Food recalls
Improved testing methods and tighter regulations are driving an increase in food recalls.

INDIANAPOLIS — Improved testing methods and tighter regulation led to double-digit increases in food recalls in the second quarter of this year, according to the latest report from Stericycle ExpertSolutions. F.D.A. recalled food units were more than 80 times higher than in the first quarter, and the U.S.D.A. recalled more than 45 times more pounds of product in that timeframe.

More accurate genome testing enables companies and regulators faster identification over a wider range of products, Stericycle said. As a result, F.D.A. contamination recalls alone jumped 167% from first quarter to second quarter, a level higher than in any quarter in 2014 or 2015.

Stricter regulations and more accurate testing methods provide food producers with both challenges and opportunities, according to the report. While recalls will be higher, manufacturers may improve their food safety, as well.

Kevin Pollack, Stericycle
Kevin Pollack, vice-president of Stericycle

“It’s not that there’s necessarily more contamination; it’s that the industry is getting better at detecting what’s there,” said Kevin Pollack, vice-president of Stericycle. “These recalls increased when genome testing gave companies and regulators better tools for detecting bacteria. In the past, they might not have known what was causing an outbreak, but now it’s easier to identify contamination causes and recall affected products to better protect consumers.”

Global food recalls also have risen, further complicating the execution of food recalls. Minor discrepancies, such as labeling errors, may trigger a recall over ingredient regulations that differ by jurisdiction.

“Disparities between U.S. and E.U. regulations are already having an impact on global food recalls, and it’s a trend we expect to continue,” Mr. Pollack said. “For example, companies have been forced to remove products from shelves in some European countries due to propylene glycol, which is ‘generally recognized as safe’ in the U.S. The long-term goal is to increase consumer safety. It's just that each jurisdiction has their own idea of how to reach that goal.”