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.
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.”