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Australian food recall statistics

Page last updated April 2024

FSANZ collects data on Australian food recalls to identify trends and common issues in the food industry and help find ways to prevent future incidents. The volume of food recalled represents a very small proportion of the total amount of food available in the Australian market. Most food recalls are taken as a precautionary measure and are initiated by the food businesses to ensure that potentially unsafe food is removed from distribution and sale. Only a small number of food recalls are linked to reported cases of illness/injury. The following is an analysis of the food recall data. FSANZ updates these statistics annually. 


Decade in review: Food recalls over the past 10 years 

From 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2023, FSANZ coordinated a total of 836 recalls. Among these, 87 recalls were coordinated in 2023. As depicted in Figure 1, the annual number of recalls has shown an upward trend over the past decade. During the time period of 2014 to 2023, the average number of recalls per year was 84. This is a notable increase from the average 79 recalls per year for the period spanning 2013 to 2022.

Figure 1. Food recalls by year (2014-2023)

Food Recalls by year


An overall increase in the number of food recalls may be an indication that the system that safeguards the food supply is working. Over time broader regulatory oversight, improved self-monitoring by food businesses and greater consumer vigilance have helped to strengthen problem detection. Continued advancements in food technology, analytical testing and traceability are also expected to influence the number of food recalls. 


Understanding food recalls: A look at the past 5 years

Food recalls occur for a variety of reasons to safeguard consumers. These reasons can be broadly categorised into contamination (microbial, chemical, biotoxin), undeclared allergens, incorrect labelling, packaging faults, secondary fermentation or the presence of foreign matter. As shown in Figure 2, the most common annual reasons for recall from 2019 to 2023 were undeclared allergen (44%) and microbial contamination (24%). In comparison, biotoxins and packaging faults accounted for a small proportion of recalls annually. The other category encompasses various recall reasons not already listed, including choking hazards and products containing prohibited ingredients.

Figure 2. Food recalls by year and reason for recall (2019-2023)

Figure 2. Food recalls by year and reason for recall (2019-2023)
The different types of food recalls

There are two types of food recalls - consumer and trade. A trade recall is conducted when the food has not been available for direct purchase by the public, such as food sold to wholesalers and caterers. A consumer recall occurs when the food has been available for retail sale.

While food recalls can be categorised as consumer or trade, some recalled products may fall into both categories. Figure 3 shows that from 2019 to 2023, the majority of recalls coordinated by FSANZ were consumer recalls only (83%). Trade recalls, and trade and consumer recalls, accounted for 9% and 8% respectively.

Figure 3. Food recalls by recall type (2019-2023)

2019-2023 Recall Type.png


Types of food recalled

A wide variety of types of food have been recalled, ranging from fresh produce to processed foods. From 2019 to 2023 the most commonly recalled food products were mixed and/or processed foods, as show in Figure 4. This is probably due to the broad range of products that belong to this category, including most long-life packaged foods and manufactured items with multiple ingredients. Dairy products, breads and bakery products, fruit and vegetables, and confectionary were also amongst the most commonly recalled food products. 

Figure 4. Food recalls by product category (2019-2023)

Recalls by food categories


Corrective actions

As part of the food recall reporting requirements, food businesses that undertake a recall are required to report the corrective actions taken. From 2019 to 2023 the most commonly reported corrective actions were staff training (20%), amended handling procedures (16%), and improved communication procedure (11%), see Figure 5. The other category includes corrective actions such as increased testing and ceasing production or supply. It is worth noting that the majority of food business (90%) reported undertaking more than one corrective action.

Figure 5. Food business corrective actions (2019-2023)

2019-2023 Recall Corrective Actions.png


Undeclared allergen food recalls

If a food product is not compliant with the allergen labelling requirement set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, it can be a serious risk to people with allergies. Food products are often recalled due to the presence or the potential presence of an undeclared allergen(s). 

Undeclared allergens continue to be the primary reason for food recalls in Australia. Table 1 shows undeclared allergens as a percentage of total recalls for the past 5 years. 

Table 1. Undeclared allergen food recalls (2019-2023)

  2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 Total
Number of recalls due to undeclared allergen(s) 32 51 38 29 41 191
% of total recalls for that year 37% 57% 48% 39% 47%  


From 2019 to 2023 there were 191 food recalls due to undeclared allergens. Most of these recalls were due to the presence of a single undeclared allergen. However, 21% of undeclared allergen recalls were due to presence of multiple undeclared allergens. Figure 6, illustrates the distribution of allergen type associated with recalls over the past 5 years. The most common undeclared allergens were milk, tree nuts, wheat/gluten, and eggs. During this time period there were no food recalls due to the presence of an undeclared fish allergen. 

