Recalls in the second quarter 2019 remained flat across industries, but serious and deadly incidents were on the rise, an indication of lagging activity by regulatory agencies, according to the second quarter 2019 Recall Index released by Stericycle Expert Solutions, Indianapolis, Ind.

"The numbers in this index are just one data point in the product safety story. Over the last 6 months, regulators have been the target of consumer advocates, victims and even Congress," says Chris Harvey, director of recall solutions. "Perhaps the most obvious has been the criticism lodged at the Consumer Product Safety Commission for its handling of safety-related issues. Then there are the cries for the Food and Drug Administration to act quicker on CBD and cannabis while behind-the-scenes food safety inspections continue to lag."

"The warning to companies in this regulatory environment is 'don't become the poster child.' Regulators will be looking for ways to shift the spotlight to a bad actor and show they have control," Harvey adds. "So, when you learn about a potential safety issue, act quickly. Consumers will applaud you for doing the right thing."

Processed foods are no longer safer than fresh foods, according to the study. For the eighth consecutive quarter, undeclared allergens was the top cause of FDA food recalls at 48.4%. Foreign material was the top cause for FDA-recalled units. Among the FDA food categories impacted by recalls were prepared foods, supplements and baked goods.

"The more processed a product is, the higher the risk of contamination, adulteration, foreign material and undeclared allergens," says Harvey. "The good news is that technology has enabled us to find contaminants and adulterants we couldn't find before. The unfortunate news is that the testing and inspections that would catch these issues hasn't been fully utilized, particularly as FDA and USDA inspections lag."