Government Shutdown Led to Fewer Food Recalls

The report also identifies the leading culprits of food recalls in the first quarter.

Food And Veggies

(PRNewswire)  Product recalls declined significantly across all industries for the first time since at least 2012, according to the first quarter 2019 Recall Index released today by Stericycle Expert Solutions. The declines were largely due to reduced oversight from the government shutdown earlier this year which stopped or limited many government safety inspections for food, pharmaceutical, automotive, medical device, and consumer products. When the shutdown ended at the end of January, it took several more weeks for the regulatory agencies to ramp safety inspections back up to normal levels.

"While it's usually good news for consumers when recall rates decline, the Q1 2019 numbers are misleading," said Chris Harvey, Director of Recall Solutions at Stericycle Expert Solutions. "Fewer inspections mean more potentially dangerous products entered the market unnoticed during this period, which could also have an impact in the months ahead."   

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls fell 36.5 percent to 99 – the lowest quarter since Q1 2016. Recalled FDA food units increased 67.2 percent to 79 million, which is higher than four of the previous five quarters. For meat and seafood products, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recalls decreased 7.1 percent to 39, while total pounds of food decreased 91.6 percent to just over 1.4 million.

The report found that plastics continue to infiltrate the food supply. Foreign materials in food were the top cause of USDA recalled pounds at 37.9 percent, with plastic, the most common foreign material, being found in 40 percent of the foreign material recalled pounds.

Under the FDA's watch, undeclared allergens were the top cause of both FDA recalls (38.4 percent) and recalled food units (98.1 percent). More than 17 percent of FDA recalls were products distributed nationwide – the second highest since Q4 2016.