Recalls Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels – With One Exception

We have been monitoring international product recall numbers throughout the pandemic, initially noticing a clear reduction in recall numbers in most territories and now 6 months into COVID-19 we can see that the numbers are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels in most regions.   The USDA FSIS is still the main exception to this, continuing to report the lowest number of monthly recalls seen in the past three years. Australia’s food and grocery sector recalls still appears to be unaffected. As many regions are seeing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, we will continue to monitor recall numbers to see how they respond.
Please see the recall numbers and our observations for each authority below, along with some reasons why numbers may have been affected at the foot of the article:

USDA FSIS – The monthly recall numbers  continue to be well below average with only 25 recalls reported this year (Jan – Sep) compared to 97 in the same period in 2019, this shows a significant pandemic effect.

 

US FDA – Recall event numbers seem to be stabilising around 40 per month.

 

UK FSA – The UK FSA reported 13 recall alerts in both August and September, these are more typical monthly recall numbers.

 

EU RASFF – There was a significant increase in the number of reported food alerts in September (275) compared to August (239)

Product Safety Australia – Australia’s food and grocery recall numbers continue to be relatively unaffected by the pandemic.

Reasons why there may be fewer recalls during the pandemic:
  • Increased focus on hygiene in factories and society in general
  • More difficult to investigate supply chain issues and to decide on recall action
  • Consumers less likely to complain and food may not be identified as cause of illness
  • Enforcement authorities have reduced inspection and monitoring capability
  • A reduction in identifying food safety hazards through testing as laboratory capacity is reduced or diverted to COVID-19 testing
  • A delay in reporting food-borne outbreaks

Reasons why there may be more recalls during the pandemic:

  • Staff off sick putting extra strain on production
  • Increased numbers of agency workers – may not be fully trained
  • Reduced training in food safety and quality due to sickness or budget restrictions
  • Reduced numbers of on-site audits meaning less independent oversight
  • New suppliers being used without passing all the usual quality requirement

If you need assistance with product recall management click here to find out how we can help or get in touch on contact@rqa-group.com or +44(0)118 935 7242.