The rise in contamination recalls, driven by advancements in testing and increased regulatory scrutiny, has received a lot of attention in recent months. It’s easy to forget the prevalence of other causes of food recalls, including undeclared allergens.
In fact, the number of recalls due to undeclared allergens increased each quarter in 2016, rising from 40 in Q1 to 105 in Q4. While these recalls make up a smaller proportion of recall activity compared to contamination, their share was fairly consistent throughout 2016. Percentages fluctuated only a few percent throughout the year, making up 44.4 percent of recalls in Q1, 43.3 percent in Q2, 39.3 percent in Q3, and 42.7% in Q4.
An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies, and contact with them can be fatal, which is why the Food and Drug Administration often classifies these recalls as Class I. However, if the recall involves only wheat or there are other mitigating circumstances, it is typically considered Class II.
In recent years hundreds of these recalls have been caused by the “multiplier effect,” where an issue with a supplier causes a ripple effect throughout the industry. The steps companies need to take after a potential undeclared allergen is found are not all that different from those that follow a contamination recall. To protect consumers and their brands, companies must prepare – and be ready to respond immediately.
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