What’s In a Food Recall?

If you are an avid reader of Today in Food, you know that we cover a countless number of recalls. These recalls range from everything to misbranding to contamination with pathogens. From small mom-and-pop shops to major food manufacturers and every operation in between, hundreds of companies recall food items each year to prevent customers from getting sick.

What is the most common cause for a food recall? According to Bloomberg BNA, undeclared allergens are the number one cause of food recalls. Since 2006, undeclared allergen recalls increased seven-fold. Meanwhile, recalls linked to foodborne pathogens were cut by more than half during the same time frame.

Those who follow the food industry regularly probably aren’t surprised by the results of the Bloomberg research project. Despite several high-profile cases regarding foodborne pathogens and illness (including Blue Bell Creameries’ Listeria outbreak, Peanut Corporation of America’s Salmonella outbreak and the recent Salmonella outbreak linked to Sprouts Extraordinaire) most recalls are connected to misbranding or undeclared allergens on the label.

However, just establishing a recall isn’t enough for all consumers. Or politicians, for that matter. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York is calling for major changes in the FDA’s food recall process. He argues the agency isn’t doing everything it can to prevent illnesses connected to contaminated foods, and was spurred on by a recent preliminary report from the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that noted FDA takes too long to initiate food recalls. This delay, the report argued, presents an unnecessary and preventable risk for consumers.

It’s unclear how much traction Sen. Schumer’s call to action will be, but one thing is clear: the flow of food recalls is unlikely to slow in the near future. To stay up to date with all of the latest food recalls affecting the industry, sign up for a subscription to Today in Food.