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Undeclared allergen food recall statistics (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2021)

​​​​Page last updated April 2022​

FSANZ data on Australian food recalls helps identify key issues, track trends and develop prevention strategies. Undeclared allergens is the most common reason for food recalls year-on-year. Below is an analysis of food recalls due to undeclared allergens since 2016. This information expands on analysis of food recall statistics for the last 10 years. These statistics are updated annually.

Table 1: Undeclared allergen food recalls 2016-2021

number of undeclared allergen recalls333546325138

235 (45%) of 517 total recalls​ ​
% of total recalls for that year465146374748

Problem detection

Problem detection information is collected when FSANZ coordinates a recall. It is separated into five categories listed at Table 2. The 'other' category is used for detection that does not fit within the four categories (including unreported). ​

Table 2: Problem detection for undeclared allergen recalls 2016-2021

customer complaint131621161820104
distributor or retailer complaint33112010
routine government testing865612845
routine testing by the company681448040


Figure 1: Problem detection for undeclared allergen recalls 2016–2021

Figure 1.png

Figure 2: Problem detection for undeclared allergen recalls by year 2016-2020
Figure 2.png

As shown in Figure 2, customer complaint is the most common method of detecting the need to recall food due to undeclared allergens. 

Root cause

FSANZ has reviewed allergen-related recalls and identified 5 root causes of undeclared allergens:
Packaging errors, for example:
  • product packed in the wrong packaging
  • front of pack dairy free claim instead of a gluten free claim
  • incorrect ingredient list.

Accidental cross contamination either of a raw ingredient or during the final production process.

Lack of skills and knowledge to fulfil labelling requirements, for example:

  • pasta was declared as an ingredient, but wheat was not
  • ingredients were reformulated however labelling did not reflect the new ingredients
  • ingredients were not fully-translated into English from the original language.

Supplier verification issues, for example a raw ingredient contained an allergen but this information was not passed on to the manufacturer.

Unknown, for example:

  • the food business was not able to determine what caused the issue at the time of recall, or when submitting their post recall report
  • the food business did not provide enough information to FSANZ to identify root cause at the time of recall, or in their post recall report. 

The raw numbers for each year are presented in Table 3 and Figure 3, with percentages graphed in Figure 4. Using percentages allows the data to be compared against each year, noting only partial data is available for 2016 due to a mid-year start to collection.  

​Table 3: Root cause for undeclared allergens food recalls mid 2016-2021

201620172018201920202021total post recall reports
packaging errors5 (31%)21 (68%)22 (54%)16 (53%)22 (51%)13 (36%)99
accidental cross-contact4 (25%)2 (6%)5 (12%)6 (20%)6 (14%)8 (22%)31
lack of skills and knowledge001 (2%)06 (14%)3 (8%)10
supplier verification issues1 (6%)7 (23%)9 (22%)4 (13%)8 (19%)9 (25%)38
unknown6 (38%)1 (3%)4 (10%)4 (13%)1 (2%)3 (8%)19
total post recall reports163141304336197

Figure 3. Root cause for all undeclared allergen food recalls mid 2016-2020

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Figure 4: Root cause percentage for undeclared allergen food recalls by year mid 2016-2021

Figure 4.png
As shown in Table 3, and Figure 3 and 4, packaging errors are the leading cause of undeclared allergen recalls based on data from post recall reports. The exception to this was in 2016 when the most common cause was unknown, noting that FSANZ only began analysing information to provide root cause statistics mid-year. 

Corrective actions

We collect corrective action information for all food recalls. This information is collected when the recall commences to determine the steps that have or will be taken to prevent the problem from re-occurring. Final information on corrective action is collected in post recall reports. The corrective action data below is from mid-2016 to 2021 to allow comparison with root cause. 

Table 3: Reported corrective actions for undeclared allergen recalls by root cause mid 2016-2021

Root cause (post recall reports) ​ ​ ​ ​ ​
 accidental cross contact (31)lack of skills and knowledge (10)packaging errors (99)supplier verification issues (38)unknown (19)
altered product ingredients7 (23%)1 (10%)12 (12%)11 (29%)4 (21%)
altered product label14 (45%)4 (40%)54 (55%)20 (53%)11 (58%)

amended processing/

handling procedures

11 (35%)3 (30%)47 (47%)12 (32%)6 (32%)
changed suppliers1 (3%)1 (10%)6 (6%)9 (24%)2 (11%)
identified new critical control points 3 (10%)2 (20%)9 (9%)2 (5%)0 (0%)
improved communication procedures5 (16%)4 (40%)39 (39%)17 (45%)7 (37%)
improved hygiene practices (GHP's)2 (6%)0 (0%)1 (1%)0 (0%)0(0%)
improved manufacturing process (GMP's)5 (16%)0 (0%)12 (12%)5 (13%)2 (11%)
new/changed equipment4 (13%)1 (10%)1 (1%)1 (3%)1 (5%)
training of staff10 (32%)4 (40%)56 (57%)15 (39%)8 (42%)
other8 (26%)0 (0%)24 (24%)9 (24%)2 (11%)
none2 (6%)0 (0%)0 (0%)0 (0%)1 (5%)

Note: the percentages are the percent of all post recall reports identifying each corrective action for each root cause. For example: for undeclared allergen recalls where packaging errors were determined to be the root cause, 55% of food business reported altering product labels. 

Figure 5: Reported corrective actions for undeclared allergen recalls mid 2016-2021​​

Figure 5.png

As shown in Figure 5, since 2016 the most common corrective action reported for  undeclared allergen recalls was altered product label. This was followed by training of staff and amended processing/handling procedures.

Figure 6: Reported corrective actions for undeclared allergen recalls by root cause mid 2016-2021

Figure 6.png

As shown in Figure 6, altered product label was the most common reported corrective action where accidental cross contact or supplier verification issues were the root cause, or where the root cause was unknown. Training of staff was the most common corrective action for recalls where the root cause was packaging errors. Training of staff, improved communication procedures and altered product label, were equal most reported corrective actions where lack of skills and knowledge was the root cause. ​ 


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