Product recalls hit 10-year high in first few months of 2022


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Photos of the J.M. Smucker Company/Jif Plant on Winchester Rd near Delaware Ave. in Lexington. The plant makes JIF brand peanut butter. Smucker posted better-than-expected earnings for the full year, sending its shares soaring to an all-time high Thursday.

Photos of the J.M. Smucker Company/Jif Plant on Winchester Rd near Delaware Ave. in Lexington. The plant makes JIF brand peanut butter. Smucker posted better-than-expected earnings for the full year, sending its shares soaring to an all-time high Thursday.

Sweeping recalls of peanut butter and baby formula, among other consumer products, are part of a new, troubling trend: the U.S. is already on track to pass 1 billion product units recalled in 2022.

A new report by insurance company Sedgwick notes in just the first three months of 2022, more than 900 million product units have been recalled across the U.S. That marks the largest unit recall in a single quarter in at least the past 10 years.

The report also notes that 900 million figure eclipses average annual recall figures recorded over the past decade.

Chris Harvey, Sedgwick’s senior vice president for client services, outlined the regulatory landscape in a webinar Sedgwick gave to promote its recall report to industry insiders.

“There were more than 1 billion units involved in product recalls in 2021,” Harvey said. “That was only the second time in the past 10 years that we passed that 1 billion mark.”

“We’re going to pass the mark again in 2022. In just the first quarter, there have already been 913 million units recalled … And that is the highest number of units (recalled) in a single quarter in the past 10 years,” Harvey added.

Amid inflation, recalled baby formula, Jif peanut butter frustrate parents

The report’s release comes after a mounting baby formula shortage has left parents and caregivers frustrated and desperate, and has put pressure on the White House to take action.

Additionally, Jif issued a massive recall of peanut butter products due to potential salmonella contamination.

That recall, the center of which is a Lexington-based plant, rippled across companies who used the peanut butter in their own products. It even prompted Disney World to quietly pull peanut butter-laden snacks from menus at its Florida theme park last week.

Recalls have added to consumers’ headaches as they struggle to find the right infant formula, as well.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday a move to import about 250,000 cans of formula from Nestle in Germany. The agency said the shipment is expected to arrive in the U.S. sometime this month or next and it’s expected to be sold on and through other online retailers.

The report from Sedgwick, released May 31, attributes the larger recalls to more aggressive enforcement activity from U.S. regulators.

However, highlights from the product recall index also point out larger volumes of product are being recalled across multiple sectors. Recalls by volume have grown significantly across the automotive, consumer products, food, medical devices and pharmaceutical industries during the first quarter of 2022, the report notes.

Other highlights from Sedgwick first quarter recall data:

  • There were 221 automotive recall events in Q1 2022. While that’s lower than the quarterly average for 2021, the number of units recalled rose sharply by 114.2% to 9.3 million.
  • The number of consumer product recalls jumped 63.8% in the first quarter of 2022, the highest amount in more than five years. Additionally, the number of unit recalls increased 161%.
  • There were fewer food recall events initiated by the FDA, declining 12.7%. However, average recall size soared more than 328% to 1.3 million-plus units. Only one quarter in the past 12 years has experienced recalls greater in size. In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was the only regulator to see the number of recalled units fall.
  • Like other sectors, the number of medical devices recalled skyrocketed in the first quarter, increasing by 2,624.9%. Average recall sizes exceed 1.5 million units – a level witnessed only once before in the past 15 years.
  • Like medical devices, the average pharmaceutical recall hit a 15-year high, exceeding 4.6 million units per event. The total number of units recalled across the first quarter of 2022 surpassed 435 million, equally representing a 15-year high.

More children are being killed by faulty products, advocacy group warns

In mid-May, the Chicago-based product safety nonprofit Kids in Danger released its annual report: “Tracking Trends: Children’s Product Recalls in 2021.”

According to a news release summarizing the report’s findings, it found “an alarmingly high number of deaths prior to recall — 14 — compared to zero deaths in 2020 prior to recall.”

It was the second highest number of reported deaths in the past 10 years, according to the report.

In 2021, as many as 12 of the 14 total child deaths were reportedly linked to two nursery products — Boppy Loungers (eight deaths) and Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Rock n’ Glide Soothers (four deaths). Both were recalled because of suffocation hazards.

Kids in Danger Executive Director Nancy Cowles called on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and manufacturers to be more transparent about the safety of their products.

“Babies continue to die in products that appear to assist getting babies to sleep but can be deadly if babies do fall asleep in them,” Cowles said in the news release.

“The CPSC and manufacturers need to better market and clarify what products are tested to be safe for sleep and which are not. Simply slapping a warning on that it is not safe for sleep is not enough if it is marketed and intuitively used for sleep,” Cowles said.

This story was originally published June 7, 2022 2:03 PM.

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Aaron Mudd is a service journalism reporter with the Lexington Herald-Leader. He previously worked for the Bowling Green Daily News covering K-12 and higher education. Aaron has roots in Fayette, Marion and Warren counties.