Almost 400 product recalls and warnings were issued in Belgium in 2022, which is down from the year before.
If a product has reached the market and consumption poses a risk, companies must inform consumers. This happened 394 times in 2022 compared to 492 occasions in 2021, said the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC).
More than 8 out of 10 product recalls in 2022 were caused by the detection of a chemical or microbiological risk.
In 2022, 289 products were recalled from consumers. This decrease of 98 recalls was directly linked to the problem of ethylene oxide which was largely resolved in 2022. However, recalls are still occurring in 2023, mostly in France but also in Germany and the Netherlands.
In 2021, 55 percent of recalls in Belgium were linked to the presence of ethylene oxide, which is not authorized in Europe. This percentage fell to 13 percent in 2022.
In September 2020, ethylene oxide was detected in sesame seeds from India. The substance was later found in other raw materials such as herbs, spices, and locust bean gum, a type of thickening agent used in ice cream and other foods.
In the summer of 2021, European countries moved from zero tolerance to a fine-tuned approach for products containing the substance. When ethylene oxide is found in a raw material, companies have to check whether it will also be in the final product. Only final products containing ethylene oxide above the limit are recalled from consumers.
Other reasons for warnings
The potential presence of a bacterium like Listeria, Salmonella, or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was behind a quarter of product recalls in 2022.
Nearly 6 in 10 recalls were carried out following the detection, by companies or authorities, of a chemical risk, such as too high a content of a pesticide residue or the presence of an unauthorized additive.
A total of 41 recalls were due to contamination by foreign bodies such as pieces of metal or glass.
For each product recall, a poster is put up in stores, and details are published on FASFC’s website and via its social media. The objective is to inform consumers who could have purchased the affected product.
In 2022, as in 2021, 105 allergy alerts had to be issued. The vast majority were concerned about the absence of information on one or more allergens on the packaging.
Companies must report any issues that may impact other companies or the consumer to FASFC. In 2022, the agency received 1,342 notifications from companies, which was a decrease from 1,557 in 2021. For each notification of a potential problem, FASFC investigates and may find it necessary to ask a company to issue a product recall or warning.
The number of alerts involving Belgium in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) continued to rise, reaching 749 in 2022.
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