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Undeclared Allergens Top Reason for Second-Quarter Recalls

Undeclared allergens – not pathogens involving bacteria, viruses or parasites – are driving the overwhelming majority of recalls, according to the most recent quarterly findings.

Stericycle ExpertRECALL™, which manages recalls for companies, reports that, during the second quarter of 2013, 65 percent of the recalls falling under U.S. Department of Agriculture jurisdiction and 60 percent of those falling under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jurisdiction were due to undeclared allergens.

Stericycle uses its ExpertRECALL Index to track the reasons for recalls from quarter to quarter. Undeclared allergens were the cause of 34 percent of the FDA recalls during the first quarter of 2013.

Undeclared allergens have consistently been a top trend for USDA and FDA recalls for the past several quarters. This trend has led the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to recently recognize that proper labeling, specifically declaring key allergens, is directly related to food safety and, as a result, now a top priority for inspectors.

In the past, FSIS encouraged inspectors to focus on food safety rather than other protection requirements. The FSIS reports its list of “Big 8” allergens – wheat, crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts and soybeans – account for approximately 90 percent of all food allergy reactions.

“Allergens continue to be a top recall trend that we see quarter over quarter,” said Mike Rozembajgier, vice president of Stericycle ExpertRECALL. “Manufacturers should make sure that they are reviewing labels and formulations related to a company’s Allergen Control Program before an inspector arrives on-site.”

The Index also revealed that the majority of USDA- and FDA-recalled food products were categorized as Class I, meaning there is a high probability that consuming the recalled product would cause serious adverse health consequences or death. More than 70 percent of USDA recalls of meat, poultry or processed egg products were classified as Class I events, making up 90 percent of all affected product. Similarly, 70 percent of all affected food product recalled by the FDA was categorized as Class I.

“Class I recalls put consumers at the highest risk, meaning quick action is critical for companies to protect both their consumers and their own reputations,” Rozembajgier said. “With social media making it easier and easier for consumers to monitor recall activity, it is more important than ever for food manufacturers to protect their supply chains and institute plans and processes that minimize the chance of a recall.”

The 2013 second-quarter ExpertRECALL Index is the only report that aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), FDA and USDA. The ExpertRECALL Index report is available online.

© Food Safety News
  • Matt

    Wonder how much this costs us consumers that have no food allergies. Companies are not just going to take a million dollar loss throwing out perfectly good food without trying to make up for it by making smaller container sizes or raising the price. Pathogens…yeah, that can hurt anyone, but a little peanut dust in my taco sauce? Can’t they just slap a sticker than says “may contain peanuts” on the bottle?