Top 20 Most Expensive Product Recalls in History



Top 20 Most Expensive Product Recalls in History

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Well, that didn't go as planned. For this list, we're looking at the costliest company initiated product returns and why they needed to happen. Our countdown includes Easy-Bake Ovens, Ford Pintos, Tylenol, Galaxy Note 7, and more!

top 20 most expensive product recalls in history

Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 20 most expensive product recalls in history.

For this list, we’re looking at the costliest company initiated product returns and why they needed to happen.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever been part of these or any product recalls.

#20: Infantino SlingRider Baby Slings

In 2010, over one million sling-style Infantino brand baby carriers were recalled from the market. The Consumer Product Safety Commission determined there was a risk of asphyxiation for those being carried. After three infant deaths occurred, an investigation was launched, which revealed sling-style carriers could fatally block air passages. The risk was especially great for those under the age of four months. In March 2010, the CPSC issued a report linking 14 deaths to the product, dating back as far as 1990, and just weeks later the recall was issued.

#19: Roman Blinds

The exact number of deaths and injuries due to this product can be debated, as use of roman blinds is so widespread; but what cannot be argued is the fact that in 2009 all Roman style blinds were recalled from the market. What does “all” constitute? Well, around 50 million units. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission pulled Roman style blinds when several children became entangled in the shades’ exposed inner cord. Ultimately, the report recommended consumers stop using Roman style shades altogether if they were not equipped with updated safety precautions.

#18: Easy-Bake Ovens

Introduced in 1963, the Easy-Bake Oven was immediately appealing. Kids getting to make tasty treats - what’s not to like? In 2007, however, Hasbro recalled its latest model of the toy after they received numerous, substantial complaints of children getting their fingers stuck in the oven’s door. Hasbro issued a voluntary recall and made available a free U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved guard for all who still wanted to keep the oven… except it didn’t work. The CPSC report revealed approximately 250 more cases of fingers getting caught in the door, and nearly 80 cases of burns. This brought on another recall. In the end, the recall affected nearly one million Easy-Bake Ovens.

#17: Mattel Toys

Fears over the lead content of Chinese-manufactured Fisher-Price toys led to a huge recall in 2007. Mattel, owner of Fisher-Price, was found to be selling toys covered in paint with the harmful element. Lead poisoning can cause multiple symptoms and be fatal, particularly for younger people. In the US alone, roughly 9 million lead-coated products were involved in the recall. The recall itself cost Mattel around $30 million. The company was also fined more than $2 million for selling the products in the first place. Three years later, a similar scandal struck

#16: McDonald’s Shrek Glasses

Trace amounts of the toxic metal cadmium were found in some limited-edition McDonald’s glasses back in 2010. The items were part of a promotion for “Shrek Forever After” and featured everyone’s favorite “Shrek” characters painted on them – along with the threat of ingesting an illness-inducing toxin. McDonald’s tried to defend this by saying the glasses didn’t actually contain that much cadmium. But we argue that any amount of a dangerous carcinogen is definitely too much, especially where children’s drinkware is concerned. McDonald’s offered customers a refund of $3 per glass. Considering it initially charged $2 and 12 million glasses were recalled, that put the company at least $12 million in the red.

#15: Ford Pintos

In action movies, it’s not uncommon to see a car explode after even the smallest impact. Starting as early as 1973, there were cases stating that the Ford Pinto might be volatile. It wasn’t until 1974 that something official came about, with a petition put forth by the Center for Auto Safety to recall the car make. Apparently, the Ford Pinto’s gas tank was poorly positioned between the rear axle and bumper, and it tended to catch fire when it touched the shock absorber in the back of the car, and thus would frequently explode in rear-end collisions. Ford faced a slew of legal battles and accusations criticizing its decision-making both before and during the scandal. Ultimately, Ford issued a massive recall and in 1980, they stopped producing the Pinto altogether.

