Why do we collect food recall data?
FSANZ has collected data on Australian food recalls since 1990. This data can be used to identify trends and common problems occurring in the food industry, so that steps can be taken to prevent future issues. These statistics are updated annually.
Classification of food recalls
Food recalls are classified by FSANZ under the following categories:
- Microbial contamination
- Foreign matter
- Chemical/other contaminants
- Undeclared allergen
Food recall statistics (between 1 Jan 2009 – 31 Dec 2018)
Between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018, FSANZ coordinated 675 recalls. The average number of recalls per year for the last 10 years is 67. See Figure 1 below for the number of recalls coordinated each year.
Figure 1: The number of recalls coordinated by FSANZ each year between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018.
The table below shows the number of recalls by year and recall classification over the last 10 years.
Table 1: Number of recalls coordinated by FSANZ, by year and classification, between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018.
Figure 2: Number of food recalls coordinated by FSANZ each year, shown by recall classification, between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018.
For the last 10 years, most recalls have been due to undeclared allergens (266 recalls or 39% of all recalls during this period), and microbial contamination (179 recalls or approximately 27% of all recalls during this period). Recalls due to undeclared allergens have increased and since 2013 have consistently been the main reason for recall. The categories 'other', 'chemical/contaminant' and 'tampering' are consistently the least common reasons for recall.
In 2016, FSANZ introduced additional post recall report questions to determine the root cause of undeclared allergen recalls. For more information on the root cause, problem detection and corrective actions of undeclared allergen recalls, visit our undeclared allergen annual statistics page.
Figure 3: Food recalls by allergen, as a proportion of all undeclared allergen recalls during the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2018.
During the last 10 years, undeclared milk has been the most common allergen related recall, accounting for 30% of all allergen related recalls. Peanut is the second most common type of allergen-related recall, accounting for 18% in this category. Sixteen percent of recalls contained multiple undeclared allergens.
Figure 4: Undeclared allergen recalls by food type, between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018.
During the last 10 years, the most common food type to be recalled due to undeclared allergens is processed food, accounting for 34% of all undeclared allergen recalls. Confectionery was the second (39%) and baked goods third (32%) most common type of food recalled due to undeclared allergens. Other food types involved in undeclared allergen recalls include cereals, seafood, meat and poultry, nuts and sauces and other condiments (shown in Figure 4 above).
There has only been one tampering recall during the last 10 years. In September 2018, a trade level recall was coordinated for strawberries contaminated with needles. FSANZ, on behalf of the Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt MP, prepared a report following the incident. This request was '…to investigate whether there are supply chain weaknesses, whether there are actions we can take to assist the police, whether there are systemic changes which are required'.
View the Strawberry Tampering Incident report.
Figure 5: Microorganisms associated with microbial recalls from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2018.
Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli are the three microorganisms most commonly associated with microbial food recalls in Australia, as shown in Figure 5 above.
Figure 6: Food products recalled from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2018 due to microbiological contamination.
Meats and dairy products are the main food groups recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. This is due to the importance the food industry and government place on Listeria management in these sectors and the extensive testing done of food products to monitor this.
A wide range of foods are recalled due to Salmonella spp. contamination, represented in Figure 6. Fruits, vegetables and herbs were the most commonly recalled category followed by the 'other' category. Foods captured by this category include tahini, dips, seafood, spices, confectionery and meal-replacement shakes. 'Fruits, vegetables and herbs' recalled due to Salmonella were mainly lettuce, sprouts, rockmelon, fresh parsley and dried herbs.
Dairy products are more commonly recalled due to concerns with process hygiene, indicated through E. coli testing, than other categories of food. Other products commonly recalled for E. coli include fresh sprouts, salads and some processed meat products.
Figure 7: Foreign matter recalls, as a proportion of all foreign matter recalls, during the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2018.
Between 2009 and 2018, there were 108 recalls due to foreign matter. The most common types of foreign matter found in food were metal (38%), plastic (28%) and glass (23%).
Figure 8: Biotoxin recalls, as a proportion of all biotoxin recalls between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018.
Recalls due to biotoxins occur periodically, with the numbers of recalls over the past 10 years ranging between one and 15 per year. In 2015, 14 recalls were due to shellfish contaminated with Paralytic Shellfish Toxin. The total number of recalls due to biotoxins between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018 was 40 recalls (see Table 1).
Figure 8 indicates the biotoxins present in food recalled under this category. Paralytic shellfish toxin (found in oysters and mussels) accounts for 61% of foods recalled. The next most common biotoxin is hydrocyanic acid (naturally occurring cyanide found in tapioca chips and apricot kernels), accounting for 15% of all biotoxin recalls.
Chemical and other contaminants
Figure 9: Chemical and other contaminants recalls, as a proportion of all chemical and other contaminant recalls between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018.
Recalls due to chemical and other contaminants are less common, with most years over the past 10 years recording 1 or less recalls for this reason. In 2010, there were 10 recalls for chemical contamination. Five of the recalls were for weight loss products containing the prescription only medication sibutramine. The total number of recalls due to chemical and other contaminants between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018 was 22 recalls (see Table 1).
Figure 9 shows the types of chemical and other contaminants present in food recalled under this category. Pharmaceutical ingredients not permitted in food and cleaning and sanitising agent contamination each accounted for 27% and 23% of recalls respectively.
Food categories associated with food recalls
Figure 10: Number of recalls by food category from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2018.
Figure 10 shows the types of foods most commonly associated with food recalls. The food categories have been developed by FSANZ to aid reporting requirements and data collection. The food type most commonly associated with a recall is 'Mixed and/or Processed Food'. This is likely due to the wide range of foods that are categorised under this heading, including most long-life packaged food and manufactured items that contain multiple ingredients. 'Dairy products' is the second largest food type associated with recalls. It includes a wide variety of dairy products including cheese, cream, dairy desserts, dried milk powder, ice-cream and milk drinks.