Pandemic Effect on Recalls: July Data Update

Our ongoing monitoring of the international recall numbers during the pandemic showed that in the first half of the year we have seen a clear effect on recalls. This trend continues in the US and UK through July but we are starting to see signs of the EU RASFF numbers returning to normal, and Australia seems to show no impact on recall numbers throughout.  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 continue to be well below average and with only 19 recalls this year compared to 83 in 2019, this shows a significant effect

FDA – Numbers are up in July compared to the previous month, but still on the lower end of monthly norms, and the lowest July number for several years.

UK FSA – Despite a slight uplift in recalls in May, numbers in the UK continue to decline during the pandemic, with the 3 lowest monthly numbers since Dec 17 in April, June and July 2020 and the lowest 7 month total for many years

EU RASFF – Although the total number of recalls YTD are down on the past few years, the monthly total in July is back up to numbers seen in the months leading up to the pandemic and the numbers are rising suggesting a return to normality

Product Safety Australia – Food – Looking at the numbers through the pandemic and for the last 43 months, Australia’s recall numbers seems to be relatively unaffected by the pandemic, and continue the trend for year-on-year increases in recalls since 2017 for the period January to July.

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: