On 19 October 2012, a new international electronic portal called “The Global Recalls Portal” was launched.

This website is a joint project by the EU and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, including the US, Australia and Canada.  According to press releases and information on the site, this searchable website will provide consumers, businesses and Regulatory Authorities with access to a centralised database containing key information on recalled products, the data on the website being supplied from the EU’s RAPEX system and from similar sources maintained by the US, Canadian and Australian authorities.

Manufacturers, distributors and retailers ship consumer products worldwide.  When there is a safety issue with a product and a recall is either mandated or entered into voluntarily following discussions with the regulators in one country, this will often trigger a need to carry out recalls in multiple jurisdictions.  This requires an awareness of the legal requirements, guidance and attitude to recalls in those other jurisdictions. 

It has long been the case that national and international regulatory authorities have cooperated and exchanged information on consumer product recalls.  For example, within the EU, all EU Member States are required to exchange information relating to serious risks to products via the European Commission. In addition, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regularly communicates with regulatory authorities in Canada and other countries concerning recalls and safety investigations, subject to limits on CPSC’s ability to share non-public information.  

In a globalized market it can be difficult for manufacturers to handle product safety issues and the need for product recalls or withdrawals on a purely national basis. Pressure from regulators, consumers and the media to apply a recall globally may occur in some instances even if safety standards and recall criteria differ among countries.   Further, such pressures may  increase as information on worldwide product recalls becomes more widely available through international resources such as the new Global Recall Portal.  Manufacturers and suppliers should consider the impact of product safety issues in all their markets, to ensure that any contacts with regulators, notifications of consumers, and inquiries from the media are appropriately managed and coordinated.