Food Safety Magazine

November 26, 2013

Food Recalls Double in Consecutive Quarters

Food Recalls Double in Consecutive Quarters

Third-quarter food recalls enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have doubled compared to the second quarter. Supporting data were reported by Stericycle ExpertRECALL in its quarterly ExpertRECALL™ Index.

The ExpertRECALL Index revealed the following:

• Allergens were the single largest cause of food recalls, representing approximately 40 percent of recalls reported in the third quarter. Note that allergen recalls can be a result of contamination or labeling issues. Allergens have been the first or second largest cause of food recalls in the past seven quarters.

• In the third quarter, more than 90 percent of recalls and recalled units were classified by the FDA as either Class I or Class II recalls. Further, the volume of Class I and II units recalled during this period increased by more than 95 percent. This increase was due in large part to two separate recalls by the same company because of Salmonella contamination.

• Foodborne illness remains a top concern, as Salmonella, Listeria and botulism accounted for more than 40 percent of recalls reported during the third quarter.

• The number of third quarter Class I recalls increased more than eight percent from the previous quarter. Additionally, the number of companies involved in FDA food recalls increased by 17 percent from the previous quarter.

• Only four companies in the third quarter had more than ten recalls. Yet, one company’s 24 recalls accounted for more than nine percent of all food recalls.

• The total number of recalled units more than doubled during the third quarter to seven million units despite a small (14 percent) drop in the total number of recalls. Companies that faced a recall event recalled a much higher volume of products – on average, an increase of almost 16,000 more units per recall. Food manufacturers must recognize the growing impact and expenses associated with a single recall and actively prepare for such situations.

• The number of pounds of food recalled during the third quarter increased by more than 105 percent from the second quarter, marking the largest amount of food recalled in the last three quarters.

• More than 85 percent of USDA recalls in the third quarter were classified as Class I recalls, representing the highest proportion in seven quarters. Additionally, 83 percent of recalled food by weight was assigned a Class I designation.

• Two companies had more than one recall this quarter, compared to not a single company the previous quarter.

• Undeclared allergens continued from last quarter to be the single largest cause of recalls this quarter with seven recalls, followed by three recalls due to Escherichia coli.

• The top two recalls made up more than 55 percent of the total amount of food recalled by weight.

• There were three less recalls since the previous quarter, resulting in the lowest number of recalls in the last seven quarters.

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