Healthy food recalls on the rise

by Eric Schroeder
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Foods carrying the "healthy" halo are increasingly the subject of federal food recalls, according to Stericycle.
Foods carrying the "healthy" halo are increasingly the subject of federal food recalls, according to Stericycle.

INDIANAPOLIS – Just because a product may be marketed as “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s less susceptible to a product recall. In fact, with more consumers demanding healthy products it’s actually more likely that a food product recall is related to a healthy product than an unhealthy one, according to a report from Stericycle Inc.

In its most recent Stericycle Quarterly Recall Index, there were 195 companies involved in a USDA and Food and Drug Administration food recall. In the prior quarter, there were 52 recalls of meat, poultry or processed egg products, Stericycle said, and 51 companies were impacted by a USDA recall, the highest number tracked since 2013.

Stericycle also reported that the second quarter saw a surge in US Dept. of Agriculture recall volume.

“There were 10.7 million lbs. recalled throughout the quarter — approximately 10 times the volume of pounds recalled in the prior quarter,” Stericycle said. “The leading cause of these recalls was undeclared allergens at almost 90 percent of the affected units in Q2.”

Stericycle said there were 178 FDA food recalls during the second quarter, up 47 percent from the first quarter of fiscal 2015. Sixty-two percent of the recalls were related to bacteria contamination, with Salmonella and Listeria listed as the most common contaminants.

The top category behind the FDA food events during the second quarter was vegetables, at 61 percent, followed by grains, cereals and bakery products at 11 percent, supplements at 10 percent, nuts and seeds at 5 percent, herbs and spices at 3 percent, and fruits at 3 percent.

Increased demand for healthy products has numerous industry implications and a direct impact on product recall numbers. With a greater amount of healthy and/or natural products available in the marketplace, the industry has seen an uptick in associated recall events, Stericycle said. According to the data, since 2012 more than 64 percent of recalls have been related to healthy foods. The top category within these recalls is raw foods — often due to the use of unapproved pesticides. For example, 400,000 units of frozen spinach were recalled in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 as a result of residual pesticide levels over the limit, according to Stericycle. This trend has continued through the second quarter with 65 percent of recalls being related to healthy food, including Listeria contamination and labeling issues among the chief drivers.

“The Q2 Index data underscores that consumer demand for healthy products is growing rapidly,” said Kevin Pollack, vice president, Stericycle. “The trend shows no sign of slowing, and companies are looking for ways to expand into this high-growth sector. For example, leading food manufacturers have reconfigured their products to cater to the health-conscious consumer. In other industries, companies focusing on eco-friendly products are experiencing record success. Our analysis reveals that this heightened awareness results in an increase in associated recalls, making it essential that companies rethink their recall execution plans and expectations for consumer response.”

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