Majority of recalls preventable, says UK consultancy

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety Food

The majority of food recalls around the world are caused by
preventable problems, with poor allergen control and failure to
follow international standards as the major culprits, according to
a UK consultancy.

Recalls of foods can be expensive for food companies and importers. They can also damage a brand's reputation in the market.

Reading Scientific Services Ltd. (RSSL) reviewed about 200 recalls from around the world this year, documenting such incidents as a bird's head in a can of beans in the US, to benzene in soft drinks in South Korea and Europe.

Undeclared allergens prompted an astonishing 40 per cent of all recalls around the world, with over half of those occuring in the US.

RSSL's allergen's expert, Simon Flanagan, said the trends in the US for allergen-led recalls is something European companies should watch closely as a possible problem on the continent.

"It's by no means certain that Europe's relatively low recalls for undeclared allergens is due to companies getting their labelling right,"​ he said. "It may be that the mistakes are not being spotted."

Aside from the mislabelling of allergens, there were a significant number of other recalls that were prompted by mislabelling issues, such as incorrect cooking and storage information and undeclared colours, he noted.

In the UK, foreign bodies caused the most recalls, prompting 30 per cent of all cases.

"Of course, last year, the illegal use of Sudan Red I would have skewed the recall figures massively in favour of chemical contamination, but chemical contamination of all kinds remains the second biggest cause of UK recalls,"​ RSSL stated yesterday.

Another major issue for the industry was the number of recalls prompted by problems with food safety. Mainly this was due to manufacturers failing to follow the guidelines laid down by international food safety codes, known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

Failing to spot mistakes in pre-requisite programmes for HACCP is clearly a major issue for the food industry, said Gil Palmer, a member of RSSL's food training team.

"It's vital that companies ensure they have adequate procedures for controlling pests, for ensuring hygiene and for preventing foreign bodies,"​ Palmer said. "Whilst this should be a statement of the obvious, it's clear that some companies have not addressed these basic requirements, and therefore food safety and quality is being compromised, leading to expensive and wasteful recalls."

RSSL is a UK-based consultancy that also does scientific analysis, product testing, product development and training for industry.

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