More than 1,000 product warnings, recalls and notices for food, food contact materials, cosmetics and toys were published in Austria between 2010 and 2019.

The main reasons were residues, microorganisms and contamination by foreign material. Most commonly affected products included toys, cereal products, meat products and dairy.

During this period, the public was informed 813 times about food recalls, according to an analysis published by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).

Most of the recalls were from the companies themselves, but if the manufacturer or distributor does not meet this obligation, AGES issues a product warning on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK).

Reasons for food recalls
Businesses are responsible for the safety of what they produce or sell, and for compliance with food law regulations. Safety of food is ensured by standards and a network of controls, which begins with producers and ends with EU-wide surveillance programs, according to AGES.

Summary of reasons for food recalls

In a total of 1,028 notices, 59 product warnings and 446 product recalls were communicated by AGES and the public was informed 523 times by notices in shops. On average, 103 product warnings and recalls were registered each year. Most public information was in 2018 with five warnings, 62 recalls, and 100 notices.

Food was recalled 260 times due to contamination with microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria or E. coli. Action was taken 214 times because the levels of mycotoxins, heavy metals or pesticides were too high compared to permitted maximum amounts.

On 188 occasions, foreign objects such as pieces of glass, plastic particles or metal pieces were the reason. A total of 83 product warnings and recalls were because of incorrect allergen labeling, of which almost a third was due to undeclared gluten.

Type of food recalled
Animal foods such as meat and meat products with 113 recalls and milk and milk products with 95 were among the foods that needed to be recalled most often. Grain products were involved in 104 recalls and fruit and vegetables in 74, mostly due to residues. Foreign bodies were most likely to be found in ready meals with 73 recalls.

Listeria mainly affected milk and milk products, but also meat and meat products and fish and fish products. Salmonella was found primarily in spices, but also in milk products, nuts, nut products and seeds, as well as eggs and egg products. E. coli was mainly the cause of public information notices in the meat product and milk product groups.

Mycotoxins as a reason for recall were found primarily in cereals and cereal products, but also in nuts, nut products and seeds. Bio-contaminants such as tropane alkaloids, hydrocyanic acid or pyrrolizidine alkaloids were mainly detected in cereals and baked goods.

Fipronil caused three egg product recalls, 1,3-dimethylamylamin (DMAA) one food supplement alert, horse meat, norovirus in fruit and vegetables and Cronobacter sakazakii in children’s food all caused two alerts.

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