Food recalls increased almost 20 percent in Finland this past year, according to data compiled by the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto).

The most common reason for the 200 withdrawals in 2019 was related to allergens. Allergen errors accounted for the largest proportion of recalls for the second year running, at 27 percent.

Microbiological issues such as Salmonella, Listeria, and molds caused the second most recalls with 20 percent of incidents.

Just under half of the recalled food and food contact materials came from another EU country. Finnish products accounted for about 28 percent, as did items from non-EU countries.

Recall rise does not mean more products unsafe
Recalls went up by 32 this past year compared to 2018. It is the fourth year in a row that alerts in the country have increased. There were 111 recalls in 2015, 131 in 2016, 158 in 2017, 168 in 2018 and 200 in 2019.

Number of food recalls in Finland from 2010 to 2019

Officials cited a number of reasons behind this rise including more consumer reporting of issues, better self-supervision by companies and a focus on risk-based controls by authorities. More recalls does not necessarily mean a higher risk to consumer safety.

The risk of allergens in products due to incorrect labels, packaging and product mistakes or an unintentionally added allergen caused 54 recalls in 2019. Such products can be donated to charity or returned for sale if the labeling is corrected and consumer safety assured.

The second most common reason was bacteria found in food and other microbiological problems. For example, Salmonella was found in 15 foods, most of which were meat imported from other countries in Europe. When liquids were found to have an issue with fermentation and bulging packaging, this was considered a microbiological error.

Other reasons for product withdrawals
There were 18 recalls due to food containing an additive that was not authorized or the amount of it in the product exceeded the maximum level. Six recalls concerned Rhodamine B or Sudan dyes, which are prohibited in the EU and considered harmful to health.

In alerts due to pesticide residues, the maximum residue limits (MRLs) were only slightly exceeded meaning products did not present an acute consumer risk. However, items had to be withdrawn from sale and disposed of to minimize the cumulative health risk to the public.

Some recalls involve traders who have purchased a batch of products, usually directly, from a producer or manufacturer outside the EU. In these situations, product volumes are very small and only a few consumers are potentially exposed to health risks.

During 2019, one third of all recalls were received through the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). It has returned to a relatively high level after a dip in 2017. Based on information from consumers or food firms, the number of withdrawals in 2019 was almost double that of previous years representing a quarter of recalls.

Consumers who suspect a food is unfit for human consumption should first contact the local food control authority. It is also good practice to report it to the place of purchase so the store can stop selling the product if necessary.

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