According to Stericycle’s ExpertRecall Index released Feb. 19, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Enforcement Reports documented 134 food recalls in the fourth quarter 2013, down 47% from the third quarter of 2013. Despite this large dip in the number of events, there was an increase in complex, nationwide recalls during the last months of the year.
In addition to the geographic expansion, the amount of units recalled in the fourth quarter increased. There were more than 10.6 million units of recalled food, representing a 52% increase from the third quarter of 2013. Driving this trend were three large recall events of over one million units each, two of which were Class II recalls of nutritional/supplement products, a category which is receiving increasing attention from government agencies. Just 12% of recalls documented in the third quarter affected consumers nationwide but, in the fourth quarter, that figure more than doubled to 27%. This increase is particularly notable given that there were nearly 50% fewer recall events in the fourth quarter.
According to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) reports, there were 19 recalls of meat, poultry, or processed egg products in the fourth quarter. While the number of recalls may not be notable, pounds recalled in the fourth quarter nearly doubled when compared to data from the first quarter of 2013. The USDA recalled approximately 450,000 lbs of food in the first quarter of the year. By the fourth quarter that number grew to more than 860,000, largely driven by three recalls, representing a 91% increase in poundage.
In the fourth quarter, mislabeling factored among the top causes of USDA recalls for the first time in 2013, accounting for 16% of all reported events. Undeclared allergens were the cause of another 16%, and Listeria was behind an additional 21% of recalls.