The number of recalls in Finland fell in 2022, according to figures released by the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto).

Products were withdrawn from the market 288 times due to potential microbiological contamination, pesticide residues, and undeclared allergens. The amount was 309 in 2021.

It is the first decline in several years and was at least in part due to fewer recalls related to ethylene oxide compared to the previous year. In 2021 there were 72 recalls due to ethylene oxide compared to 14 in 2022.

Reasons for recalls

The number of recalls due to microbial reasons went up from 49 to 59 in 2022. Salmonella was found in 18 cases in different foods, such as meat and fish products, fresh herbs, and spices. There were 10 recalls due to Listeria in products or detected at the production facility.

There were 35 recalls due to an allergen error. Sulfites, gluten, and milk were the most frequent causes.

Of the recalled food and food contact materials, 32 percent originated from another European country and 48 percent from outside the EU. The remaining 20 percent of cases were foodstuffs produced in Finland.

Recalls due to pesticide residues increased by 48 percent from the previous year. Fruits, vegetables or other foods were withdrawn from the market 49 times. In nine notices, rice was involved. Reasons for action included the level of a substance being too high or its use being prohibited.

In 21 cases, items contained an additive that is not allowed, or the amount of the additive in the food exceeded the maximum permitted amount. Foreign body contamination resulted in 19 recalls. Errors in packaging labeling, such as the wrong date or missing information in Finnish, caused 16 recalls.

In 2022, 108 recalls were taken based on information received through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). Targeted risk-based sampling by Tulli (Finnish Customs) led to 48 recalls this past year. In 27 cases, the problem was a pesticide residue found in the product.

For 38 cases in 2022, the issue that prompted a recall was detected during the company’s self-monitoring.

Results from the produce study

The Finnish Food Authority has also published findings from a project that looked at the prevalence of pathogens in pre-packaged ready-to-eat leafy vegetables, salad mixes, and fresh herbs.

A total of 259 samples were tested for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus thuringiensis. E. coli was tested for as a hygiene indicator.

STEC was found in one of 250 samples analyzed and EPEC was detected four times. The number of bacteria in the Bacillus cereus group was 10,000 colony-forming units per gram (cfu/g) or more in 16 samples. In further studies, Bacillus thuringiensis was found in 12 analyzed samples. In 231 samples, the concentration of E. coli was under 10 cfu/g.

“Based on the project results, the occurrence of STEC and EPEC bacteria in pre-packaged leafy vegetables is low. However, it is possible that leafy vegetables are a source of STEC and especially EPEC infections of humans. In general, the concentrations of E. coli in pre-packaged leafy vegetables are low. In the project, Bacillus thuringiensis was often found in samples with high concentrations of bacteria from the Bacillus cereus group,” said the report.

Lastly, a flood control project in Finland has found dozens of companies operating in the sector, of which local authorities had no or little information.

As part of the project, 60 more businesses were added to the supervision registers of local food control authorities. Information was obtained with the help of agencies such as the Finnish Tax Administration and regional food control units.

Companies from different sectors had been left out of control, such as food importers and packing companies as well as wholesale and online sellers. Often it was a site where foodstuffs are marketed and sold, but not physically processed.

Many firms were not aware of the requirement to register. Rules state that operators must submit a registration notification or an application for approval of activities to food control authorities. For failing to do this, food companies can be fined.

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