Recently, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) proposed new food safety standards that are aimed at reducing common bacterial causes of food illness in chicken and turkey products. According to the USDA every year over 1 million Americans get sick from Salmonella bacteria found in their food. The USDA hopes the new regulations will help prevent 28 percent of illnesses caused by Salmonella and Listeria each year.
The USDA’s concern over food safety is not unfounded. According to the agency’s annual data, the number of meat and poultry recalls has generally increased over the past decade and the most serious recalls, ones in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death; continue to make up the majority of yearly recalls.
In 2014 the USDA, in conjunction with manufacturers, issued 94 recalls, a 25 percent increase from the 75 recalls issued in 2013. The increase in recalls is especially interesting considering that a new “test and hold” policy was implemented by the USDA in late 2012. The policy requires facilities to hold product until microbiological testing determines it’s safe to release into commerce. Even with the increased regulation, meat and poultry recalls increased in the two years following its implementation.
The USDA yearly numbers show clear patterns in the reasons meat and poultry are recalled. Of the 94 recalls issued in 2014, almost half (43) were recalled because their labels did not clearly declare the product contained a known allergen. These undeclared allergens are typically peanut, soy and milk products.
The largest meat and poultry event of 2014 involved a recall in which 8.7 million pounds of beef were recalled because the meat was not inspected. The second largest event involved 1.8 million pounds of ground beef that were recalled due to an E. coli contamination.
The reasons behind the 94 recalls issued in 2014 are as follows:
• 43 due to undeclared allergens
• 23 for “other” reasons, like failing to present for inspection or labeling issues
• 16 due to pathogen contamination, specifically Listeria, Salmonella or E. coli
• 6 for extraneous material found in the food
• 4 due to processing defects
• 2 due to undeclared substances in the food
As the USDA trend of increasing recalls continues, it’s important manufacturers and retailers have a clear plan in place in the event a recall is needed for any reason. Without the appropriate plan and expertise in product retrieval, consumer notification, recall response, and in complying with regulatory agencies, a recall event can cause irreparable brand damage.
To find out more about recall plans or prevention strategies, click here.
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