Why do we collect food recall data?
We collect data on Australian food recalls to identify trends and common issues in the food industry and help find ways to prevent future incidents.
An analysis of annual food recall statistics for the last 10 years is below. For statistics on allergen-related recalls see Undeclared allergen food recall statistics. Our statistics are updated annually.
Classification of food recalls
We classify food recalls based on the reason for the recall. Reasons include:
- Undeclared allergen(s)
- Microbial contamination
- Foreign matter contamination
- Biotoxin contamination
- Packaging fault(s)
- Chemical/other contaminant(s)
- Labelling error(s)
Food recall statistics (1 January 2012 – 31 December 2021)
Figure 1: Food recalls by year 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021, FSANZ coordinated 776 recalls, including 80 recalls in 2021 (see Figure 1). The 10-year average increased from 76 recalls per year (2011-2020) to 78 recalls per year (2012-2021).
The volume of food recalled represents a very small proportion of the large amount of food products available in the Australian market. Most recalls are precautionary and initiated by food businesses to ensure that potentially unsafe food is removed from distribution and sale. Only a small amount of recalls are linked to a suspected or confirmed illness/injury.
An increase in the number of food recalls indicates that the system works to safeguard the food supply. 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.
Figure 2: Food recalls by recall level 2012-2021
There are two types of food recall – 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 is conducted when the food has been available for retail sale.
Between 2012 and 2021, consumer recalls accounted for 86% of all food recalls and trade recalls 14% (see Figure 2).
Table 1: Food recalls by year and classification 2012-2021
Figure 3: Food recalls by year and recall classification 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 most food recalls were due to undeclared allergens (335 recalls; 43%) and microbial contamination (201 recalls; 26%) as shown in Figure 3. Food recalls for undeclared allergens, microbial contamination, chemical/contaminant and 'other' show an increasing trend. Food recalls for foreign matter are on a decreasing trend.
Undeclared allergen food recalls
Figure 4: Food recalls due to undeclared allergens by allergen 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 there were 335 food recalls due to undeclared allergens (see Table 1). The most common undeclared allergens were milk (100 recalls; 30%), multiple allergens (57 recalls; 17%) and peanut (49 recalls; 15%) as shown in Figure 4.
In 2016, FSANZ introduced additional post recall report questions to collect information on the root cause, problem detection and corrective action for undeclared allergen recalls. For more information please visit our Undeclared allergen food recall statistics page.
Figure 5: Food recalls due to undeclared allergens by food type 2011-2020
and 2021 the most common food type associated with food recalls due to
undeclared allergens was mixed and/or processed food (97 recalls; 29%) as shown
in Figure 5. Mixed and or/processed foods include snack foods, custard powders
and frozen meals. The second most common food to be recalled due to undeclared
allergens was confectionery (51 recalls; 15%) followed by breads and bakery
products (48 recalls; 14%).
Microbial contamination food recalls
Figure 6: Food recalls due to microbial contamination by microbe 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 there were 201 food recalls due to microbial contamination (see Table 1). As shown in Figure 6, the most common microbes were Listeria monocytogenes (72 recalls; 36%), Salmonella (46 recalls; 23%) and Escherichia coli (E.coli) (41 recalls; 20%). Listeria monocytogenes related recalls increased in 2021 due to multiple recalls associated with small goods.
Microbial contamination food recalls
Figure 7: Food recalls due to microbial contamination by food type 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 the most common food type associated with food recalls due to microbial contamination was dairy products (51 recalls; 25%) as shown in Figure 7. Dairy products include milk, yoghurt and cheese. The second most common food to be recalled due to microbial contamination was fruit, vegetables and herbs (41 recalls; 20%) followed by meat and meat products (32 recalls; 16%).
Listeria monocytogenes contamination was the primary microbe associated with recalls for the meat and meat products, dairy products and mixed and/or processed food groups. The food industry and government place a high priority on Listeria management in these sectors and undertake extensive product testing to monitor for contamination.
A wide range of foods are recalled due to Salmonella contamination. Fruit, vegetables and herbs (lettuce, sprouts and rockmelon), and egg and egg products were the most commonly recalled categories.
Dairy products are more commonly recalled due to concerns with process hygiene, indicated through Escherichia coli (E.coli) testing, than other categories of food. Other products commonly recalled for E. coli included fresh sprouts, fermented sausages and prawns.
Foreign matter food recalls
Figure 8: Food recalls due to foreign matter recalls by foreign matter type 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 there were 92 recalls due to foreign matter (see Table 1). As shown in Figure 8, the most common types of foreign matter were plastic (28 recalls; 30%), metal (27 recalls; 29%) and glass (22 recalls 24%). Foreign matter recalls are showing a downward trend over the 10-year period.
Biotoxin food recalls
Figure 9: Food recalls due to biotoxins by biotoxin 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 there were 38 food recalls due to biotoxins (see Table 1). As shown in Figure 9 the most common biotoxin was paralytic shellfish toxin (PST) (26 recalls; 68%).
Recalls due to biotoxins occur periodically, with the numbers of recalls over the past 10 years ranging between 1 and 15 per year. In 2015, 14 recalls were due to shellfish contaminated with PST, accounting for half of all recalls for this biotoxin in the 10-year period.
Chemical and other contaminant food recalls
Figure 10: Food recalls due to chemical and other contaminants by chemical/contaminant 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 there were 21 recalls for chemical and other contaminants (see Table 1). The most common contaminants were 'other' contaminants (12 recalls; 57%) and cleaning/sanitising agent (4 recalls; 19%) as shown in Figure 10.
'Other' contaminants include ethylene oxide, sulphur dioxide, quinine and unacceptable level of pesticide.
All recalls in 2021 due to chemical and other contaminants were because of the presence of ethylene oxide.
Food categories associated with food recalls
Figure 11: Food recalls by food category 2012-2021
Between 2012 and 2021 the most commonly recalled foods were mixed and/or processed food (see Figure 11). This is likely due to the wide range of foods that are categorized under this heading, including most long-life packaged food and manufactured items that contain multiple ingredients. Breads and bakery products were the second most recalled food category, with fruit, vegetables and herbs the third. Bread and bakery products include breads, biscuits, cakes and pastries.