For five years the Stericycle Recall Index has been tracking product recalls in the United States. With numbers for the fourth quarter of 2017 in, the food and beverage category shows the largest increase in recalls since 2012.
“The food and beverage industry experienced the most dramatic spike in units recalled over the past five years,” according to the report released today.
“Food products recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration skyrocketed 92.7 percent since 2012, and recalled pounds regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which largely oversees meat production, jumped 83.4 percent in the same period.”
Bacterial contamination, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, was the most consistent culprit, and it worsened over the years. About 28 percent of FDA food recalls were for bacterial contamination in 2012. By the end of 2017 that number had grown to 31.3 percent.
Undeclared allergens were the top cause of recalled pounds of food by the USDA in 2012 at 35.4 percent. That number increased to 41.2 percent during the past five years.
Bacterial contamination and undeclared allergens continued to be the main causes of food recalls in Q4 of 2017. Of all the food and beverage recalls in the last quarter of 2017, 44 percent were for bacterial contamination and 30.8 percent were for undeclared allergens.
However, FDA recalls declined 5 percent to 150 in the last quarter of 2017 — the lowest since Q1 of 2016. And while the number of USDA recalls increased slightly in the 2017’s Q4, the volume of recalled pounds dropped 92 percent to the lowest since Q3 of 2013.
Major drivers behind the increases in recalls include technological improvements in food testing, factory farming and growing automation in food production, Stericycle reported.
The big picture
In addition to food and beverage recalls, Stericycle Expert Solutions also tracks recalls of medical equipment, automotive, pharmaceutical and consumer goods.
Overall, recalls for all products covered by the index increased by 33 percent in the five years since Stericycle began tracking the data. From 2012 through 2017, the biggest year for recalls overall was 2016, with Stericycle reporting a total of 3438 recalls that year.
An improving economy, globalization, and growing consumer awareness are some of the contributing factors for increased recalled units, Stericycle reported today.
“One thing didn’t change over the past five years: Consumers, manufacturers, regulators, and lawmakers remain concerned about the safety of products,” Stericycle Vice President Mike Good said today in a news release marking the fifth anniversary of the recall index.
“What has changed is the public is paying more attention to the recall process and how effectively brands manage product recalls and notifications.”