#14: Westland / Hallmark Meats

In 2008, the largest meat recall in American history took place when California’s Westland/Hallmark Meat Company was caught up in an enormous scandal. Undercover footage from animal rights groups revealed workers were mistreating certain cows that were part of their beef production. Those heinous actions are strictly against the law in the United States. The ensuing recall resulted in a final judgement of almost half a billion dollars for the company. This was thanks in part to the fact that the company provided meat to the US’s school lunch program. The company’s connection to education put even more attention on the scandal. Ultimately, Westland/Hallmark’s meat went bankrupt because nobody wanted to touch their products after such horrendous behavior.

#13: Sony Batteries

Major laptop manufacturer Dell issued a recall for notebook laptops back in 2006 because of the batteries inside. These Sony-made batteries carried a major flaw: they were a huge fire hazard. Multiple stories broke about people’s laptops burning during use and reports of laptop owners getting injured. Luckily, no one seemed to suffer any severe damage. But it seemed that Sony didn’t completely fix the problem in the aftermath of the incident. Around two years later, another recall of laptops containing Sony batteries was issued. This time it wasn’t just Dell, but also Toshiba and HP. And in the worst consumer hat trick ever, Dell recalled over 4 million computers due to batteries in 2011. Sony lost hundreds of millions of dollars for these missteps.

#12: Scarlet Red Dye

For years, an illegal red food dye has been causing mass recalls in the United Kingdom and Europe. The specific dye in question, bright-red Sudan I dye, was banned by the EU in 2003 because it was found to be a carcinogen. That’s definitely not the kind of thing you wanted adding to almost everything red you can buy in a store. Since it was found in chili and curry powders, chicken tikka, and pesto, it was a pretty tricky thing to avoid at the time. The earliest recalls started in the mid-2000s. And after many warnings from the British Food Standards Agency to the companies in question, the recalls spread across the entirety of the European bloc.

#11: Tylenol

This pain reliever was pulled from the market in October 1982 after it was linked to seven fatalities. Reports determined Tylenol in Chicago and its surrounding areas had been tampered with and laced with potassium cyanide. Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s parent company, promptly issued warnings, suspended production, and set in motion a full, nationwide recall. In total, Tylenol pulled nearly $100 million worth of product from the market, and the entire pharmaceutical industry developed special packaging to prevent tampering. Interestingly, no culprits in this case were ever caught, but in the wake of the crisis, the public was scared by several copycat offenses. The company faced yet another recall in 2010, but this time initiated due to mildew in its products.

#10: Peanut Corporation of America’s Peanut Products

Remember that salmonella outbreak in 2008? If you don’t, you should. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported nine deaths and over 700 cases of food poisoning as a result of negligence. After an extensive, collaborative investigation between the CDC and the FDA, the outbreak was traced back to a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Georgia. Reports on that facility, as well as the one in Texas, revealed unsanitary conditions such as dead animals and moldy ceilings. Reports also accused the plant and company CEO of approving the sale of products that had already tested positive for salmonella. The scandal’s recall was the largest pertaining to food in U.S. history, and it forced the Peanut Corporation to bankruptcy.

#9: Toyota Accelerator Pedals

Between 2009 and 2011, millions of vehicles from many of Toyota’s brands, including Lexus, had to be recalled because of a life-threatening fault with the accelerator pedals. This recall affected Toyota cars around the planet, with more than 14 million vehicles caught up in proceedings. Close to forty people may have lost their lives as a result of the faulty pedals preventing cars from decelelarating. An entire family tragically lost their lives in a Lexus in 2009. Repairing the catastrophic fault cost Toyota over $1 billion.

#8: Bextra

It’s always frightening to think that a drug could make it to market that carries untold risks to anybody who needs to take it. That’s why a lawsuit that cost American pharmaceutical company Pfizer over $2 billion was so significant. In 2005, an anti-inflammatory drug Bextra that was made and marketed by Pfizer was taken off shelves by the FDA. It was shown to increase the risks of a heart attack significantly. Pfizer was then caught up in numerous lawsuits about Bextra for defrauding the patients it intended to help, which was largely people suffering from arthritis. Luckily, plenty of safer alternative medications without adverse effects exist to help those who were using Bextra.

