INDIANAPOLIS — An increase in nationwide recalls in the fourth quarter of 2013 led to a 52% bump in the number of food units recalled by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the Stericycle ExpertRecall Index released Feb. 19. More than 10.6 million units of food recalled in the fourth quarter compared with 6.9 million units in the third quarter.
While the number of food units recalled rose, the 134 food recalls documented from F.D.A. enforcement reports in the fourth quarter was down 47% from the third quarter. The food recalls in the fourth quarter tended to include more food units and to affect more people. In the fourth quarter 27% of documented recalls affected consumers nationwide compared with 12% in the third quarter. Three recall events in the fourth quarter each involved more than 1 million food units.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, reported 19 recalls of meat, poultry or processed egg products in the fourth quarter, according to the Stericycle ExpertRecall Index. The U.S.D.A. recalled about 860,000 lbs of food in the fourth quarter, which compared with 450,000 lbs in the first quarter.
According to the U.S.D.A., causes for fourth-quarter recalls included Listeria Monocytogenes (21%), mislabeled (16%), undeclared allergen (16%), E. Coli 0157:H7 (11%), no inspection (11%), extraneous material (5%), Salmonella (5%), processing deviation (5%), Staphylococcus Aureus Enterotoxin (5%) and transportation deviation (5%).
Stericycle ExpertRecall, Indianapolis, manages recalls for consumer products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and juvenile products as well as foods and beverages. The ExpertRecall Index aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the F.D.A. and the U.S.D.A.
While the overall number of recalls regulated by the F.D.A. decreased in the fourth quarter, the drop masked an increase in complexity and geographic reach, according to Stericycle ExpertRecall. For example, 35% of pharmaceutical, medical device and food recalls affected at least two countries.
Also in the fourth quarter, the U.S. government shut down for two weeks in October.“The industry experienced the fewest recalls reported in the last year and half during that month, suggesting that changes to the political climate can further complicate recall management,” said Kevin Pollack, vice-president of recalls for ExpertRecall.