Five of the Worst Product Recalls in History

September 13, 2016 by

Whether preventive or in response to tragic events, product recalls have long-term effects on manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. Much more than a simple collection of imperfect and unsafe goods, recalls can impact confidence and sales for years to come. More importantly, product recalls can mean the difference between life, death, and injury for consumers. A manufacturer should always take consumer safety seriously and not shy away from a recall for the sake of sparing their reputation.

A quick Google search will make it clear that recalls of all kinds of products are on the rise. From automobiles to food to toys to drugs, consumers are frequently asked to return all kinds of items to the manufacturer for a wide variety of reasons.

Some of these recalls fade into history. Others, typically those associated with the most tragedy, have a way of sticking in our minds. Below, we’ve assembled a list of some of the worst product recalls in recent history to highlight just how vigilant consumers must be in order to remain safe as companies continue to make decisions that prioritize profits at the expense of consumer safety.

  1. Toyota Pedals and Floor Mats, 2010

Toyota had a rash of recalls around this time, many of them dealing with unreliable acceleration pedals. In some cases, the pedals would stick, while others got caught under ill-fitting floor mats. With multiple deaths as the result of uncontrollable acceleration, more than 9 million Toyota vehicles had to be recalled, costing the company more than $2 billion.

  1. Mattel Toys, 2007

Mattel recalled 9 million toys, including Barbies and items from the Cars movies due to concerns about Chinese lead-based paint. Also of concern were certain toys with magnets, since the magnets were small enough to be a choking hazard. At least one death and nearly 20 surgeries were associated with these toys. The recall ended up costing Mattel at least $30 million.

  1. Sony Batteries in Dell Laptops, 2006

It seemed like a freak accident when a Dell laptop burst into flames at a conference in Japan. However, after six more customers reported sudden laptop fires, Dell knew it had to do something. Apparently, the Sony-manufactured lithium-ion batteries in the computers were prone to excessive overheating, making them a serious fire hazard. Dell decided to recall more than 4 million computers due to fires. The cost was in the hundreds of millions for Dell and Sony combined with Dell often replacing the computer as well as the battery.

  1. Chili Powder Dye in Britain, 2005

Over a decade ago, a company called Premier Foods was being investigated for its Worcestershire sauce. The chili powder in the sauce was found to contain an unsafe dye. Known as Sudan 1, the dye is a known carcinogen and has been banned in many countries. Hundreds of products using the Worcestershire sauce were pulled from grocery store shelves, impacting the sales of numerous brands.

  1. Firestone Tires, 2000

Despite Ford’s suggestions for certain safety changes, Firestone continued to sell questionable tire models for Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers. The problem was that the tire threads separated very quickly, and some tires simply fell apart, sometimes while in use. Unfortunately, nearly 200 people were killed as a result, and hundreds more were injured. More than 6 million tires were recalled, and the companies involved faced hundreds of millions in costs and lawsuits.

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