A decade ago, allergens were an uncommon cause of meat and poultry product recalls in the United States. The proportion of meat and poultry products recalled annually due to allergens steadily increased from 8% in 2008 to 35% in 2012 due to increased awareness of the issue by inspection personnel and establishments. Moreover, the total number of recall events involving meat and poultry products due to undeclared allergens increased 103% between the calendar years 2012 and 2015. Undeclared allergens have now become the leading reason for recalls of meat and poultry products from the U.S. marketplace.
To address the upward trend in undeclared recalls, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will host a public meeting in Washington DC on March 16 to discuss a strategic approach for establishments to reduce recalls due to undeclared allergens. The meeting will focus on the agency’s policy regarding undeclared allergens, labeling compliance and best practices for prevention.
Late in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a recall of cumin samples for undeclared allergens. Adventitious presence of allergens is common, and the agency has conducted frequent recalls in this category. The number of allergen-related recalls that year was 34%, surpassing recalls of products caused by microbiological issues (30%).
Food products are recalled from the North American market for various reasons, but historically the vast majority of recalls are attributed to public health hazards. A review of food recall data reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed annual trends in the reasons for North American food recalls. In particular, the review confirmed the majority of food recalls in recent years were due to food allergens and microbial hazards. Following is a summary of recent trends in recalls attributed to food allergens, including product types, root causes and related regulatory issues.