Food Recalls Sharply Increase, but You Pay Less Attention

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The sharp increase in food recalls is a serious source of concern, but the consumer is paying less attention for several reasons.

Food recalls across the nation increased 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and affected over 80 percent more units compared with the previous three-month period, according to the quarterly ExpertRECALL Index, released today. Conversely, the ExpertRECALL Index found that consumer product, pharmaceutical and medical device recalls decreased compared with previous quarters.

Undeclared allergens remained the leading factor in initiating food recalls, accounting for more than a third of food recalls in the quarter. Concerns about Listeria contamination were the second-leading cause of fourth-quarter recalls, accounting for almost 20 percent of all food recalls listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website from October through December.

"Despite the drop in several other categories, the sharp increase in food product recalls is cause for concern," said Mike Rozembajgier, Vice President of Recalls at Stericycle ExpertRECALL. "Food recalls are challenging because they affect all consumers. Ensuring consumer safety during food recalls is complicated further when food is repackaged for storage or put in re-sealable containers, eliminating any chance of identifying the food in our homes as having been recalled."

"Another issue is that with so many recalls being initiated, consumers suffering from 'recall fatigue' may pay less attention to recall announcements than they should," added Rozembajgier. "In this current environment, manufacturers and retailers must take extra care to ensure that consumers are receiving the right messages about recalls and that they are encouraged to respond appropriately."

In a written statement to EmaxHealth, Rozembajgier says "there are many resources consumers can use to keep a closer eye on recalls. Each of the regulatory agencies allows you to sign up for recall alerts so that any time a product is considered unsafe, you will be notified directly by the regulatory agency. Or you can go to www.recalls.gov to see all regulatory recall announcements in one place.

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"Technologically savvy consumers may also use some new mobile applications that deliver recall alerts straight to your phone. By quickly downloading an app to an iPad, iPhone, or Android, consumers can keep better track of recall announcements. Just Google “recall apps” and you’ll see there is a wide selection of apps available for Apple and Android phones."

The number of consumer product recalls hit a five-quarter low, with laceration risks reported as the leading cause. Children's and infant product recalls decreased for the third straight quarter, also hitting a five-quarter low. More than a third of these recalls were initiated by the CPSC because of a concern that children might choke on small parts.

Pharmaceutical recalls declined 35 percent, returning to levels consistent with the first and second quarter of 2011. But while the number of recalls declined, the number of individual units affected shot up by more than 200 percent.

"While the number of pharmaceutical recalls dropped during the fourth quarter, this trend can be deceiving. In fact, the decrease in documented recall events are a stark contrast to the surge in the number of units affected," said Rozembajgier. "This should worry manufacturers and retailers responsible for getting potentially dangerous products off the shelves, and serve as a good example of just how complicated a recall can be, and why effective recall management is critical to public health and safety."

According to FDA Enforcement reports, medical device recalls decreased by more than 60 percent in the fourth quarter, affecting 57 percent fewer units compared with the previous quarter.

The 2011 fourth-quarter ExpertRECALL Index is the only report that aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the CPSC and the FDA. Stericycle ExpertRECALL compiles the ExpertRECALL Index from data issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The ExpertRECALL Index report is available online at http://www.expertrecall.com/recallindex.

By Stericycle ExpertRECALL
Image Source: MorgueFile

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