FDA enforcement reports documented 134 food recalls in Q4 down 47% from Q3 2013.
Just 12% of recalls in the third quarter affected consumers nationwide but in Q4 that figure jumped to 27%.
The increase is notable given that there were nearly 50% fewer recall events in the fourth quarter.
Recall management complexity
ExpertRECALL said that the complexities of recall management cannot be measured just by events, citing geographic reach, the amount of affected units and changes in the political climate as other factors.
Kevin Pollack, vice president of recalls at ExpertRECALL, told FoodQualityNews.com that manufacturers need to be prepared with a good plan, as events are getting wider and not just hope it doesn’t happen to them.
“[Food manufacturers] need to move through their supply chain, ensure they know their sources and identify and isolate potential problems by lot number and identifying any affected supply.
“After that they need to put out a notification through the supply chain, to distributors and retailers to make the consumer aware.
“Challenges are the different dispositions, as fresh food goes into waste stream but other foods may have a longer shelf life or be higher value products.”
Allergens represented 42% of the food recalled in Q4 2013 due to a combination of contamination or labelling issues.
Pollack said industry was keenly aware of the issue but it is complex to manage despite steps that are being taken.
Food units increase
There were over 10.6 million units of recalled food representing a 52% increase from Q3 2013.
More than double the unit of food was recalled by the FDA in the previous quarter, according to the index.
Driving this was three large recalls of over one million units each, two of which were Class II recalls of nutritional/supplement products.
Pollack said with a big supplier of a standardised product it is easier to manage quality in the supply chain but if there problem the effect is then bigger.
“From Q2 to Q4 the units almost tripled, which speaks to the growing complexity and the need to manage effects of a recall," he said.
“The number of recalls fluctuates, it is the normal process, it is only a trend if it is a consistent increase or decrease then we can call it out and see what is underneath.
“If there is a recall food manufacturers must act on their recall plan as quick as possible and get through the event and get back to selling good product.”
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported 19 recalls in Q4 but the amount of pounds recalled nearly doubled when compared to the first months of 2013.
During Q1 2013, 450,000 pounds of food were recalled but, by the fourth quarter, that number surged to 860,000.
This represents a 91% increase in poundage and demonstrates the challenges of recall management.
Mislabeling factored among the top causes of USDA recalls for the first time in 2013, accounting for 16%. Undeclared allergens were the cause of 16%, and Listeria was behind 21% of recalls.