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Food recall statistics

(Australia only)

(March 2018)

Why do we collect food recall data?

FSANZ has collected data on Australian food recalls since 1990, including the causes of all recalls and their domestic or overseas origins. 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 each year.

Classification of food recalls

Food recalls are classified by FSANZ under the following categories: 

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

Food recall statistics (between 1 Jan 2008 – 31 Dec 2017)​

Between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2017, FSANZ coordinated 626 recalls. The average number of recalls per year for the last 10 years is 63 r. 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 2008 and 31 December 2017.

 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 2008 and 31 December 2017.
 
 

Figure 2: Number of food recalls coordinated by FSANZ each year, shown by recall classification, between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2017.

 

For the last 10 years, most recalls have been due to undeclared allergens (230 recalls or 37% of all recalls during this period), and microbial contamination (174 recalls or approximately 28% 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. 

Undeclared allergen recalls


Figure 3: Breakdown of food recalls by allergen, as a proportion of all undeclared allergen recalls during the period 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2017.


During the last 10 years, undeclared dairy (milk) has been the most common allergen related recall, accounting for 31% of all allergen related recalls. Peanut is the second most common type of allergen-related recalls, accounting for 20% in this category. 

 

Figure 4: Breakdown of undeclared allergen recalls by food type, between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2017.

During the last 10 years, the most common food type to be recalled due to undeclared allergens is processed food, accounting for 33% of all undeclared allergen recalls. Confectionery was the second (15%) and baked goods and beverages  equal third (11%) most common types 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).

Microbial contamination

 

Figure 5: Microorganisms associated with microbial recalls from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2017.

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 2008 to 31 December 2017 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 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. 

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.

Foreign matter

 

Figure 7: Breakdown of food recalls by foreign matter, as a proportion of all foreign matter recalls, during the period 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2017.

Between 2008 and 2017, there were 108 recalls due to foreign matter. The most common types of foreign matter found in food were metal (33%), plastic (29%) and glass (24%). 

Biotoxin


Figure 8: Types of biotoxin recalls between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2017.

Recalls due to biotoxins occur periodically, with the numbers of recalls over the past 10 years ranging between zero 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 2008 and 31 December 2017 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 56% of foods recalled under this category. The next most common biotoxin is hydrocyanic acid (naturally occurring cyanide found in tapioca chips and apricot kernels), accounting for18% of all biotoxin recalls. 

Chemical and other contaminants

 

Figure 9: Types of chemical and other contaminants recalls between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2017.

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 2008 and 31 December 2017 was 24 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 25% and 21% of recalls respectively.

Food categories associated with food recalls

 

Figure 10: Number of recalls by food category from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2017

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. ‘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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