Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Product Recalls and Taking Corporate Responsibility

Wherever I turn today, I am running into news about recalls:

  • news that the horrific tainted milk scandal in China, where almost 53,000 children are sick and 13,000 are currently in hospital, has now led to a second recall in Canada. On Sunday there was a recall of Nissin Cha Cha Dessert and yesterday Ottawa recalled certain types of Mr. Brown 3-in-1 instant coffee. See the Globe & Mail story (Sept. 24/08).
  • Steve Matthews has made note that Stem Legal client Hissey Kientz LLP has launched a new website, Digitek Recall Help, that tracks the latest information regarding the recall of the heart medication Digitek, generically known as Digoxin. The site documents the related side effects, toxicity problems, lawsuits, and the latest news. It will function as an ongoing information gateway, updated regularly by the firm's Digitek practice group.
  • Apple has recalled USB adapters for recharging iPhones. As someone who recently opted for an iPhone to stay in touch with clients instead of a Blackberry, I was quite surprised today to receive a text message from Rogers about the recall. Apparently there is a small chance that the prongs in the adapter can break off in an electrical outlet, creating a shock hazard.
The main reason for recalls is public health and safety, so it is important to get word out on them. I was surprised at this method by Rogers (text message) to get the message out, but it is a quick, inexpensive way to reach the iPhone consumer quickly. In contrast, I heard on the news (but can't find a good source) there have been complaints about children getting sick from the milk products in China going back to 2006, and it is only as it reaches crisis proportions is there any real acknowledgment in the media.

Companies can no longer sweep problems under the carpet and hope they will go away. Word of mouth spreads too quickly with our Internet-based social networks such as blogs and Facebook; one small problem and soon a firestorm can erupt that can cause bad feelings about a company and a drop in sales.

In Canada we recently saw another recall, that of Maple Leaf Foods as potentially carrying Listeria bacteria. I was impressed with how quickly Maple Leaf responded, took ownership of the problem, recalled products as necessary, and inspected and cleaned their premises. In today's society it is no longer acceptable to sit on a problem of this magnitude while a plan is put together over a few weeks. Immediate response is necessary, and Maple Leaf handled themselves very well.

1 comment:

nick said...

What is the funtionality QA/QC at the factory? They never knows about that?