The total number of “units” recalled under the authority of the FDA increased by 700 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, according to a recently released report.

The report, from the Sedgwick organization, quarterly collects and analyzes data and also compiles yearly totals. The organization uses data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The FDA oversees 80 percent of the country’s food supplies with the USDA responsible for the other 20 percent. In addition to food, the FDA oversees drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. The food side of the agency has a much smaller budget than the medical side.

Sedgwick reports that the number of Food and Drug Administration food recalls rose marginally at a rate of 2.2 percent from 414 recalls in 2021 to 423 recalls in 2022. However, the number of “units,” such as individual bags of salad or containers of infant formula, went up 700.6 percent. There were 52.1 million recalled units in 2021 with an average size of 125,796 units compared to 416.9 million units in 2022 with an average recall size of 985,658 units.

“A recall of infant formula that (was connected to) two deaths was the biggest story of the year in terms of food recalls,” states the report. 

“While it was not the largest recall by volume, it had lasting repercussions on the supply of formula for months and led to calls for reform in the industry and within the FDA itself. The bacteria that led to the recall of 14.89 million units of infant formula and the closing of major production facilities had been reported on eight separate instances between 2019-2022 at one of the facilities, but no further action seemed to have been taken by the FDA.

“The food industry faced another crisis when a major recall of peanut butter products impacted 21 different food items and led to the recall of 12.2 million units. However, the widespread damage was not as great as it was with the infant formula event.”

Recall activity under the FDA’s realm of responsibility has remained constant during the past three years with 418 recalls in 2020, 414 in 2021, and 423 in 2022.

Undeclared allergens were the leading cause of food recalls under the FDA jurisdiction at 43.5 percent of all food recalls. Undeclared allergens have been the leading cause of FDA recalls for the past five years, according to the agency. 

Prepared foods have been the dominant product category of food recall events since the first quarter of 2018. Baked goods and dairy products were once again tied for second, as they were in the third quarter, with 13 recalls. Produce was third with 12 recalls.

USDA jurisdiction
“Trends with the USDA data are very different than those seen with the FDA numbers,” according to the Sedgwick report. “Annual totals for recalls year-over-year are almost identical between 2021 and 2022, with 47 and 46 events respectively. However, there was an 87.0 percent drop in the number of pounds recalled, with 13.35 million in 2021 and only 1.73 million in 2022.”

The average recall size was 284,055 pounds in 2021 and only 37,611 pounds in 2022.

For USDA-regulated foods — which are meat, poultry, and processed egg products — the top reason for recalls was contamination with foreign materials, which was linked to five recalls. No inspection was cited as the reason for three recalls and an undeclared allergen, bacterial contamination, and other contamination each had one recall, according to Sedgwick.

By unit count, foreign material was also the top reason for recalls, with one recall accounting for 148,000 pounds of chicken. No inspection was second, linked to 33,911 pounds of recalled product across three different recalls.

About Sedgwick: The Sedgwick brand protection Recall Index is a leading resource for manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers looking for an unbiased, informed perspective on past, present, and future product safety trends and recall data. It reviews five product categories: Automotive, Consumer Products, Food, and Drink, Pharmaceuticals, and Medical Devices.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)