With the most comprehensive worldwide recall tracking, Sedgwick is out with its statistics for 2023’s third quarter. While it covers all sorts of recalls by manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers, the food and drink sectors are reported here.

This includes the recall activity for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The Memphis-based Sedgwick tracks the number of recalls and how many units are impacted. Sedgwick is in the recall business, managing more than 7,000 sensitive and time-critical product recalls for its clients.

The total number of FDA food recalls fell by 14.4 percent in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. The number of units decreased even more, falling from 114.06 million units in the second quarter to 40.20 million in the third quarter (Q3), a decline of 64.8 percent. Unsurprisingly, the average recall size was smaller, dropping by 58.8 percent to 306,883 in Q3.

Sedgwick sees U.S. recalls on track for a 5-year high. There was a decline among all products for Q3 of 2023; 13.6 percent fewer products were recalled during Q3 compared to the previous period. It remains to be seen if this year will be the third consecutive with recalls totaling one billion units.

Recalls fell for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during Q3, but those under USDA rose. Sedgwick reported that the FDA continues to look for ways “to move forward from the 2022 infant formula crisis as it advances the proposed restructuring of its Human Food Program.”  It says  industry stakeholders “may face some bumps with the process as the FDA shifts  responsibilities to the new office.”

The FDA issued 26 food and drink recalls in October 2023, down 40.9 percent from the Q3 2022 monthly average of 44 events. The number of units recalled in October dropped to only 503,120 units compared to the Q3 monthly average of 13.40 million.

Undeclared allergens remained the leading cause of FDA food recalls, with 13 events in October 2023, including four recalls for undeclared sesame.

Bacterial contamination was the second-leading cause with five events, followed by foreign materials with two events. Mold was the leading cause of FDA food recalls by volume, accounting for 154,554 units in October 2023, followed closely by undeclared allergens, impacting 152,783 units.

There were five FDA food recalls, each involving more than 1 million units. This compares to Q2 2023, which saw six recalls of 2.4 million units or more, including one that involved 59.89 million units. In addition, 121 unique companies had product recalls in Q3 2023. Of those, 10 had two recalls, which was the most for any company this quarter.

There were 52 recalls for undeclared allergens, making it the leading cause of U.S. food recalls for all but one quarter since Q2 2017. There were six recalls involving undeclared sesame, which affected 12,985 units. Bacterial contamination was a distant second regarding events, with 24 recalls in Q3. It also had the second-highest number of units recalled, with 7.97 million.

Units outside of specifications drove the highest volume of FDA recalls in Q3, accounting for 14.95 million units. Almost all of these were tied to a single recall of natural spring water for excessive levels of bromate (14.93 million units).

Prepared foods were the top recall product category in Q3 2023 in terms of events, with 31 recall events. Produce was the second-highest category with 25, and dairy was third with 16.

In terms of units impacted, beverages had the most with 60 15.04 million units, fueled mainly by the spring water recall. Dairy was second, with 11.08 million units affected, and flavorings was third, with 7.14 units involved in recalls.

There were fewer Class I and II recall events in Q3 2023 compared to Q2 2023, with 38 and 74, respectively. In contrast, 20 units involved in Class I recalls jumped by 409.4 percent to 12.73 million.

The changes with Class III recalls were 10 even more significant. While there were only two more recalls in Q3 (increasing from 17 to 19 events quarter-over-quarter), there were 22.27 million units impacted, the highest number in this class in the past 13 years. That figure represents an increase of 698.0 percent compared to the 2.79 million Class III units impacted last quarter.

USDA food recalls is the only category across all the industries that increased from Q2 to Q3 regarding recall events and impacted units.  There were 18 USDA recalls in Q3 2023, up from 17 in Q2 2023. The number of units rose to 467,811 pounds, an increase of 27.9 percent.

The top reason for USDA recalls by the event was no inspection and misbranding/ undeclared allergens, with five events each. Ineligible to export, no import re-inspection, foreign materials, and bacterial contamination were each cited as the reason for two recalls.

Foreign materials were the leading cause of recalls by unit count, impacting 261,242 pounds. No inspection was second, linked to 99,468 pounds of product recalled. Poultry was responsible for the most units recalled by product category in Q3 2023, with 255,877 pounds. Multiple meats were second, with 103,500 pounds recalled.

Regarding events, multiple meats were the top product category with seven recalls. Pork was second with five events and beef had four. Poultry was only involved in two USDA recalls in Q3 2023 despite being responsible for the most units.

Some 2023 insight
In October 2023, the USDA issued nine recalls, up from the Q3 2023 monthly average of six. However, the number of pounds recalled fell to 76,722 pounds compared to the Q3 monthly average of 155,937 pounds, a 50.8 percent reduction.

No inspection was the top reason for USDA recalls in October 2023, with three events. Bacterial contamination and ineligible to export were cited in two recalls each. No import re-inspection and misbranding/undeclared allergens were cited in one event apiece. Regarding the product category, pork had four recalls, multiple meats had three, and beef and poultry each had one.

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