a few lots of a product or may be for an entire production run. The normal reason for a product recall is because of safety issues. This may be a safety issue caused by a manufacturing problem or by a faulty component supplied by a vendor. Product recalls in the food supply chain may be due to a problem with the product that causes a foodborne illness. Companies usually have a method of recalling products and may be publicized by a federal or state authority, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
How a Recall is Issued
A product recall could be for any item that is sold to a business or a consumer. Recent product recalls include motor vehicles, furniture, medical devices, packaged foods, ground beef, and children’s toys.
A decision has to be made by a company to recall a product. The decision is not made lightly as it is an expensive and potentially embarrassing experience. If a defect is reported by a consumer then the first course of action is to try to resolve the issue with the consumer. If the issue is safety related or if the product fails certain regulatory compliance, then the company may have to launch a product recall. If the company has adopted some traceability standard then recall of items may be less difficult. The scope of a recall is dependent on the product, but if a safety issue has been raised about the design of a product, as in the example of some furniture, then the product is completely recalled, rather than a single or multiple lots. However in some instances, for example in some pharmaceutical products, the issue may be related to a certain day of production, machine that was used, or raw material that was consumed. In this instance, the company may feel that the recall would be adequate if they focused on the batches of material that would be affected.
When a product recall is decided upon, a company will manage the recall to ensure that consumers, distributors, and other businesses are aware of the recall. The language of the recall should provide a clear explanation of the reason for why the product is being recalled including the particular product defect and the problem that it can cause. For example, many product recalls for children’s toys explain that some parts can come loose and they can be a choking hazard.
The recall notice should also inform the consumer of what they need to do. For example, some recalls require that the product should be disposed of, taken back to the retailer or sent to the manufacturer. If the item is to be returned to the manufacturer then this can require a process of including retailers, distributors, service centers, and occasionally other manufacturers. This complex process can lead to a delay in receiving recalled items from the consumer.
Consumer Product Safety Commission
In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was created by the 1972 Consumer Product Safety Act and has the authority to regulate the sale and manufacture of more than 15,000 different consumer products. The CPSC announces recalls of products that present a significant risk to consumers. Any business with information of potentially hazardous products must report those to the CPSC immediately. The CPSC will then determine if that product fails to meet its consumer product safety rule, standard or whether or not it could create an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.
Product recalls happen and it is the duty of a manufacturer to inform consumers in a timely fashion and give clear instructions of what the issue is and how to deal with it. Some recalls are complex and requires the participation of third parties. Unfortunately a recall can be expensive and may cause a short term embarrassment for a company, but in the long term it should improve quality in the manufacturing process.