UK product recall figures rise by nearly 50 per cent

 
Georgina Varley
Peanuts are offered for sale at Eastern
Businesses are being increasingly sensitive to the risk of mislabelled allergens (Source: Getty)

The number of UK product recalls increased 48 per cent to 575 in 2015/16, from 388 in 2014/15, according to law firm RPC.

This leap was heavily influenced by new EU legislation on the labelling of food allergens. The legislation, which was introduced in late 2014, requires all food labels to display information on 14 different allergens.

In 2015/16, the amount of food and drink product recalls where potentially dangerous allergens had not been labelled properly increased by over 60 per cent to 144, up from 89 in 2014/15.

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Lidl was forced to recall its "Alesto Honey Peanuts" because "peanut" was not declared in English on certain packets and Tesco removed its "Multi Seeded Bloomer" because the packaging did not specify that the loaf contained sesame seeds.

Gavin Reese, partner at RPC, said: "Businesses are starting to feel the effect of the EU’s tough new laws on the labelling of food allergens. In addition, it may be that businesses are being increasingly sensitive to the risk of mislabelled allergens following a series of recent tragic deaths caused by nut allergies."

The number of food and drink product recalls, unrelated to allergens, increased by nearly 80 per cent to 137 in 2015/16, from 77 in 2014/15. This could have been influenced by an increase in the stringency of product testing.

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There have also been increases in recall figures across other product categories. For example, Asda and Superdrug had to recall St John’s Wort herbal medicine tablets as toxic substances had contaminated them. Retailers also had to recall the SupportPlus stainless steel kettle because the product was an electrocution risk.

The cost of recalling a product is significant and includes advertising, the transport of products, the destruction of products, and associated legal fees. However, manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the reputational damage that can be caused by potentially harmful products, and seem keen to recall immediately.

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