Mixed quarter for FDA and USDA recalls

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: ©iStock. The index showed an increase in high-risk Class I recalls
Picture: ©iStock. The index showed an increase in high-risk Class I recalls

Related tags Recall election Usda

FDA recalls and recalled units fell in Q2 but recalls and recalled pounds rose on the USDA side, according to Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS.

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food recalls dropped 11% to 178 – lower than the previous three quarters. Units declined 3% to about 89.3 million.

A total of 4% of FDA recalls were for products distributed domestically and internationally.

Bacterial contamination tops recalled units

Bacterial contamination was the cause for 86.6% of FDA recalled units, up from 11.6% in Q1, then undeclared allergen (8.4%) and foreign material (4.8%).

For the FDA, 50% of the bacterial contamination recalls were due to Listeria, 30.3% for Salmonella, and 9.1% for E. coli.

Meanwhile, 82.3% of recalled units were due to Salmonella, 15.8% due to Listeria and 1.7% due to E. coli.

Michael Good, VP of marketing and sales operations at Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS, said the statistics are better for the FDA than the USDA but it is still difficult to characterize either as good news.

“Both recalls and recalled units dropped slightly on the FDA side, but those figures are still higher than historical averages. For the USDA, it was mostly bad news, with recalls increasing 47% over the previous quarter and recalled pounds going up more than 300%.”

Good said recall activity dropped compared to the previous quarter but that was in part because Q1 saw one very large supplement recall.

“More advanced technology has led to an overall increase in recall activity in recent quarters, especially when it comes to bacterial contamination, and we expect to see that continue. But that doesn’t mean each quarter will be higher than the last.

“Recall activity ebbs and flows, but the overall trend is higher, in part due to those technology innovations.”

High Class 1 recall activity

Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS’ Recall Index showed a significant increase in high-risk Class I recall activity across multiple industries.

This trend affected food and beverage as Class I situations led FDA units (80%) and USDA pounds (92%).

FDA Class I food recalled units were up 340% with the top cause being bacterial contamination from Salmonella.

USDA Class I food recalls were up 86%, while USDA Class I recalled units were up 561%.

Good said: “Class I is the most critical type of recall, so to see increases across multiple industries where serious adverse consequences or death can occur is certainly concerning.

“Having a recall management strategy in place so you can act quickly and efficiently when the inevitable occurs is more important than ever when the recall is designated a Class I.”

Prepared foods rose from just 2.9% of FDA recalled units in Q1 to 70% in Q2.

The top FDA category based on recalls was prepared foods (23.6%), dairy (11.2%), seafood (10.1%) and supplements (10.1%).

“Prepared foods made up only 2.9% of the recalled units in Q1, so it may be a normal deviation, but we’ll need a few more quarters of data before we can say for sure, so it’s definitely something that we’ll keep an eye on to see if it continues,”​ said Good.

USDA: Undeclared allergens, mostly milk

The top cause for USDA recalls and recalled units was undeclared allergen, mostly milk. A total of 80.9% of all USDA recalled pounds were due to undeclared milk allergens, compared to less than 1% in Q1 2017.

Good said part of the issue with undeclared allergens is the ‘multiplier effect’.

“In those cases, companies can do everything right at their own facilities, but they can still feel the effects of a recall,” ​he said. 

“However, it is important to note that no matter what steps companies take, recalls – like death and taxes – will continue to occur, whether from undeclared allergens or any number of causes.

“Companies should take steps to prevent them, but that can’t replace a robust recall plan that can be put into action quickly when a recall does occur, as it inevitably will.”

USDA recalls rose 47% to 47 – the second highest quarter since at least 2005. USDA recalled pounds increased 307% to more than 10.2 million.

Poultry was top recalled category based on pounds (72.3%), multiple (18.8%) and beef (6.3%).

“Recalled pounds were up chiefly due to a multiplier effect, when an issue with one supplier causes recalls across many different brands. In this case, it was a recall involving chicken that contained undeclared milk allergens. This also contributed to the rise in recalls,”​ said Good.

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