Need to know
- Giovanna Simonetti's Crofton Chef's Collection 6L Pressure Cooker erupted in November last year, burning her over several parts or her body and narrowly missing her young son
- The product was recalled in August 2017, but Giovanna never heard about it, even though she continued to shop regularly at Aldi
- At last count, only 62% of the recalled products had been returned, and at least eight people have been seriously injured
Giovanna Simonetti had been using her Crofton Chef's Collection 6L Pressure Cooker a few times a week since buying it at Aldi in Sydney in July 2017.
Then, on 1 November 2020, the unit more or less erupted as she was making soup. Boiling water shot across her kitchen, scalding Giovanna over several parts or her body and narrowly missing her young son and his friend. The lid became a projectile and hit her in the back of the head, causing further burns and bruising.
Cooker already recalled – in 2017
What Giovanna didn't know until shortly after this happened was that the pressure cooker had been recalled in August 2017 because of the possibility of such an incident.
Though she had downloaded the Aldi app and continued to shop regularly at Aldi up until the incident, and Aldi continued to send her promotional material, she was never personally informed of the recall.
Considering the severity of her injuries and the real possibility that it could have been worse, Giovanna remains outraged that such a dangerous product was on the market and at the lack of communication from Aldi.
Others seriously injured
She's not the only one who's been seriously injured.
In December 2017, after filing a freedom of information request, CHOICE reported that six people had suffered either second-degree burns over 16–35% of their bodies or third-degree burns over up to 35% of their bodies after their pressure cookers malfunctioned in the same way as Giovanna's.
At the time, 1803 of the approximately 8405 pressure cookers sold by Aldi Australia (or 21%) had been returned, which included products in Aldi's supply chain that had not yet been sold.
Giovanna Simonetti was badly scalded over several parts of her body when her Crofton Chef's Collection pressure cooker from Aldi erupted.
We contacted the ACCC for an update: as of 29 December 2020, eight injury reports had been lodged with the agency and 62% of the faulty pressure cookers had been returned to Aldi.
Based on the number of products sold, it means about 3194 dangerous pressure cookers are still in people's homes.
"The product can cause severe burns on failure and should not be used," an ACCC spokesperson told us, adding, "Aldi has reported to the ACCC that it continues to inform customers about the recall by way of its website, social media platforms and in-store notices."
The product can cause severe burns on failure and should not be usedACCC spokesperson
We also asked Aldi for an update on what steps the retailer is taking to communicate the recall to customers who bought one of the faulty pressure cookers.
"Aldi strictly complies with all ACCC requirements regarding recalls and in this case, due diligence has been given to ensure that customers were made aware of the product's fault," a spokesperson told us.
"This included notices displayed on our website, instore and on our Facebook page. We are in contact with all customers who have reported an issue with the product."
The lid of the pressure cooker flew off, striking Giovanna behind the ear and burning her.
'I felt we had a massive explosion'
For Giovanna, the shock of the incident had yet to wear off when we interviewed her in early December 2020. She was washing strawberries at the sink between the two young boys and the pressure cooker when it happened.
"I felt we had a massive explosion, but it happened so quickly," Giovanna says. "I didn't even feel the boiling water. I was in such a shock I couldn't feel anything. You are just in such a shock that you don't feel the pain until later on."
The shock gave way to pain, and she realized she'd been badly scalded.
My face was burning, my ear, my back, my shoulders. I was in a lot of painGiovanna Simonetti
"Someone told me that when you burn your hand or anything it's really important to just put cold running water on it," Giovanna says. "So I just jumped in the shower. My face was burning, my ear, my back, my shoulders. I was in a lot of pain."
The scariest part was that her son and his friend had narrowly missed being scalded as well. They were shielded by Giovanna's body, but everyone present was traumatised by the event.
At the hospital, medical staff immersed Giovanna's burns in water, including a particularly nasty burn on her arm that had become swollen and blistered. Her burns were dressed and a follow-up appointment was made.
Sleeping was difficult for a while because it hurt to put pressure on her injuries.
Some of Giovanna's burns required repeat visits to the doctor for treatment.
Aldi never got in touch
As we reported in our 2017 story, Aldi's efforts to communicate the recall to customers, including Giovanna, have been lacklustre at best.
It advertised the recall in stores and social media and listed it on the ACCC's recall site, but Aldi neglected to include the recall in its widely available special buys flyers.
It's a move, it's fair to say, that would have significantly increased awareness of the recall.
'They never sent me notifications of any recalls'
Though she continued to shop regularly at Aldi and even downloaded the retailer's app, Giovanna didn't see any recall signs in the store and had no idea there was a problem with the pressure cooker until it scalded her.
"I was a really frequent customer," Giovanna says. "I was in the shop all the time. And the cashier would ask me to take the magazine so I'd be aware of the latest sales.
"They had big signs at the entrances about their TVs and their mobile phones and all the things that they were selling, but it was never clear to me that there was a recall about this pressure cooker.
"They sent me notifications of all the specials, but they never sent me notifications of any recalls."
They had big signs at the entrances about their TVs and their mobile phones… but it was never clear to me that there was a recall about this pressure cookerGiovanna Simonetti
When she reported the incident to Aldi, the response once again fell short.
"When I called Aldi after the incident, I said to them 'why don't you make a better effort to let people know about the recalls, as much as you do with your weekly specials?' And the lady's answer was, 'you could have checked the website [productsafety.gov.au] for recalls. That's your responsibility.' And I was in shock because I never knew that was my responsibility."
Easy ride for manufacturers?
Under the rules governed by the ACCC, retailers have to inform the public of a product recall. But the regulations don't specify how the recall should be communicated, or which steps retailers should take to make sure customers get the message.
In general, retailers and manufacturers get off lightly in Australia when it comes to voluntary product recalls.
For Giovanna, the scariest part was how close the boiling water came to her young son and his friend.
Safety tested – on the public
Lax product safety standards in Australia mean that Aldi customers are, in effect, the guinea pigs who are discovering that some Crofton Chef's pressure cookers are unsafe.
CHOICE has been making the point for years that blindly trusting manufacturers to make safe products means putting customers in harm's way, and that voluntary standards are not enough.
'Australians will continue to be at risk'
"This is yet another example of why it's so critical for Australia to have robust product safety laws. Until they are put in place, Australians will continue to be at risk of hurting themselves, or worse," says CHOICE head of policy and government relations, Julia Steward.
This is yet another example of why it's so critical for Australia to have robust product safety lawsJulia Steward, CHOICE head of policy and government relations
In December last year, the government belatedly passed mandatory button batteries safety standards after three deaths and 44 serious injuries to children who had ingested button batteries since December 2017. The standards require manufacturers to make button batteries inaccessible to children.
Button-battery code largely ignored
For years, many product makers had been largely ignoring the voluntary button battery safety code, which also called for safely secured batteries.
In the same month, we reported that 1426 kids' and baby products had been recalled in Australia since 1986 and named the major retailers with the most recalls since 2015.
But as many as half of the products are still in people's homes.