Figure 6. Distribution of allergen type associated with food recalls (2019-2023)

Recall Allergen Distribution.png


From 2019 to 2023 the most common food type associated with undeclared allergen recalls was mixed and/or processed foods (59 recalls; 31%), as shown in Figure 7. The second most common food type to be recalled due to undeclared allergens was breads and bakery products (32 recalls; 17%), which was followed by salts, stocks, sauces and condiments (30 recalls; 16%). During this time period there were no undeclared allergen related recalls for sugar, sweeteners, poultry and game meat.

Figure 7. Distribution of undeclared allergen recalls by food type (2019-2023)

Undeclared allergen by food categories.


Undeclared allergens recall problem detection 

FSANZ collects data on the method of detection to pinpoint how food products containing undeclared allergens are identified. Table 2 illustrates the five detection categories, with customer complaints being the most common method. The other category includes other methods or where this information was not reported.

Table 2. Problem detection for undeclared allergen recalls (2019-2023)

Detection method 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 Total
Customer complaint 16 18 20 11 19 84
Distributor or retailer complaint 1 2 0 1 1 5
Other 5 11 10 5 7 38
Routine government testing 6 12 8 3 8 37
Routine testing by the company 4 8 0 9 6 27
Undeclared allergens recall root cause

FSANZ uses information provided at the time of recall and in the post recall report to determine the root cause of undeclared allergen recalls. FSANZ has reviewed allergen-related recalls and categorised these into the following five root causes:

  • Accidental cross contamination - Contamination of either raw ingredients or during the final production process.
  • Allergen labelling knowledge - A lack of allergen labelling awareness by staff or the misinterpretation of standards.
  • Error during packaging - Errors that occur during packaging. For example, a product being packaged in the wrong packaging or a product labelled with the wrong labelling.
  • Label error - Examples include labelling errors resulting from the incorrect translation of ingredients, or ingredients being reformulated and the labelling not reflecting the change.
  • Supplier verification issues - The supplied ingredient changes were not communicated.
  • Unknown - Unable to determine what caused the issue at the time of recall.

Of the reports received by FSANZ, errors during packaging were the predominant cause of allergen-related recalls. Subsequently, challenges with supplier verification were also notable. According to Figure 8, labelling errors constitute a relatively small portion of allergen-related recalls annually. It is worth noting that the majority of undeclared allergen recalls can successfully trace back and identify the root cause of the issue. 

Figure 8. Number of undeclared allergen recalls by root cause (2019-2023)

igure 8. Number of undeclared allergen recalls by root cause (2019-2023)


Microbial contamination food recalls

Microbial contamination refers to the presence of a harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites in the food that can cause foodborne illness. Food products are often recalled due to microbial contamination. From 2019 to 2023 there were 83 food recalls due to microbial contamination. As shown in Figure 9, the most common microbes were Listeria monocytogenes (30 recalls; 36%), Salmonella spp.(27 recalls; 33%) and Escherichia coli (E. coli) (18 recalls; 22%). During this time period there were also an additional 20 recalls due to the potential for microbial contamination. 

Figure 9. Food recalls due to microbial contamination (2019-2023)

Recall Microbial.png


Foreign matter food recalls

The presence of foreign matter like glass, metal, or plastic in food can cause injuries. From 2019 to 2023 there were 39 recalls due to foreign matter. As shown in Figure 10, the most common types of foreign matter were plastic (16 recalls; 41%), metal (9 recalls; 23%) and plant (5 recalls 13%). During this time period there were three recalls due to the presence of multiple types of foreign matter. 

Figure 10. Food recalls due to foreign matter (2019-2023)

Recall Foreign Matter Contamination.png

Biotoxin food recalls

Biotoxins are toxic substances, they can be produced by a range of living organisms including fungi, animals and plants. Food products that are contaminated with biotoxins pose a health risk and may cause illness or injury if consumed. From 2019 to 2023 there were 14 recalls due to biotoxins. As shown in Figure 11, the most common biotoxins were patulin (6 recalls; 43%) and histamine (3 recalls; 21%). During the same time period there were an additional three recalls due to potential biotoxin contamination.

Figure 11. Food recalls due to biotoxins (2019-2023)

Recall Biotoxin Contamination.png

           PST - Paralytic shellfish toxins, DST - Diarrheal shellfish toxins

Chemical/contaminant food recalls

Contamination with chemicals like cleaning products, pesticides, or high levels of additives can make food unsafe for consumption. From 2019 to 2023 there were 24 food recalls for chemical and other contaminants. The most common contaminants were thebaine (7 recalls; 29%) and ethylene oxide (5 recalls; 20%), as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 12. Food recalls due to chemical/contaminant (2019-2023)

Recall Chemical Contamination.png



Page last updated 25 June 2024