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Enough meat and vegetables for record second-quarter recall stew

Stericycle Inc., the Indianapolis business-to-business services company that tracks all sorts of recalls, including food, does its counting and comparisons by lots. Other ways of counting might be better for food. USDA, for example, has long used pounds of meat in reporting recalls.

In the second quarter of 2016, however, recall activity for both U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration foods had what analysts are calling a “whopping spike,” all because of just a couple of recalls.

The first came on May 2 when CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, WA recalled fruit and vegetables that had already made itbeefstew_406x250 into packaging for 42 separate brands. Ten days later, Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. announced almost 50 million pounds of its meat products also contained the vegetable and fruit products that CRF had recalled because of Listeria contamination.

Together, the CRF and Ajinomoto Windsor recalls fueled an 82-percent increase in FDA recalls and a 12-percent bump in USDA recalls, according to Stericycle Inc.’s tracking.

“Each regulatory body saw one large recall that caused recalled units to reach new records,” it reported.

The U.S. and Canada were both impacted by the CRF recall. Eight illnesses have been associated with the recalled products. Stericycle reported 120 million units under FDA regulation were recalled during the quarter.

A 78-percent increase in allergen recalls, accounting for a 225-percent increase in units recalled, is still only the fourth-leading recall, based on units.

And the CRF-related meat products recall accounted for 88 percent of the pounds recalled by USDA during the second quarter.

Overall, recall activity in the second quarter was up 167 percent over the first quarter, and it marked higher levels than experienced in any other period of 2014 or 2015.

“It’s not that there’s necessarily more contamination, it’s that the industry is getting better at detecting what’s there,” said Stericycle Vice President Kevin Pollack. “These recalls increased when genome testing gave companies and regulators better tools for detecting bacteria.”

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