Sales & Marketing

12 product recalls that will make you pause before your next purchase

8 min read

03 April 2013

Ever found glass in your bread or metal in your cereal? From Mazda to Colgate, all companies "make mistakes". These product recalls will make you think twice about what products you buy.

When purchasing a product, do you assume it to be safe? We expect companies – and the regulatory system – to ensure all products are vigorously tested for safety and sanitation before being sent to the stores. But unfortunately, this trust isn’t always justified. 

The continuing history of the product recall proves that unsafe or unsanitary products have a canny ability of slipping through the cracks. When that happens, you could find yourself bitten by spiders or chewing on plastic. 

It’s a problem that keeps CEOs and engineers up at night: a massive product recall. It takes customers a good long time to forget a company’s mistake. We trusted them, didn’t we?

Some of Britain’s most favoured products were involved in the horsemeat scandal and as a result, a staggering amount of Briton’s have adapted to a cautious lifestyle that restricts their beef intake.

But Findus’s horse-beef lasagne is not the only absurd product recall we have come across. 

Here are 12 product recalls that will make you pause before making your next purchase: 

1. Bausch and Lomb

Product: Prescription eyedrops

Year: 2013

One of the biggest eye-care firms in the world has made a huge manufacturing blunder. Nearly 36,000 bottles of prescription eyedrops – used as a local anaesthetic for eye operations – were part of a voluntary product recall when “black particles [had] been identified in some packs.” Astonishingly, it turned out to be printer ink. In a letter sent to hospitals, they were asked to immediately “quarantine” the affected batches.

2. Boots

Product: No7 completely quenched body lotion

Year: 2012

Although the overly popular body lotion caused no one any serious harm, the product recall was issued due to the tube containing an incorrect formulation. The product posed a chemical risk as a body wash product was accidentally packaged into tubes of body lotion. The intended use for the body lotion was to leave it in contact with the skin without rinsing, where the body wash product within the packaging was supposed to be washed off immediately.

3. Eden Project

Product: Tropical seed bracelets

Year: 2011

If it had not been for a horticulturist in Cornwall, we might all be wearing bracelets decorated with lethal tropical seeds. Make sure not to bite this Peru delicacy on a string as they are, indeed, poisonous – even small amounts can be fatal. There is said to be no known antidote and among the jewellers who have tried, some have died merely trying to bore holes through the seeds. All products containing these seeds were instantly taken off the market.

4. Colgate

Product: Periogaurd mouthwash

Year: 2011

Colgate had to recall its Periogaurd mouthwash from 12 countries due to the presence of Burkholderis bacteria. Those suffering weak immune systems or chronic lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, were more susceptible to any incurring infections. The mouthwash was mainly used after gum surgery or to treat conditions such as severe gingivitis and was distributed through retailers, pharmacies, dental surgeries and hospitals.

5. Hovis

Product: Hearty Oats bread

Year: 2010

Hovis had to recall thousands of loaves when glass was found in its Hearty Oats product. It proved to be a devastating blow as the company had just launched a campaign for the healthy benefits of said loaf. It was later found that the “likely source” for the glass had been identified as refurbishment work on a storage silo. Not a good start considering a mouse was found in a Hovis Best of Both loaf only two months later.

6. Kellogg’s

Product: Frosted and Unfrosted Mini-wheats bite-size

Year: 2012

Kellogg’s pulled 2.8m packages of frosted mini-wheats bite-size and mini-wheatsunfrosted bite size from the shelves after finding pieces of metal mesh among their already crunchy treats. Not exactly the breakfast of champions. Kellogg’s blamed the contamination on a faulty manufacturing part. Thankfully, no injuries were reported from the overenthusiastic iron enrichment.

7. Nestle

Product: Kit Kat Chunky and giant easter egg

Year: 2013

Never before have I seen a company more confused about where to put their packaging. Nestle’s answer: in the product itself. Seven people found plastic in their Kit Kat bars, and to avoid further customer complaint, Nestle recalled four varieties of Kit Kat Chunky and the Giant Kit Kat Chunky easter egg collection – they’ll be left in the dust this Easter as competitors manage to make their way to check-out counters. 

8. Mazda

Product: Mazda 6

Year: 2011

It seems that yellow sac spiders have a certain fondness for a portion of the fuel system in the car. As a result, there were restrictions in the fuel line that could possibly lead to fires in the car. Only the four-cylinder cars, however, seem to be affected by this infestation. Mazda isn’t taking any chances; they recalled 52,000 cars to install a special spring to keep these pesky spiders out of the car.

9. Persil

Product: Persil Power

Year: 1990

When Percil – once UK’s top laundry detergent brand – gained competition in 1990, it needed to find a product that would make clothes cleaner than the rest. Persil Power was Unilever‘s first swing at mixing washing powders with chemical catalysts to increase their cleaning power. However, they tested the concoction on sturdy fabrics no where near as delicate as most of our wardrobe. The final product was so powerful that it not only bleached all clothes, but ripped them to shreds as well.

10. Tylenol

Product: Various products

Year: 2010

In 1982, seven people suddenly died after taking cyanide-laced extra strength Tylenol. The company reacted quickly. In 2010, however, it took the company 20 months of “non-serious” complaints – including nausea, stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea – before they issued a broad recall of 60m bottles of various products. 

11. Firestone

Product: Firestone tires

Year: 2000

Despite being informed that several models of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers had high failure rates, the safety changes recommended by Ford engineers were ignored. Some 200 deaths and 3,000 major injuries were the results of the tire’s catastrophic failures. The tire’s treads rapidly frayed away, leading to the disintegration of the tire – sometimes while the car was in motion.

12. “Ferroro Rocher

Product: Counterfeit chocolate bars “made in China”

Year: 2007

Next time think twice before biting into this delicious treat. South Korean and Chinese chocolate lovers were in for a rude awakening when they discovered live worms inside designer chocolate. These chocolates, however, were actually counterfeit productions, and the worms were larvae of a common moth.