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Food recall statistics

(Australia only)

(March 2017)

Why do we collect food recall data?

Data collected on food recalls can be used to identify common trends and problems occurring in the food industry. It can inform both government and industry on the most frequently occurring hazards so that steps can be taken to prevent further occurrences.

Classification of food recalls

Food recalls are classified by FSANZ under the following categories:

  • Microbial contamination
  • Labelling
  • Foreign matter
  • Chemical/other contaminants
  • Undeclared allergen/s
  • Packaging fault
  • Biotoxin
  • Tampering
  • Other

Food recall statistics (between 1 Jan 2007 – 31 Dec 2016)

Between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016, FSANZ was notified of 608 recalls. The average number of recalls per year for the last 10 years is 61 recalls per year. 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 2007 and 31 December 2016.

 

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 2007 and 31 December 2016.
 
 

 

Figure 2: Number of food recalls coordinated by FSANZ each year, shown by recall classification, between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016.

 

For the last ten years, the majority of recalls have been conducted due to undeclared allergens (205 recalls in total, or 34% of all recalls during this period), and due to microbial contamination (187 recalls in total, or approximately 31% of all recalls during this period).

Recalls due to microbial contamination have been the predominant reason for recall most years, however recalls due to undeclared allergens have increased during 2014-2016. Over the past 10 years the categories ‘other’, ‘chemical/contaminant’ and ‘tampering’ are consistently the least common reasons for initiating a food recall.

Undeclared allergen recalls


Figure 3: Breakdown of food recalls by allergen, as a proportion of all undeclared allergen recalls during the period 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016.

 

Undeclared allergens are the most common reason for food recalls in Australia with 205 recalls between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016 and an average of 20 recalls per year in this category. During the last 10 years, undeclared dairy (milk) has been the most common allergen related recall, accounting for 33% of all allergen related recalls. Peanut is the second most common type of allergen-related recalls, accounting for 18% in this category.

 

Figure 4: Breakdown of undeclared allergen recalls by food type, between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016.

During the last 10 years, the most common food type to be recalled due to undeclared allergens is processed food, accounting for 35% of all undeclared allergen recalls. Confectionery and baked goods were the second (15%) and third (13%) most common types of food recalled due to undeclared allergens. Other food types typically involved in undeclared allergen recalls include beverages, cereals, seafood, meat and poultry, nuts and sauces and other condiments (shown in Figure 4 above).

Microbial contamination

Figure 5: Microorganisms associated with microbial recalls from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016.

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: Type of food products recalled from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016 due to microbiological contamination.

Meats and dairy are recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination more frequently than other foods due to the importance the food industry and government place on ensuring this pathogen is not present in ready-to-eat foods and the extensive testing of food products for this bacterium.  

The Food Standards Code specifies limits for Listeria monocytogenes in certain foods in Standard 1.6.1 – Microbiological Limits for Food, including cooked and/or cured meats. Foods that pose the most risk for Listeria infection are ready-to-eat foods that support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes such as meat and dairy products and are stored at refrigeration temperatures for long periods, thereby enabling this Listeria to grow.

A wide range of foods are recalled due to Salmonella spp contamination, represented in Figure 6 above 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. Limits for Salmonella in certain foods are specified in Standard 1.6.1. 

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.

For more information on the microbiological limits, Standard 1.6.1 - Microbiological Limits for Food, can be accessed from the FSANZ website - Food Standards Code

Foreign matter

Figure 7: Breakdown of food recalls by foreign matter, as a proportion of all foreign matter recalls, during the period 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016.

Between 2007 and 2016, there were 112 recalls due to foreign matter. The most common types of foreign matter found in food were metal (33%), plastic (30%) and glass (24%).

Biotoxin


Figure 8: Types of biotoxin recalls between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016.

Recalls due to biotoxins occur less frequently, with the numbers of recalls over the past 10 years ranging between zero and 15 per year. The total number of recalls due to biotoxins between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016 was 36 recalls (see Table 1).  

Figure 8 indicates the biotoxins present in food recalled under this category. 51% of foods recalled under this category are due to paralytic shellfish toxin (found in oysters and mussels). The next most common biotoxin is hydrocyanic acid (naturally occurring cyanide found in tapioca chips and apricot kernels) at 20% of all biotoxin recalls.

Chemical and other contaminants

 

Figure 9: Types of chemical and other contaminants recalls between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016.

Recalls due to chemical and other contaminants occur less frequently, with the numbers of recalls over the past 10 years ranging between zero and 10 per year. The total number of recalls due to chemical and other contaminants between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016 was 26 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 23% of recalls.

Food categories associated with food recalls

 

Figure 10: Number of recalls by food category from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016

 

Figure 10 gives an indication of the types of foods most commonly associated with food recalls. The food categories listed in Figure 10 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. ‘Meat and meat products’ is the second largest food type associated with recalls. It includes a wide variety of meat products, mainly processed and, ready-to-eat sliced meats from the delicatessen, such as ham and salami.

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