Recalls in Review: A monthly spotlight on trending regulatory enforcement issues at the CPSC.

In the past year, the Commission has significantly ramped up its monitoring of products for compliance with special packaging safety standards (16 CFR § 1700), resulting in a jump in recalls for failure to meet those standards.  The CPSC has conducted at least 62 recalls for failure to meet the child-resistant packaging requirements since 2011—including 23 recalls in 2020 alone.  There appears to be a recent enforcement focus on essential oils containing methyl salicylate.

A review of the recalls shows that the recalls tend to focus on products involving a few specific substances which trigger the child-resistant packaging requirements.  Most of the recalls from 2020 involved products containing methyl salicylate, commonly used to treat muscular pain, while most recalls between 2017 and 2019 involved products containing lidocaine, commonly used as a numbing agent.

All but one of the products recalled in 2020 that contain methyl salicylate are essential oils.  The other products recalled this year contain iron, lidocaine, and sodium hydroxide.  Twenty-two of the twenty-three recalls were conducted despite having no reported incidents involving consumers.

About Recalls in Review: As with all things, but particularly in retail, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers.  Regulatory enforcement is no different – it can also be subject to pop culture trends and social media fervor.  And this makes sense, as sales increase for a “trending” product, the likelihood of discovering a product defect or common consumer misuse also increases.  Regulators focus on popular products when monitoring the marketplace for safety issues.

As product safety lawyers, we follow the products that are likely targets for regulatory attention. Through Recalls in Review, we share our observations with you.