Recall
 
WASHINGTON – Food recalls issued between 2004 and 2013 increased substantially, including those attributed to undeclared allergens, which nearly doubled during the decade, according to a study published by the US Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Results of the study collected from the agencies were recently released by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

During the first four years of the ERS study, the average number of recalls was 304. However, from 2009 to 2013, that number jumped to 676. While the production of food produced and sold in the US increased during the study period, ERS concluded that advances in pathogen detection and increased regulatory oversight both played roles in the growing number of recalls. During the decade-long study, the most-recalled category of food was prepared foods and meals which accounted for 11.9 percent (not including soups), followed by nuts, seeds and nut products (10.9 percent), baked goods (9 percent) grains and grain products (8.4 percent), candy (7.9 percent) and sauces, condiments and dressings (5 percent). Across-the-board increases were reported, but the ERS reported statistically significant increases among animal products, grain products and prepared foods and meals. Recalls were more frequently reported in the country’s more highly populated states.

Recall
 
In terms of risk, 41 percent of recalls resulted from pathogen contamination, but this didn’t represent a substantial increase, according to the ERS. However, 27 percent of recalls were the result of undeclared allergens, a rate that nearly doubled during the period. The passage of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) by Congress during the decade likely played a role in the increased number of recalls related to allergens, the study stated. Ingredients commonly used by food manufacturers to make many types of foods also played a significant role in the increase in recalls. From 2004 to 2013, for example, more than 22 percent of recalls were issued after an ingredient was first recalled early in the food-supply chain.

The study mentioned the possibility of the increase in recalls being linked to the food supply chain becoming less safe. According to the report, “A more likely possibility is that pathogen and risk detection technology improved from 2004 to 2013, and external audits of the technologies became more common, thereby increasing the number of detected health risks in food products. Indeed, in recent years, rapid-detection methods have evolved to become more time efficient, sensitive, specific, and labor saving when compared with older, conventional methods.”