In its recent Recall Industry Spotlight, Stericycle used data from federal agencies to shed light on food recall trends so far this year. Here are some of their findings.

Food recalls spiked dramatically in Q2 2016, and more of this year’s recalls have been nationwide or global.

  • Compared to Q1, Q2 recalls were more than 80 times greater for FDA recalled units, and more than 45 times greater for USDA recalled pounds.
  • In the first half of 2016, 20.5% of recalls were nationwide, compared to less than 17% in 2014 and 2015.
  • 12% of food recalls were global in the first half of 2016, while global recalls never accounted for more than 8% previously.

Bacterial contamination is a major cause for recent recalls.

  • There were more FDA bacteria-related recalls in Q2 2016 than in any quarter during 2014 or 2015.
  • The number of recalls of FDA products due to bacterial contamination increased by 167% from Q1 to Q2, with recalled units increasing more than 8x.
  • Contamination recalls account for 21% of USDA recalls so far this year, up from 16% in 2015.

Innovations in testing may be a big reason for the  recall increases.

  • Increasing recalls don’t necessarily equate to a corresponding spike in food safety problems.
  • More and more, regulatory agencies are turning to advanced testing techniques like genome sequencing to identify contaminants and determine the origins of even small outbreaks.
  • As testing techniques advance, agencies are becoming more stringent about pathogen levels in certain products, such as those meant for cooking.

Recalls are becoming more complex.

  • Many recalls are subject to the “multiplier effect,” which happens when recalls involving one ingredient supplier affect multiple companies and products.
  • Due to the multiplier effect and the overall regulatory landscape, some recalls have involved both the FDA and the USDA, rather than just one agency.
  • As food companies go international, conflicting global regulations present more and more of an issue, as well.