Food recalls reached a 2-year quarterly high in 2012, according to the ExpertRECALL Index documented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This activity represents an average rate of approximately six food recalls being documented every day in the fourth quarter, affecting some 18.4 million products, more than double the units affected in the previous quarter.
"Right before FDA's announcement of two major requirements proposed under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the agency documented 552 food recalls, representing a 33% increase over the previous quarter and reaching the highest level of recall activity in more than two years," says Mike Rozembajgier, vice president of recalls at Stericycle ExpertRECALL. "As the agency continues to shift its focus toward prevention rather than simply reacting to foodborne illness outbreaks, we can expect the FDA to pay more attention to what companies are doing to ensure our food is safe and prevent recalls from occurring. Companies with a recall plan that is ready are likely to best weather the impending storm of increased regulatory scrutiny."
Of the recalled food products announced during the fourth quarter, 94% fell within the Class I designation as the units could cause serious health consequences or death. One hundred sixty-five of those recalls were related to issues stemming from a plant processing nut products. Salmonella concerns were the No. 1 cause of food recalls followed by undeclared allergens or other allergen concerns.
"The fourth quarter increase in food recalls is due in large part to the many products affected by a single ingredient supplier, in this case a peanut butter supplier [referring to the string of Sunland Inc. recalls that started on Sept. 24, 2012]," says Joseph Levitt, a partner in the Hogan Lovells law firm and a former director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "This also reflects increased vigilance by both food companies and FDA to identify problems before people get sick and recall affected products promptly. Such vigilance will only increase as FDA moves to implement the new Food Safety Modernization Act."
The 2012 fourth quarter ExpertRECALL Index is the only report that aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the FDA. Stericycle ExpertRECALL compiles the ExpertRECALL Index from data issued by FDA and CPSC. The ExpertRECALL Index report is available online at http://www.expertrecall.com/recallindex.