In the first six months of 2011, FSIS had overseen 27 recalls for undeclared ingredients; 20 are the result of undeclared allergens. For the preceding two years combined, FSIS issued recalls for a total of 32 undeclared allergens. Mislabeling for one of the eight main allergens typically results in a Class I recall because of the associated public health risk.
“This rise is of particular importance to me both as a medical doctor and as a parent, especially as recent reports have shown that the number of children with allergies is on the rise,” said Elisabeth Hagen, Ph.D., Under Secretary for Food Safety. “FSIS will continue to improve its efforts to ensure that public health and labeling requirements are met.”
In many of such cases, the recalls were a result of a change in product formulation by an establishment or a change in a supplier’s ingredients, which had gone unnoticed on their labels. Consuming one undeclared allergen could result in an adverse health reaction. Allergens include wheat, Crustacean shellfish (e.g. shrimp, crab, lobster), eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pecans, walnuts) and soybeans.
“I am confident FSIS inspectors and establishment personnel will take a close look at any changes or variations in their ingredient labeling,” said Al Almanza, FSIS administrator. “This is an important issue and a good opportunity to evaluate and work on our best practices.”