#7: GM’s Faulty Ignition Switches

It was reported that over 100 people lost their lives due to faulty ignition switches in a wide range of General Motors vehicles. This led to a massive recall and costly lawsuits in 2014. Billions of dollars were spent recalling the faulty vehicles that could crash when their engines would cut out without warning. To make matters worse, no engines meant no airbags. But the situation got worse for the company and far more concerning for consumers. It eventually came out that GM had known the switches didn’t work for close to ten years. After the lawsuits started piling up, GM actually decided to do something about it, to the tune of $3 billion.

#6: Ford Explorer’s Firestone Tires

In 2000, after a warning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Ford launched an investigation into the quality of the Firestone tires that it used on its vehicles. They determined that several Firestone models failed far more often than what’s considered normal, and after more tests found that Explorers fitted with these tires tended to rollover when they failed. One possible reason for these problems? Before the Explorer was first put on the market, they discovered it was inclined to rollover in accidents. Instead of a complete redesign, they opted to reduce air pressure in the tires. However, low tire pressure can lead to accelerated deterioration of the rubber. Reports vary, but these Firestone tire failures are thought to have caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. The recall ultimately pulled over 14.4 million tires.

#5: Galaxy Note 7

You may remember a large number of viral videos after the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 that showed the cell phone spontaneously combusting. Design and manufacturing defects with the type of batteries used in the phones led to overheating. This flaw subsequently led to the device catching fire in far too many cases. To make matters even more embarrassing for Samsung, they made a big mistake when trying to fix the issue. After changing to another battery supplier and issuing replacements, the new phones also ended up catching fire. It was a cell phone that certainly had potential. All in all, Samsung lost between $5 and $17 billion from the fiasco.

#4: Vioxx

Approved by the FDA in 1999, Vioxx was yet another drug that was the subject of a recall, this time in 2004. Almost $9 billion went into recalling it after it was found to greatly increase the risk of heart attacks. And there was a horrible reason why Vioxx was allowed to stay on the market for so long. Merck & Company, who produced Vioxx, didn’t report all of the data linking the drug to increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. If the company had done due diligence, they would’ve potentially spread medical evidence that Vioxx seemed to be responsible for illness and fatal consequences years earlier than they did. Merck & Company’s serious lack of oversight was linked to over 140,000 separate cases, and a $4.85 billion mass tort settlement between them and the lawyers of thousands of lawsuits.

#3: Chinese Milk

Back in 2008, China recalled approximately 9,000 tons of powdered baby formula. It was revealed that China’s largest producer of the stuff had issued products cut with melamine, a dangerous chemical used for plastic that can also be used to falsely indicate high protein levels when added to milk. According to reports, it was this misleading nutritional information that led to at least six deaths from complications with their kidneys. Ultimately, the scandal affected 300,000 victims. Two men were sentenced to death by Shijiazhuang’s Intermediate People’s Court for their role in selling the contaminated powder.

#2: Volkswagen

Back in 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency charged Volkswagen with breaching the Clean Air Act, a 1963 law that tries to ensure exactly what its name implies. The investigation revealed that 11 million Volkswagen vehicles that had turbocharged direct injection diesel engines were programmed using defeat devices to keep emissions at approved levels during testing periods, but would forgo those controls afterwards, thereby releasing unapproved levels of Nitrogen Oxide into the air. As a result, Volkswagen made plans to invest over 18 billion dollars to refit affected models across the globe and reduce their emissions. As you can imagine, their reputation also took a bit of a hit.

#1: Takata Airbags

Chances aren’t bad that you’ve sat in a car with Takata Corporation airbags, given that they’ve been manufactured since 1988, and cover 20% of the airbag market. However, in 2013, complaints against the company came pouring in, citing issues that may’ve spanned the previous ten years. Honda asserted that their product caused eight deaths and approximately one hundred injuries, claiming that, even in minor collisions, Takata airbags propelled deadly shrapnel upon deployment. An investigation revealed it was a Takata production plant in Mexico that had inappropriately assembled the less stable parts of the airbags. Over the course of the controversy, several recalls were issued, necessitating the recall of millions of vehicles from various brands, including Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and BMW.
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