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Undeclared allergens top US food recalls in Q2

By Joe Whitworth+

22-Aug-2013

Eggs are one the "Big 8" allergens
Eggs are one the "Big 8" allergens

Undeclared allergens continued to be a top trend for US agencies dealing with food recalls, according to the ExpertRECALL Index.

They were the single largest cause in the second quarter with 11 recalls, followed by extraneous materials and listeria, with two recalls each from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Allergens were the single largest cause of food recalls, composing 60% in the second quarter, up from 34% in the first quarter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Undeclared allergens have consistently been a top trend for USDA and FDA recalls for the last six quarters.

Allergen focus

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently recognized that proper labeling and declaring key allergens is directly related to food safety and needs priority from inspectors.

In the past, FSIS encouraged its inspection personnel to focus on food safety rather than other protection requirements.

The FSIS reports its list of “Big 8” allergens – wheat, crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts and soybeans – account for 90% of all food allergy reactions.

Mike Rozembajgier, vice president of recalls at Stericycle ExpertRECALL, the firm behind the index, said it is vital that the food industry realizes the importance of labeling.

“Labels are a trust point for consumers. All the information has to be true and accurate,” he told FoodQualityNews.com.  

“Operational procedures, cross contact, screening tests and quality checks need to be done at least several times a year, depending on volumes which play a part, to get a handle on your methods and to practice and prepare for an inspection.

“Food [recalls are] down but it varies from quarter to quarter depending on the marketplace, it ebbs and flows. With recalls we need to see if it is a one off or part of a broader trend to focus on prevention and not reaction.”

Range of recalls

There were 17 recalls of meat, poultry, or processed egg products in the Q2 according to USDA reports.

The FDA figures show that foreign material in food products caused 13 recalls, which is higher than the historical average.

Stericycle ExpertRECALL streamlines the product recall process for manufacturers and retailers to help protect their brand by managing notifications and response, processing and tracking, and compliance and reporting.

“We are seeing more manufacturers look at the social media angle, communication is so important and it needs to be done clearly and swiftly, which is why social media is a tremendous tool,” Rozembajgier added.

“Misinformation can cause more harm than good, so it needs to be monitored as the recall is occurring so you can make the appropriate changes.”

USDA said foodborne pathogens decreased from nine recalls last quarter to three recalls, down 66%.

FDA figures showed that foodborne illness remains a top concern, as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli accounted for nearly one in every four recalls initiated during the second quarter but this is down from 65% in the first quarter of 2013.

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