The COVID-19 outbreak has brought changes to all aspects of our lives and how product safety is dealt with is no exception. Consumer experts anticipate a spike in product recalls in the last half of 2020. And product recalls continue to occur during the pandemic.
Like most things, the process of dealing with a product recall is different amid concerns about coronavirus. It’s also more time-consuming.
Despite the less convenient way of handling these things, industry experts anticipate an increasing number of recalls related to drugs, food, consumer products, and medical devices. Rumblings of issues have already arisen, but it won’t be until restrictions are lifted that there will be a true spike. At this point, regulators will also be able to get back to their usual oversight of the consumer market.
Regulators have made it clear that the FDA is still monitoring product safety, but the agency has had to alter how it deals with issues during COVID-19. The main tools it has used is its website and requests for voluntary recalls.
Industry Experts Liken COVID-19 Situation to 2019 Government Shutdown
This isn’t the first time regulator have had to deal with unusual circumstances in recent years when trying to monitor consumer safety.
Regulators point out that during and in the months after the government shutdown last year, there was a spike in food and consumer product recalls. The same is expected in the case of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Companies have been forced to adjust to a new environment that includes changes to their workforce, their supply chain distributions, and how their facilities operate in general. Workforces are stretched thing and there have been fewer onsite visits during the pandemic.
Most agree safety and quality procedures have likely suffered because of the changes. Experts agree that once things are back to normal – as normal as the will be for the foreseeable future – there is going to be a spike. Anything that slipped through the cracks during shutdowns will need to be addressed.
Industry experts are encouraging companies to develop a plan now to address the hit their brands will take in the market if a recall is announced two weeks after a problem began. There is also reason to be concerned that recalls will continue to be a challenge to execute when people are still focused on COVID-19 illnesses. Brands are being strongly encouraged to get their crisis management and recall plans ready for the coming months.
2020 Recalls So Far
Before the COVID-19 outbreak in the first quarter of 2020, there were sever significant events in the recall arena, including:
Medical device software issues accounted for the highest number of recalls heading into four years straight
Childproof packaging recalls reached a record high
FDA food recall rates remained steady, but there were only six USDA recalls
Deviation from Current Good Manufacturing Practices was the top reason for pharmaceutical recalls
Airbags continued to be an issue and had the highest number of units impacted
COVID-19 Adjustments in the Market Could Also Raise Recall Issues
One of the greatest concerns for the coming months is the number of manufacturers that made changes directly related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For example, several automakers, including Ford Motor Company, began producing medical equipment. Doing so opens companies up to a complex regulatory environment that is outside of their norm.
Additionally, pharmaceutical and other medical companies have increased production to account for industry shortages. They are making products they normally make but doing so at a speed faster than ever before. It’s expected this will cause quality and safety protocols to be less of a priority than usual.
Once the FDA’s emergency authorizations extended during the pandemic end, these companies are going to come under scrutiny.
Some of the expected rise in recalls has already begun. There is growing consumer concern about food safety and it’s expected to drive campaigns in the coming months focused on pressuring regulators to impose stricter rules. And there has already been a spike in recalls related to safety issues with toys and other children’s products because kids are spending so much time at home.
Time will tell exactly what all of this means for the consumer market, but in the meantime, it could be a long and stressful summer and fall for many brands.