Photograph by Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

The Most Expensive Product Recalls

  1. Costly Recalls
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    Costly Recalls

    The cost of the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to ground U.S.-registered Boeing [BA] 787s is difficult to assess pending a review of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries, widely considered to be the source of the plane's troubles. While not a “product recall” in the traditional sense, the 787 being pulled from commercial service could have a major financial impact on Boeing and its airline customers.

    Many other companies have had to weather product recalls and concerns over the safety of their products. Here are some of the largest and most expensive product recalls:

    Photograph by Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
  2. Tylenol
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    Tylenol

    One of the most publicized product recalls in history, bottles of Johnson & Johnson’s [JNJ] Tylenol were laced with potassium cyanide, killing seven people around Chicago in 1982. The company spent more than $100 million to recall 31 million bottles of Tylenol and relaunch the product.

    Photograph by John Swart/AP Photo
  3. Firestone Ford Tires
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    Firestone Ford Tires

    In 2000, Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires after treads separated on models used in Ford [F] Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers. Ford engineers had suggested safety changes that were not heeded by either company. The tire failure resulted in some 200 deaths and 3,000 major injuries. Bridgestone spent $440 million on recall-related costs; the recall cost Ford $3 billion. At the time, Ford faced some $600 million in lawsuits.

    Photograph by Eric Gay/AP Photo
  4. Merck's Vioxx
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    Merck's Vioxx

    In 2004, pharmaceutical giant Merck [MRK] voluntarily recalled Vioxx, an arthritis drug, after a study found that patients who took the drug for at least 18 months were prone to suffer heart attacks and strokes. At the time, the company said it expected $725 million in lost Vioxx sales, which it ultimately removed from the market. In 2007, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits over the drug.

    Photograph by Phil Sears/MCT via Getty Images
  5. Sony Batteries in Dell Laptops
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    Sony Batteries in Dell Laptops

    In 2006, Dell [DELL] recalled more than 4 million laptop computers because lithium-ion batteries made by Sony [SNE] posed a fire threat due to excessive overheating. Analysts predicted the recall would cost both Dell and Sony a combined $400 million.

    Thomas Forqueran's Dell notebook, pictured at center on the seat of his pickup, caught fire, igniting ammunition in the glove box and then the gas tank.

    Photograph by John Gurzinski/The New York Times via Redux
  6. Chili Powder
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    Chili Powder

    The U.K.’s Food Standards Agency found that more than 580 products, from Worcestershire sauce to Caesar dressing, had been contaminated with a carcinogenic dye in chili powder known as sudan 1. The financial loss to U.K. retailers and international brands, such as Birds Eye, was expected to “run into double-digit millions,” according to FoodNavigator.com.

    Photograph by Foodfolio/Corbis
  7. Cadbury-Schweppes
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    Cadbury-Schweppes

    More than a million chocolate bars were recalled by Cadbury-Schweppes in 2006 after a scare involving Salmonella poisoning in the U.K. and Ireland. The company estimated the recall would cost it £20 million. The recall caused a 14 percent drop in its candy sales at the time.

    Photograph by Matt Cardy/Getty Images
  8. Peanut Butter
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    Peanut Butter

    Fear of Salmonella contamination was behind one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history. In 2009, Peanut Corp. of America recalled shipments of peanut butter to food companies and institutions. In total, some 3,913 different products from roughly 361 different companies were affected. Soon after, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The head of the Georgia Peanut Commission told a congressional hearing that the recall could cost America's peanut producers $1 billion in lost production and sales.

    Photograph by Daniel R. Patmore/AP Photo
  9. Westland/Hallmark Meats
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    Westland/Hallmark Meats

    In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered food processor Westland/Hallmark to recall more than 143 million pounds of beef—some used in school lunch programs—deemed unfit for human consumption. It was one of the largest beef recalls in U.S. history. Westland/Hallmark paid nearly $500 million in a settlement with an animal welfare group and the federal government.

    Photograph by Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo
  10. Mattel Toys
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    Mattel Toys

    Nearly 9 million Mattel [MAT] toys—including the iconic Barbie—had to be recalled because of fears that the Chinese-made toys contained excessive levels of lead in their paint. The recall cost Mattel at least $30 million, Bloomberg News reported.

    Photograph by JB Reed/Bloomberg
  11. Toyota
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    Toyota

    A faulty accelerator pedal forced Toyota [TM] to recall 4.1 million vehicles sold in the U.S. and Europe. It was the company’s second recall in three months, following a recall of 5.3 million cars because poorly fitting floor mats trapped pedals. In total, more than 9 million Toyota cars worldwide were recalled for pedal-related flaws, costing the company an estimated $2 billion. In December, Toyota reached a $1 billion settlement with car owners in a lawsuit related to acceleration problems in its vehicles.

    Photograph by Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg