Product Recalls, Like Ones for Trader Joe’s and Cinnamon, on the Rise

In the past two weeks alone, the FDA has tracked a dozen recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts for products ranging from ground cinnamon to eye ointment to chocolate bars.

Trader Joe’s, for example, has already recalled at least six items so far this year. Its chicken soup dumplings were recalled last week over fears that they could contain plastic.

It’s not just a coincidence; recalls are on the rise.

From 2022 to 2023, the number of product recalls increased by 11%, hitting a seven-year high, according to a 2024 State of the Nation Recall Index report from Sedgwick Brand Protection.

The report found 3,301 recall events in 2023 across five industries: automotive, consumer product, food and drink, medical device, and pharmaceutical, Sedgwick said in a press release.

Although the number of recalls increased last year for the second year in a row, Sedgwick said that the number of defective units — whether that’s an individual car or a single packet of food — decreased nearly 50% compared to 2022.

And it wasn’t just 2023 that saw a rise in the total number of recalls.

Between 2018 and 2022, recalls from both the FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission increased 115%, according to research from quality-control software company MasterControl.

The most common reasons for recalls between both agencies include allergens, foodborne illnesses, contamination risks, child safety, and fire hazards, according to MasterControl’s report.

But allergies, illnesses, and safety concerns have always been around, so what’s behind the surge in recalls?

Unsurprisingly, there’s no singular reason, but one factor may be stricter regulations.

The Food Safety Modernization Act — the biggest amendment to food safety laws in decades — was passed in 2011. It established stricter regulations and gave the FDA greater power to order recalls from manufacturers.

The pandemic also created more rigorous guidelines for product safety.

At the height of the pandemic, the FDA had to do a lot of its testing and inspections remotely, which meant it had to adopt more stringent policies to make sure products were safe, MasterControl explained.

While some of those policies lapsed when the COVID-19 public health emergency ended, others remain in place.

And more regulations may be coming in 2024.

“As product recalls reached a seven-year high in 2023, it is clear that strict regulatory enforcement is more than a passing trend,” Chris Harvey, a Senior Vice President at Sedgwick, said in the press release.

“2024 will see continued oversight from regulators, policymakers, and consumers, making it essential for businesses to plan and practice for product recalls and in-market crises.”