Can I claim a refund if food I own is recalled?
When a product is speculatively withdrawn due to fears of contamination or allergy concerns, you have the right to a refund thanks to the Consumer Rights Act.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, all goods should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
If you've bought a product that's been recalled, you should expect the retailer that sold it to you to offer you a full refund - even if it's been in your store-cupboard or freezer for several months.
While you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act, you should always follow the recall instructions published by the retailer or manufacturer in the first instance.
What if I've eaten the recalled food or drink product?
If you’ve already consumed the product or thrown it away, you can still get a refund.
All you’ll need is proof purchase - this could be a till receipt, bank statement, or online order confirmation.
Notify the retailer of this either online or in-store to get your full refund.
Dependant on the nature of the alert you may also want to seek medical advice.
How can I find out if a product has been recalled?
Usually, retailers will issue notices to customers informing them of a product recall.
Some retailers also post product recall information notices in the window of their stores or within the store at customer services.
You can also check the Food Standards Agency website which posts news on food and allergy safety issues.
Will the food recall process change after Brexit?
In the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK would immediately fall out of all the EU agencies and regulatory bodies that are responsible for conducting safety assessments, meaning that UK bodies would have to take on these functions to ensure consumer safety.
But UK consumers will still be able to access the Rapid Exchange of Information System (RAPEX) website to see what EU product recalls have been issued.
The RAPEX system is the EU rapid alert system for unsafe consumer products and consumer protection - the alerts contain information about dangerous products, the risks of these products and the steps being taken at national level to prevent or restrict marketing of the product.
The difficulty consumers will face in a no-deal situation is if they have a faulty good purchased from an EU retailer. The process of getting a refund or replacement could become a lot more complex.
If the withdrawal agreement is approved by the EU and UK, it's been agreed that consumer rights will remain unchanged until the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU are decided. This transition period will last from Brexit day on 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020.
Read our guide on how Brexit could impact consumer rights for more information on shopping outside the UK after Brexit.
If you’ve seen reports online or in print that something you’ve bought has been recalled, contact the customer services team of the retailer you purchased the item from.
The retailer’s customer services team should be able to confirm for you if your item is affected by the recall notice if you’re unsure.
Don’t take the risk
If a food product is recalled, don't eat or drink the product. While it’s only usually a small number affected, it’s not worth taking the risk if a recall has been issued.
Contact the retailer to notify them you have a product affected by the recall and ask for steps on how to return the product. You should be given a full refund.
Types of food product recall
The two main types of product recall are allergy recalls and food safety recalls.
Food allergy recalls Foods that are recalled due to allergy concerns are usually recalled because allergy information wasn’t emphasised correctly, was labelled incorrectly or was missing completely on the label.
This means the product would be a possible health risk for anyone with an allergy or intolerance.
Food safety recalls Foods that are recalled due to safety concerns are often done so either due to high concentrations of a substance not safe for consumption, the presence of material not meant to be in the product (for example, bits of plastic, metal or rubber) or the food containing harmful bacteria like salmonella.
This means the product would be a possible health risk for anyone.
What if the recalled food product makes me ill?
If you’ve been injured as a result of a food product, you have rights under the Consumer Protection Act.
Anyone who suffered injury as a result of the defect is entitled to claim and not just whoever bought the product.
Read our detailed guide to the Consumer Protection Act for more on what to do if you, a friend or family member has been injured by a dangerous food product.
What if the product I have isn’t proven to be contaminated?
Even if the product is speculatively withdrawn due only to fears of contamination, it’s likely that as a goodwill gesture many retailers will offer a refund at this point regardless of whether contamination is proven.
However, legally a retailer only needs to provide a refund if the contamination is proven.