Food and beverage recalls down from fourth quarter

by Eric Schroeder
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INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration documented 316 food and beverage recalls in the first quarter of fiscal 2013, down from 552 in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to an ExpertRecall Index from Stericyle ExpertRecall. The first-quarter recalls affected 9.7 million items, which was nearly half of the number of the fourth quarter, when about 18.4 million items were affected.

In the first quarter of 2013, 133 companies initiated food and beverage recalls. Forty-nine of the companies faced more than one recall. One company was involved in 51 events, followed by another with 12 recalls and another with 9 recalls. Two companies each issued 8 recalls.

“It is not unusual for companies to face more than one recall at a time, driven largely by the fact that ingredients are used in more than one product,” said Mike Rozembajgier, vice-president of Stericycle ExpertRecall. “However, the ongoing trend of multiple product recalls can complicate the logistics of a recall, making it harder for companies to communicate to consumers and maintain trust in their brand.”

Also in the first quarter, one food and beverage recall affected between 1 million and 5 million units while two recalls affected between 500,000 and 1 million units. The remaining recalls affected fewer than 500,000 units, with 289 affecting less than 100,000 units.

Allergens were the single largest cause of food recalls during the first quarter, accounting for approximately 34% of recalls initiated. On average, allergens have been the first or second largest cause of food recalls in the past five quarters.

Foodborne illness concerns, specifically Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli, accounted for about 25% of the recalls. This was down from 65% in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012.

Foreign material in food products led to 13 recalls, which is significantly higher than the average of 2 recalls per quarter (due to foreign materials) from the previous 10 quarters.

For the first time, the index included data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tracks recalls of meat, poultry and egg products. According to the U.S.D.A., there were 25 recalls of meat, poultry or processed egg products in the first quarter, up slightly from the average number of events per quarter in fiscal 2012. First-quarter recalls affected 450,415 lbs of product, up from the first quarter of fiscal 2012 but down slightly from the first quarter of fiscal 2012, when one event affected 1,768,600 lbs of product.

The U.S.D.A. noted extraneous material was the single largest cause of recalls of meat, poultry and egg products in the first quarter with 7 events. Allergens were the second largest reason with 5 events.

“More than half of recalls due to extraneous material were due to traces of plastic found in products,” Stericycle said. “Despite best efforts at prevention, the threat of a foodborne recall still exists throughout companies’ supply chains. With increased media and government scrutiny, companies should prepare now in order to meet this threat head on. It’s the only way a company can effectively protect its consumers and its brand.”

Stericycle ExpertRecall, based in Indianapolis, offers recall logistics and regulatory compliance for consumer product, pharmaceutical, medical device, juvenile product and food and beverage recalls. The company’s ExpertRecall Index examines recall trends and issues that affect consumers and manufacturers.

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