H1 2020 Update: Clear Pandemic Effect on Product Recalls Evident

As a further update to our ongoing monitoring of recall data during the pandemic, we now have the recall numbers for January – June 2020 and we are seeing a clear effect on recalls throughout the US, UK and EU, with numbers clearly down. Australian recalls have stayed fairly consistent with previous years throughout the pandemic period. Please see our observations on each authorities reported recall numbers below (the full data is available below):

FSIS USDA – The monthly recall numbers reported by USDA for H1 2020 are the five lowest in the past 42 months.

FDA – Numbers continue to decrease during the pandemic, and June was the lowest monthly number of recall events since January 2019

UK FSA – Despite a slight uplift in recalls in May, there are signs that the numbers are slowing again during the pandemic, with two of the three lowest monthly numbers since Dec 17 in April and June 2020

EU RASFF – Numbers are creeping up slowly during the pandemic period but the number of food recalls reported in April, May and June were the 3 lowest monthly figures in the past 42 months

Product Safety Australia – Food – Looking at the numbers through the pandemic and for the last 42 months, Australia’s recall numbers seems to be relatively unaffected by the pandemic

Reasons why there may be fewer recalls during the pandemic:
  1. Increased focus on hygiene in factories and society in general
  2. More difficult to investigate supply chain issues and to decide on recall action
  3. Consumers less likely to complain and food may not be identified as cause of illness
  4. Enforcement authorities have reduced inspection and monitoring capability
  5. A reduction in identifying food safety hazards through testing as laboratory capacity is reduced or diverted to COVID-19 testing. 
  6. A delay in reporting food-borne outbreaks
Reasons why there may be more recalls during the pandemic:
  1. Staff off sick putting extra strain on production
  2. Increased numbers of agency workers – may not be fully trained
  3. Reduced numbers of on-site audits meaning less independent oversight
  4. New suppliers being used without passing all the usual quality requirement

See below for the data: