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An Analysis of Consumer Product Recalls in 2023
Author: Don Mays

Consumer product recalls announced by the CPSC in 2023 showed some troublesome extremes. While the number of recalls increased by 10 percent over the previous year, the number of units included in the recalls doubled. There were also more than twice as many reported safety-related incidents with more than five times as many incidents of property damage as compared to 2022. This all indicates that some manufacturers are waiting too long to take corrective action on safety problems.

Even more troubling were the additional infant fatalities associated with inclined sleepers that had been recalled the previous year. When reannouncing the recall for the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in 2023, the CPSC reported 70 additional fatalities associated with that product, eight of which occurred after the original recall in 2022. Similarly, the CPSC reported 11 additional fatalities associated with Kids2 Rocking Sleepers, including four additional fatalities since it was recalled in 2022. It’s a mystery how such dangerous products escaped the attention of the CPSC, and perhaps the manufacturers, before they were pulled from the market.

Aside from fatal incidents associated with the rocking sleepers, there were 15 reported fatalities associated with the products under recall in 2023. There were only seven fatalities reported the previous year. In addition, there were at least 564 injuries of various degrees, which were fewer than in 2022, but high enough to question why more immediate corrective action wasn’t taken.

Polaris, the recreational vehicle manufacturer, racked up 16 recalls, twice as many as any other company. But the largest recall was for 70 million rolling ball licking candies imported by Candy Dynamics. That product, and a similar one (Cocco Candy imported by KGR Distribution), could pose a choking hazard if the ball detached from the product and got into a child’s mouth. There was one choking death associated with the Cocco Candy product.

Similar to 2022, there were 104 recalls for children’s products, mostly because they did not comply with applicable government regulations. But analysis shows that complying with regulations is no guarantee of safety. Only about one-quarter of the products recalled were cited for failure to comply with CPSC’s regulations. Product safety transcends compliance. So, while many companies focus on “check-the-box” activities of their compliance department, they often miss the product safety hazards that present themselves once their products are on the market and in consumers’ homes. Many companies also lack robust post-market surveillance processes and technology to promptly identify emerging safety issues so that corrective action can be taken before someone gets hurt. And, unfortunately, because of time, money, or risk of embarrassment, some companies don’t have the will to recall products even when a recall is warranted.

In addition, the CPSC should also step up their game. They are sometimes too slow to identify emerging issues and demand corrective action. They have also been accused of not enforcing compliance equally across a product category, and not requiring recall remedies that will yield better consumer response rates.

The current CPSC Commissioners have become more aggressive than those in the recent past. It’s likely that we will see more recalls this year than we did in 2023, as well as more civil penalties, and perhaps criminal penalties, levied against companies that don’t follow their rules. This should give pause to companies that have weak product safety programs and entice them to learn and implement best practices to ensure the products they make and sell will be safe for all consumers. To read my complete report click here.
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