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Undeclared allergen food recall statistics (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2020)

​​​​Page last updated March 2021​

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 2016-2020

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total
Number of recalls333546
3251197
% of recalls for that year4651463747  

 

Problem detection

Problem detection information is collected when FSANZ coordinates a recall. It is separated into 5 categories listed at Table 2. The 'other' category is used for detection that does not fit within the 4 categories (including unreported).

Table 2: Problem detection for undeclared allergen recalls 2016-2020

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total
Customer complaint131621161884
Distributor or retailer complaint3311210
Routine government testing86561237
Routine testing by the company68144840
Other32551126
Total 33 35 46 32 51 197

Figure 1: Problem detection for undeclared allergen recalls 2016–2020Figure 1 Allergens.png

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

As shown in Figure 2, customer complaint is the most common method of detecting the need to recall food due to undeclared allergens. Together, routine testing by the company and routine government testing have detected a similar number of problems to customer complaint (77 compared to 84 detections).

Root cause

FSANZ has reviewed allergen-related recalls and identified 5 root causes of undeclared allergens:

 
​​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.

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.

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
  • the food business did not provide enough information to FSANZ. 

​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 2016-2020                         

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total post recall reports
Accidental cross-contact4 (25%)2 (6%)5 (12%)6 (20%)6 (14%) 23
Lack of skills and knowledge001 (2%)06 (14%) 7
Packaging errors5 (31%)21 (68%)22 (54%)16 (53%)22 (51%) 86
Supplier verification issues1 (6%)7 (23%)9 (22%)4 (13%)8 (19%) 29
Unknown6 (38%)1 (3%)4 (10%)4 (13%)1 (2%) 16
Total post recall reports 16 31 41 30 43 161

 

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

Figure 4: Root cause percentage for undeclared allergen food recalls by year mid 2016-2020​​Figure 4 Allergens.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.

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 occurring again. Final information on corrective action is collected in post recall reports.

In 2021 we have included information about corrective actions reported by food businesses who have undertaken a food recall due to undeclared allergens. The corrective action data below is from mid-2016 to 2020 to allow comparison with root cause.

Table 3: Reported corrective actions for undeclared allergen recalls by root cause mid 2016-2020

Root Cause (post recall reports)
  Accidental cross contact (23) Lack of skills and knowledge (7) Packaging errors (86) Supplier verification issues (29) Unknown (16)
Altered product ingredients3 (13%)1 (14%)9 (10%)7 (24%)3 (19%)
Altered product label11 (48%)3 (43%)48 (56%)16 (55%)8 (50%)

Amended processing/

handling procedures

9 (39%)1 (14%)44 (51%)10 (34%)6 (38%)
Changed suppliers01 (14%)6 (7%)7 (24%)2 (13%)
Identified new critical control points 2 (9%)08 (9%)2 (7%)0
Improved communication procedures5 (22%)2 (29%)32 (37%)13 (45%)6 (38%)
Improved hygiene practices (GHP's)1 (4%)0000
Improved manufacturing process (GMP's)5 (22%)011 (13%)4 (14%)0
New/changed equipment4 (17%)01 (1%)1 (3%)1 (6%)
Training of staff9 (39%)3 (43%)50 (58%)11 (38%)7 (44%)
Other5 (22%)021 (24%)8 (28%)2 (13%)
None2 (9%)0001 (6%)

Note: the percentages are the percent of all post recall reports identifying each corrective action for each root cause. For example: of undeclared allergen recalls where packaging errors were determined to be the root cause, 56% of food business reported altering product labels.

Figure 5: Reported corrective actions for undeclared allergen recalls mid 2016-2020​​Figure 5 Allergens.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 2016-2020 Figure 6 Allergens.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. Altered product label and training of staff were the equal most reported corrective actions where lack of skills and knowledge was the root cause. 


 

 

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