The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has recently urged the public to return various brands of peanut butters for a refund. The manufacturer of the peanut butters had informed the NCC that the affected products contain higher than the legally accepted levels of Aflatoxin.

The recall of most consumer products is regulated by the Consumer Protection Act. The Act requires the NCC to develop and adopt an industry-wide Code of Practice for receiving consumer complaints and reports of product failures, and for returning those goods effectively and efficiently.

In 2012, the NCC’s National Consumer Commissioner published the Consumer Product Safety Recall Guidelines, which set out what a supplier must do when conducting a product safety recall.

In terms of the Guidelines, suppliers can either voluntarily recall a product, or the NCC can order a compulsory recall. Most recalls are initiated voluntarily because promptly removing unsafe products from the shelves lowers the risk of damage to consumers and related liability.

The Guidelines have four broad requirements for conducting a product recall. Notification, recall strategy, product retrieval, and reporting. These broad requirements have additional sub-requirements, and the Guidelines prescribe how a supplier is meant to comply with these requirements.

Notification
The supplier must notify the NCC as well as any relevant regulator/s about the issue in writing, preferably before commencing a recall, but latest within two days of commencing a recall. The supplier must also notify the public as well as any international product recipients and others in the domestic supply chain.

The recall notice cannot include the words ‘voluntary recall’.

Recall strategy
A supplier must create a written recall strategy specific to the recall that includes the hazard associated with the product, the number of units supplied to consumers, as well as information about any known injuries or incidents associated with the product.

Although the recall strategy must be specific to the recall, suppliers can create a pro forma plan, in advance of any recalls.

Retrieval
The goal of a recall is to retrieve as many unsafe products from consumers’ hands as possible. Suppliers must facilitate the return of recalled products from consumers. It is the supplier’s responsibility to store and dispose of recalled products safely, and so a supplier cannot ask consumers to throw the products away.

Reporting
A supplier must provide progress reports on the conduct of the recall to the NCC and relevant regulators.

A safe and effective recall starts long before the products first reach the shelves. Suppliers are encouraged to be ready to recall unsafe products as quickly as possible, both to protect consumers from harm, but also to protect suppliers from liability.