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Study: Food Scares and Product Recalls Increasing

Eggs (Melissa Sanders/Flickr)Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast, U.K. have completed the first analysis of all food recalls announced in the U.S., U.K., and Ireland over the last decade. The findings will be presented at the Food Integrity and Traceability Conference taking place at Queen’s University this week.

The research by Antony Potter at the university’s Centre for Assured and Traceable Foods (ASSET) identified 2,439 food recalls over the past ten years. The recalls included the 380 million eggs in the USA in 2010 following a salmonella outbreak at a farm in Iowa, and the 2008 pork recall in Ireland, which affected export markets in 21 countries around the world.

The university says the study marks the first attempt to assess international trends in food product safety.  Potter says the research outlines how the frequency and severity of recalls has increased over the past ten years, accompanied by significant financial implications for food producers.

The results indicate increasing numbers of food scares and product recalls in the past decade. Potter’s team found that 68 percent of the problems were detected during routine or spot testing by regulatory bodies, and only about a fifth (21%) were detected by the companies in question.

The food recalls were spread over a range of industries. About one fifth (21%) were in the meat industry, 12 percent in processed foods, and 11 percent in fruit and vegetables.

The researchers found over half of the recalls 56 per cent) resulted from operational mistakes, such as incorrect labeling, the presence of an undeclared ingredient, or contamination during the production. While biological causes, such as the detection of listeria, salmonella and E. Coli were also a factor, a significant number of food safety alerts were actually due to food fraud and corruption by suppliers further down the supply chain.

Potter says the findings of food fraud and corruption, “highlights the need for food producers to invest in ensuring the traceability of their products back through the supply chain.”

Photo: Melissa Sanders/Flickr

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