The number of food and beverage recalls in Europe went up in the first few months of 2023, according to an analysis.

Data comes from Sedgwick brand protection’s latest European product recall report and is based on information from the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

A 2.9 percent increase in food and beverage recalls, up to 1,154 in Q1 2023, from January to March was recorded. This means the figure is above the 5-year quarterly average of 1,034 recalls.

Recalls for specific unauthorized ingredients increased. For example, products containing cannabidiol (CBD), an active ingredient in cannabis, rose from 11 in Q4 2022 to 24 in Q1 2023.

Figures for the first quarter of 2023 in the United States can be found here.

Reasons for European Recalls

Contamination – non-bacterial was the leading cause of European food recalls with 486.

The most common contaminant was aflatoxins, which were linked to 89 recalls this quarter. This represents an increase from 73 recalls in Q4. Second was chlorpyrifos, which was cited 62 times. Third was pesticides with 30 recalls.

Bacterial contamination was second with 233 recalls followed by undeclared allergens and foreign bodies, both responsible for under 100 recalls. Of recalls for bacterial contamination, 175 were for Salmonella, 29 for Listeria, and five were for both pathogens.

Fruits and vegetables remained the product category with the most recalls with 187 in Q1 2023. It has been the leading category for nine consecutive quarters. Nuts, nut products, and seeds were the second-most impacted category with 126 recalls, slightly higher than 116 last quarter.

Dietetic foods, food supplements, and fortified foods were the third-highest product category with 109. There were 39 recalls for bivalves, mollusks, and related products, most of which were linked to an outbreak of norovirus contamination in oysters.

Recalls by notifying countries saw Germany top the list, followed by the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Italy.

Chris Occleshaw, an international product recall consultant at Sedgwick, said food and beverage companies in the European market are facing increased scrutiny from regulators and consumers.

“Food safety remains a priority for regulators, as evidenced by the continued increase in the number of recalls in Q1 2023. However, regulators are paying attention to every aspect of a company’s operations, from its recordkeeping and packaging to its labeling and marketing claims. Companies must re-evaluate their risk management processes to ensure they are adequate for current challenges facing the industry,” he said.

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