Aldi's recalled pressure cooker burns six people, thousands yet to be returned

Up to 6600 faulty pressure cookers are still in kitchens across Australia.

Six people have sustained serious injuries after the pressure cookers they bought from Aldi Australia "exploded", spraying them with liquids pressurised to reach temperatures above 100ºC and allegedly causing burns to their face, eyes, upper body, arms and torso.

Aldi Australia, which exclusively sold the Crofton Chef's Collection 6L Pressure Cooker by H&H Asia from its stores across Australia, has had less than a quarter of the 8405 cookers returned since issuing a recall in August 2017.

The injuries have been detailed in incident reports filed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which were obtained by CHOICE under freedom of information laws.

"These are terrible, life changing and completely preventable injuries," says a person familiar with the matter, who asked to remain anonymous as the information is not public.

All six people injured by the pressure cooker received either second-degree burns that covered 16-35% of their bodies, or third-degree burns that covered up to 35% of their bodies, according to the person familiar with the matter.

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The Crofton Chef's Collection pressure cooker was on sale for three weeks, until 21 July 2017, before being recalled.

Second-degree burns result in deep reddening, blisters, leaking fluid, possible skin loss and swelling. Third-degree burns penetrate the entire thickness of the skin, damaging the nerve endings needed to feel any sensation.

Four of the injuries happened after the recall was initiated.

Aldi is urging customers to stop using the $60 pressure cooker "immediately" and to return it to a store for a full refund.

"All of Aldi's products undergo rigorous testing prior to being sold in our stores and we work closely with our suppliers to meet specifications," an Aldi Australia spokesperson tells CHOICE. "As soon as we became aware of the fault with the Crofton Chef's Collection Pressure Cooker, Aldi and our supplier, H&H Asia, conducted a voluntary public recall."

...she was standing 1 metre away from the pressure cooker when the lid exploded

Pressure cookers cook foods quicker and at temperatures higher than 100ºC by regulating the pressure within them. At 14.5 pounds of pressure per square inch, which is the high setting on the Crofton Chef's Collection model sold by Aldi, contents boil at a temperature of 120ºC.

But after its locking mechanism began to fail, resulting in two owners being hospitalised with burns on separate occasions, Aldi decided to voluntarily institute a nationwide recall on 2 August 2017, less than six weeks after it went on sale.

Details of the injuries have been heavily redacted in the mandatory incident reports, as have the personal details of the people who sustained them.

"Customer claims she was standing 1 metre away from the pressure cooker when the lid exploded," reads the first mandatory incident report, dated 21 July 2017.

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The details of injuries have been heavily redacted by the ACCC, as can be seen in this description of one of them.

In the fourth incident report, filed on 13 September, it says the "customer alleges she received [redacted copy] from the hot pressure steam that came out of the product". According to the person familiar with the matter, the lid of the pressure cooker flew off, freeing the pressurised steam that burned her face and eyes, before the whole cooker "exploded" and caused further burns.

In the sixth and most recent report, filed on 17 October, it says "customer alleges he had been using the pressure cooker...[redacted copy]...the lid exploded". According to the person familiar with the matter, the lid blew off and the man was sprayed with hot liquid that scalded his neck, chest and hands.

There were 6602 pressure cookers that had not yet been returned to Aldi Australia as of 10 November, according to the most recent data provided by the ACCC. The watchdog claims 1803 have been returned, but this includes the stock that Aldi held in its supply chain because they had not yet been sold.

Four of the injuries happened after the recall was initiated

The ACCC says the responsibility is on consumers to remain aware of product recalls.

"Consumers are urged to take product safety recalls seriously," says a spokesperson. "[They] can subscribe to the Product Safety website for recall updates to make sure they are aware of the latest recalls that may be relevant to them."

Aldi has advertised the recall in its stores, on its website and on the Product Safety Australia website. It has posted about the recall on LinkedIn and in a Facebook post that was shared 1029 times. However, the recall has not been published in the popular 'special buys' brochure often read by its customers.

The slow 21% return rate illustrates how a lack of transparency cripples Australia's product safety system, says Sarah Agar, head of campaigns and policy at CHOICE.

She says businesses should publicly report on the number of products that are affected, how many have been returned or repaired, and how quickly the recall is being completed.

"Businesses are free to run their recalls as poorly as they choose with no real fear of penalties. As this case shows, along with the recent recalls of Takata, Samsung and Thermomix, many companies are putting their reputation ahead of an effective recall," says Agar.

"This is a really common sense requirement, the minimum necessary requirement for a functional recall system. And it is staggering that businesses don't currently have to release this information."

In Australia, businesses can run recalls for risky or unsafe products however they like, with no immediate penalties if they do it badly. Sign our petition to put pressure on government to take action on product safety recalls.

Timeline (as per the dates on the incident reports)

  • 28 June 2017: The Crofton Chef's Collection 6L Pressure Cooker goes on sale for $60 in Aldi stores across Australia.
  • 21 July: A woman in Victoria receives serious injuries linked to her pressure cooker. She says it exploded when she was standing one metre away.
  • 25 July: A NSW woman sustains serious injuries from the pressure cooker and seeks hospital treatment.
  • 2 August: Aldi voluntarily recalls the Crofton Chef's Collection 6L pressure cooker.
  • 4 September: A man is admitted to hospital for burns caused by the pressure cooker.
  • 13 September: A woman is burned by the pressure cooker. It is the fourth incident report filed to the ACCC.
  • 15 September: A Victorian woman is burned by the pressure cooker.
  • 17 October: A Queensland man is admitted to hospital after the lid of his pressure cooker 'exploded', making him the sixth person known to have been injured.