Almost half of food recalls in Australia in 2022 were because of undeclared allergens but the amount declined from the previous year.

Data released by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) shows there were 75 recalls in the past year with 29 because of allergens. Other common reasons were microbial contamination and foreign matter. The overall figure is down slightly from 80 recalls in 2021.

The number of recalls because of undeclared allergens fell from 38 in 2021. Microbial-related recalls stayed almost the same while chemical contaminant and foreign matter recalls doubled.

FSANZ coordinates food recalls nationally, with the help of state enforcement agencies and businesses to get unsafe products off sale. Publishing annual data helps to identify trends and common issues in the industry and with ways to prevent future incidents, said the agency.

Most recalls are precautionary and led by businesses to ensure that potentially unsafe food is removed from distribution and sale. However, some are linked to a suspected or confirmed illness or injury. 

There are consumer and trade recalls. A trade recall is conducted when food has not been available for direct purchase by the public, such as food sold to wholesalers and caterers. A consumer recall is when it has been on retail sale.

The majority of allergen recalls were prompted by a consumer complaint or routine testing by the company.

Most recalls were due to supplier verification issues, for example, a raw ingredient contained an allergen but this information was not passed on to the manufacturer. Some were caused by packaging issues such as the wrong packaging or an incorrect ingredients list.

Trends over the years
FSANZ did not provide 2022 data on what allergen caused recalls but between 2013 and 2022 the most common ones were milk, multiple allergens, and peanut.

The main food type associated with recalls because of allergens was mixed and/or processed food. This group includes snack foods, custard powders, and frozen meals. 

For microbial contamination from 2013 to 2022, the top pathogens were Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and E. coli.

The most common types of foreign bodies were plastic, metal, and glass. The top chemical contaminants were classified as “other,” which includes ethylene oxide and pesticide residues, and cleaning or sanitizing agents. 

FSANZ is also taking part in the University of Western Sydney’s World Food Safety Day Symposium on June 7. The event will include speakers from academia, food safety agencies, and industry. FSANZ will present the role of food standards in ensuring the supply of safe food. 

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