Report blames producers, regulators for rise in food recalls

A new report found there was an 8% increase in food recalls in 2023.
Tainted Food
Posted at 12:25 PM, Apr 26, 2024

The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue recall alerts nearly daily for various food products that could be contaminated, mislabeled, or contain some other sort of hazard.

According to a new report, there has been a significant increase in such recalls.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that the number of recalls issued in 2023 was 8% higher than in 2022. The biggest culprit for the increase is undeclared allergens.

PIRG reported a 27% increase in recalls related to undeclared allergens in 2023. One reason for the increase is that sesame is now among the allergens companies must label.

The report found that 49.2% of all food recalls in 2023 were related to undeclared allergens.

The next largest reason for food recalls was food being potentially contaminated with listeria. Listeria was responsible for 15% of 2023 food recalls. Foods potentially contaminated with salmonella were responsible for 8.6% of food recalls.

“Most problems with food should be easy to avoid. Food producers and packagers just need to focus more on cleanliness and disclose allergens that could make people sick or kill them,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “We should not have to worry about finding shards of metal and plastic or undeclared allergens in the food on our plates. It’s baffling that manufacturers aren’t properly inspecting equipment, testing food and properly labeling packages before they end up on grocery store shelves.”

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The USDA issues recalls for meat and poultry products. The report says USDA-issued recalls went up 31% in 2023. The FDA issues recalls for other products. The number of FDA recalls was largely unchanged in 2023.

While many recalled products don't cause any reported injuries or illnesses, there were a few noteworthy examples of food making people sick. One example is how lead-tainted applesauce caused 519 illnesses. Another example came in 2023 from salmonella-contaminated cantaloupe, which caused 407 illnesses and six deaths.

PIRG said more can be done to prevent these issues from arising.

“Everyone needs to do better: food producers, regulators and lawmakers,” Murray said. “We shouldn’t have to worry that everything from soup to nuts could land us in the hospital.”