7000 products including ice cream, have been recalled in France since September 2020. At issue: "
an ethylene oxide content exceeding the limits authorized by European regulations
" according to Recall Conso, a website of the Ministry of Economy that signals the affected products.
But how does the recall of these products work?
When do you decide on a recall procedure?
The recall procedure is decided when a product presents a risk to the health of the consumer.
It is then a question of removing products from consumers' cupboards and refrigerators and from the entire distribution chain.
This procedure is therefore the higher alert level compared to the withdrawal procedure.
Withdrawal procedures are initiated in the context of prejudices deemed less important for the consumer: this will, for example, concern products that have a labeling defect.
They will be taken off the shelves, but there will be no search for products already sold.
Who is ordering the recall?
The recall decision is taken by the person responsible for placing the product on the market. It is an obligation for the manufacturer and the distributor in the event of an identified risk on a product: in other words, one should not wait for a report from the DGCCRF, the general direction of consumption, to tackle the task. If it's a big brand like Nestlé, Danone… it will trigger the recall procedure. If it is a distributor product, it is the latter that initiates the recall. In any case, the manufacturer has a general safety obligation related to the products he markets. But as soon as the information reaches the distributor, he too finds himself obliged to manage the recall. If these actors do not implement this process, they face financial penalties.
How is the recall organized?
The manufacturer and the distributor must therefore ensure that the recall procedure is implemented.
They will check that the products are no longer on the shelves.
They must also inform the public of the defect found on the product.
If the obligation of information is an obligation of means
actors must prove that they have done everything possible to bring the information to the public.
For example, it is mandatory to put posters on supermarket shelves to explain the problem.
And, since April 2021, manufacturers and distributors must inform the products concerned on the Conso Recall site.
The site - saturated on Wednesday - is a step forward for consumers: information relating to recalls are now concentrated on a single platform, and it is possible to personalize them according to their purchasing preferences.
Read also: Conso Recall, the new tool to report dangerous products
Manufacturers and distributors can also exercise due diligence, for example by posting announcements on their websites or through press releases. In very serious cases, distributors have been able to send an email to their customer files: this was the case in 2017, when it was noted that siphons of bottles of whipped cream were exploding. The most important alerts are relayed on the DGCCRF website.
The organization ensures that these obligations also apply to foreign manufacturers and imported products.
Importers are thus subject to the same controls as manufacturers and distributors.
A rapid alert network also exists at European level so that all national control authorities circulate information in the event of a major failure on a product.
What happens to the product?
In most cases, the consumer will be reimbursed in the store. But the form of the return is not fixed, the idea being obviously that the product is not consumed. While retailers' policies may vary on this subject, generally for long-term consumer products such as frozen foods, it is possible to return the product without proof of purchase. It's up to the consumer to make sure that the product is referenced in the brand in question.
The product recovered by the distributor or the manufacturer, its end of life is decided by the latter. One thing is certain: it will not be put in the trash with the other products. If the defective products will in all likelihood end up in the incinerator, the manufacturer may be tempted to repatriate them. He may indeed need to recover the products for an insurance history, when he must provide proof of destruction.