COVID-19 sends Q2 recall notifications into nosedive across Europe

COVID-19 sends Q2 recall notifications into nosedive across Europe

Posted: by Stericycle on Sep 04, 2020

Recalls across Europe took a nosedive in the second quarter of 2020, a finding consistent across every major manufacturing and production category including food and drink, automotive, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, electronics and clothing.

As part of our quarterly analysis, we the team at Stericycle Expert Solutions – a world leader in consultative product recall – found that the global pandemic sent shockwaves across Europe’s rapid alerts systems, resulting in an unprecedented data set of fewer serious risk recall notifications. We expect this to lead to a seismic upswing of recalls in the coming months.

Food & Drink

Data from the European Commission’s rapid alert system (RASFF) covering April until June 2020 showed that recalls in the food and drink category were down by over a quarter (27%) from 800 in Q2 2019, to 582. The Netherlands submitted most notifications (73) closely followed by the UK (72), then Germany (46). Poultry and poultry meat products were the most recalled product this quarter with 126 recalls cited. Poland was responsible for 97 of these consignments due to bacterial contamination, continuing the country’s known salmonella issues.

It remains to be seen if the dramatic drop in recall notifications in this quarter is due to the easing of movement of goods between Member States or if the State led cash injections meant that overall imports have dropped. What is certain though is that food recalls will go up and we explain the reasons why in our latest Index report.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit:


As of mid-July, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association was forecasting a 25% drop in passenger car registrations in the EU, a reduction from 12.8million in 2019 to just 9.6million in 2020. The second quarter saw a small drop in the number of automotive recalls compared to Q1, with the number falling from 133 to 125. However, the year-on-year drop was much more substantial, with a 77% decrease on the 547 reported in Q2 of 2019.

While the industry suffered catastrophically in terms of production outputs due to the pandemic, the recall figures declined. However, we cannot rule out that some safety issues could be going unrecognised or unchecked. It is therefore hugely important that the industry keeps a trained eye on vehicle safety, spanning both the new and used automotive market.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit:


We have seen a fall in the number of pharmaceutical recalls, with 43 in Q2. With the reality of COVID-19 not going away, how can the industry continue to protect itself? As was the case in the first three months of the new decade, the leading cause of pharmaceutical recalls was failed specifications – cited in seven of 43 instances. This was followed by mislabelling, which was noted in four cases and then foreign materials/contamination, which was cited in two cases. Other or unknown reasons accounted for the vast majority of notifications in Q2.

Pharma companies are investing millions in the race to find effective treatments. But it is vital they work with organisations like the European Medicines Agency to ensure that at no point safety is compromised. There is understandably a huge clamour for a vaccine, but it serves no-one well if one is released into the market that is not safe.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit:

Medical Device

As of the end of June, there were a total of 452 notifications actioned across Europe, down from 458 in Q1. These figures are notably lower (79%) than the same period of 2019, which saw 2,145 recall notifications placed in Q2 alone, highlighting the full extent of the impact of the virus on the medical device industry since the beginning of the year. 

As the European medical device industry adjusts to address pre-pandemic priorities, we expect many countries to focus on financial return, the success of which will be highly dependent on the supply chain. This source will be the cause of a surge in recall notifications because they will be pushed to meet original orders shelved in March due to the pandemic.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit:


In the second quarter of 2020, we saw a small uptick in the total number of recall notifications – with 46 compared to 44 in Q1 of this year. Yet again, China was the leading country of origin for recalls in the sector, accounting for 29 of the 46 products recalled. That represents a slight reduction on the 31 products it was responsible for in Q1, but a colossal drop on the 148 recalls it was cited in during the second quarter of last year.

While sales in electronics dipped during the global pandemic, we expect sales to rebound – at least somewhat – during this second half of the year, with pricing and promotion strategies playing a crucial role. However, it remains to be seen how the industry will be placed come Q4, which is traditionally when the major electronics spending occurs.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit:


Data from April, May and June of 2020 revealed a total of 27 notifications placed from eight countries. This is a significant decline in clothing related recalls from this time in 2019 (241), however it aligns with trends from Q1 2020 when only 33 clothing related recalls were cited.

The pandemic brought panic to consumers, resulting in a dramatic shift in buying behaviour. People opted to spend on must-haves including food, medicines and utilities instead of fast fashion. However, we expect to see a surge in production in textiles because consumer confidence will grow as apparel giants kick start manufacturing and invest in major digital marketing campaigns to attract consumers back into the market.

One of the most interesting items to feature on the recall tables during Q2 were spectacle frames because they contained excessive quantities of nickel. Only Finland flagged the concern, but we expect many more countries to follow suit in Q3/4 2020.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit:


The global pandemic rocked every industry to its core, and many businesses are unlikely to fully recover from it. What is certain though is that industries are highly exposed to global recalls because they will have had to alter their entire supply chains to remain sustainable. It is these fundamental changes that will bring both opportunity and risk. The key to navigating these risks is to accept that there is no way to avoid related recalls, but they can be managed well.

To download your free copy of the Second Edition 2020 Recall Index Report, please visit: