Healthy food recalls on the rise

by Eric Schroeder
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According to Stericycle, 400,000 units of frozen spinach were recalled in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 as a result of residual pesticide levels over the limit.

INDIANAPOLIS — Just because a product may be marketed as “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s less susceptible to a product recall. In fact, with more consumers demanding healthy products it’s actually more likely that a food product recall is related to a healthy product than an unhealthy one, according to a report from Stericycle Inc.

In its Stericycle Quarterly Recall Index for the second quarter, Stericycle said there were 178 Food and Drug Administration food recalls during the second quarter, up 47% from the first quarter of fiscal 2015. Sixty-two per cent of the recalls were related to bacteria contamination, with Salmonella and Listeria listed as the most common contaminants.

The top category behind the F.D.A. food events during the second quarter was vegetables, at 61%, followed by grains, cereals and bakery products at 11%, supplements at 10%, nuts and seeds at 5%, herbs and spices at 3%, and fruits at 3%.

There also was a surge in U.S.D.A. reported recalls during the quarter.

“There were 10.7 million lbs recalled throughout the quarter — approximately 10 times the volume of pounds recalled in the prior quarter,” Stericycle said of U.S.D.A. recalls. “The leading cause of these recalls was undeclared allergens at almost 90% of the affected units in Q2.”

Increased demand for healthy products has numerous industry implications and a direct impact on product recall numbers. With a greater amount of healthy and/or natural products available in the marketplace, the industry has seen an uptick in associated recall events, Stericycle said. According to the data, since 2012 more than 64% of recalls have been related to healthy foods. The top category within these recalls is raw foods — often due to the use of unapproved pesticides. For example, 400,000 units of frozen spinach were recalled in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 as a result of residual pesticide levels over the limit, according to Stericycle. This trend has continued through the second quarter with 65% of recalls being related to healthy food, including Listeria contamination and labeling issues among the chief drivers.

Kevin Pollack, v.p. of Stericycle

“The Q2 Index data underscores that consumer demand for healthy products is growing rapidly,” said Kevin Pollack, vice-president, Stericycle. “The trend shows no sign of slowing, and companies are looking for ways to expand into this high-growth sector. For example, leading food manufacturers have reconfigured their products to cater to the health-conscious consumer. In other industries, companies focusing on eco-friendly products are experiencing record success. Our analysis reveals that this heightened awareness results in an increase in associated recalls, making it essential that companies rethink their recall execution plans and expectations for consumer response.”

General Mills, Inc. and the Kellogg Co. are two of the companies that have taken steps in recent months to reconfigure their product lines to meet consumer demand for healthier products. General Mills this week committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from all of its fruit-flavored snacks, including Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers, and such shapes products as Scooby-Doo! Earlier this year, General Mills pledged to remove all flavors and colors perceived as artificial from its cereal line during the next two to three years. The company said it had been researching the effort for several months and that it will affect approximately 40% of its cereals. Meanwhile, Kellogg said it has been working to remove artificial colors and flavors from Froot Loops, Apple Jacks and other branded cereals by 2018.

As manufacturers look to capitalize on the healthy food market, Stericycle identified three essential best practices that should be considered: Developing and testing a recall plan; collaborating with industry experts, regulators and key stakeholders; and centralizing data repository and scalable infrastructure.

“Increased activity related to healthy products is resulting in greater regulatory scrutiny, which adds further complexity for manufacturers,” Mr. Pollack said. “In order to maintain compliance, prevent financial and reputational damage, and protect consumers, it’s essential that companies review and revise their recalls plans on a regular basis. Those that do so are primed to successfully capitalize on the market potential of the health-conscious movement, grow revenue, and increase consumer loyalty in the process.”

Stericycle ExpertRecall, based in Indianapolis, offers recall logistics and regulatory compliance for consumer product, pharmaceutical, medical device, juvenile product and food and beverage recalls. The company’s ExpertRecall Index examines recall trends and issues that affect consumers and manufacturers.
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READER COMMENTS (1)

By Jean Bacardi 8/31/2015 10:14:21 AM
If I'm reading this right, there seems to be a contradiction-- first you write that 62% of the recalls were to to bacteria contamination, then two paragraphs later, you state that undeclared allergens was the leading cause in almost 90% of 'affected units'. Please clarify if you can, as these causes are quite different.