A recall to action: improving the Australian consumer safety system to mitigate burn injuries

Mr Cody C. Frear1,2,3, Dr. Bronwyn Griffin1,2,3, Professor Roy Kimble1,2,3

1Centre For Children’s Burns And Trauma Research, The University Of Queensland, South Brisbane, Australia, 2The Pegg Leditschke Children’s Burns Centre, Queensland Children’s Hospital, Level 5, South Brisbane, Australia, 3The University of Queensland Faculty of Medicine, Herston, Australia


Background: Product recalls provide an essential tool in safeguarding consumers from harm due to defective and dangerous goods. Of the many hazards that might instigate a recall, burns are among the most common, with 15% of recalled children’s products in the USA posing a risk of thermal injury. Australian consumer safety policies have drawn scrutiny for the wide discretion they give to suppliers issuing voluntary recalls. This study sought to investigate the goods recalled due to burn hazards, the recall campaigns mounted by their suppliers, and the effectiveness of these campaigns.

Results: From 1993 to 2019, burn hazards were responsible for the recall of 221 Australian goods, which remained commercially available for a median of 214 days (IQR 80 – 608). The most commonly recalled product categories included candles/candle holders (15.8%), hot water bottles/bottle warmers (11.8%), and children’s toys/clothing (10.0%). Only four recall campaigns sought to improve product returns/repairs by offering incentives (e.g., gift cards) to adherent consumers. Additionally, <40% of the recalls in 2017-2019 were distributed through their suppliers’ social media accounts. Further results will be presented for the average proportion of returned/repaired units and number of incident reports submitted following recall implementation.

Discussion: Recalls resulting from burn hazards encompassed a large range of household and children’s goods. There was wide variability in the measures employed by recall campaigns. A lack of public reporting by suppliers of the scope and outcome of their recalls limits their accountability and hampers efforts to establish effective recall standards.


Cody C. Frear is an MD/PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. Prior to starting medical school, he conducted immunology and virology research at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., and the Biodesign Institute in Tempe, Arizona, inspired by his experiences volunteering at an HIV/AIDS clinic in The Gambia. Following his undergraduate studies, he worked as a medical scribe in an Emergency Department, where he developed an interest in trauma research. This interest led him to the Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research in Brisbane. He is currently completing his PhD, which focuses on the efficacy of negative pressure wound therapy in the management of acute paediatric thermal injuries. His other areas of study include burns first aid and the proteomics of burn wound exudate.

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