Why do we collect food recall data?
FSANZ has collected data on Australian food recalls since 1990. This data can be used to identify trends and common problems occurring in the food industry, so that steps can be taken to prevent future issues. These statistics are updated annually.
Classification of food recalls
Food recalls are classified by FSANZ under the following categories:
- Microbial contamination
- Foreign matter
- Chemical/other contaminants
- Undeclared allergen
Food recall statistics (between 1 Jan 2010 – 31 Dec 2019)
Between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019, FSANZ coordinated 707 recalls. The average number of recalls per year for the last 10 years has risen to 71 (previously 67). See Figure 1 below for the number of recalls coordinated each year.
Figure 1: The number of recalls coordinated by FSANZ each year between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019.
The table below shows the number of recalls by year and recall classification over the last 10 years.
Table 1: Number of recalls coordinated by FSANZ, by year and classification, between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019.
Figure 2: Number of food recalls coordinated by FSANZ each year, shown by recall classification, between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019.
For the last 10 years, most recalls have been due to undeclared allergens (283 recalls or 40% of all recalls during this period), and microbial contamination (181 recalls or 26% of all recalls during this period). Recalls due to undeclared allergens continue to increase however ‘microbial’ and ‘other’ recalls are also increasing. Foreign matter recalls are decreasing.
In 2016, FSANZ introduced additional post recall report questions to determine the root cause of undeclared allergen recalls. For more information on the root cause, problem detection and corrective actions of undeclared allergen recalls, please visit our dedicated undeclared allergen annual statistics page.
Figure 3: Food recalls by allergen, as a proportion of all undeclared allergen recalls during the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2019.
During the last 10 years, undeclared milk has been the most common allergen related recall, accounting for 30% of all allergen related recalls (unchanged since 2018). Multiple allergens is the second most common type of allergen-related recall, accounting for 18% in this category. Fourteen percent of recalls contained peanut as an undeclared allergen.
Figure 4: Undeclared allergen recalls by food type, between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019.
During the last 10 years, the most common food type to be recalled due to undeclared allergens is mixed and/or processed food, accounting for 30% of all undeclared allergen recalls. Mixed and or/processed foods include snack foods, custard powders and frozen meals. Confectionery was the second (14%) and breads and bakery products the third (12%) most common type of food recalled due to undeclared allergens.
Figure 5: Microorganisms associated with microbial recalls from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2019.
Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli are the three microorganisms most commonly associated with microbial food recalls in Australia, as shown in Figure 5 above.
There was an increase in Salmonella related recalls in 2019 due to multiple recalls for Salmonella Enteritidis. Recalls for Listeria decreased (74 to 66 recalls over the 10 year period).
Meat, dairy and mixed and/or processed foods are the main food groups recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. This is due to the importance the food industry and government place on Listeria management in these sectors and the extensive testing done of food products to monitor this.
A wide range of foods are recalled due to Salmonella spp. contamination. Eggs and fruits, vegetables and herbs were the most commonly recalled categories. ‘Fruits, vegetables and herbs’ recalled due to Salmonella were mainly lettuce, sprouts, rockmelon, fresh parsley and dried herbs.
Dairy products are more commonly recalled due to concerns with process hygiene, indicated through E. coli testing, than other categories of food. Other products commonly recalled for E. coli include fresh sprouts, salads and mixed and/or processed foods.
Figure 6: Foreign matter recalls, as a proportion of all foreign matter recalls, during the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2019.
Between 2010 and 2019, there were 101 recalls due to foreign matter. The most common types of foreign matter found in food were metal (40%), plastic (29%) and glass (21%).
Figure 7: Biotoxin recalls, as a proportion of all biotoxin recalls between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019.
Recalls due to biotoxins occur periodically, with the numbers of recalls over the past 10 years ranging between one and 15 per year. In 2015, 14 recalls were due to shellfish contaminated with Paralytic Shellfish Toxin. The total number of recalls due to biotoxins between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019 was 41 recalls (see Table 1).
Figure 7 indicates the biotoxins present in food recalled under this category. Paralytic shellfish toxin (found in oysters and mussels) accounts for 63% of foods recalled. The next most common biotoxin is hydrocyanic acid (naturally occurring cyanide found in tapioca chips and apricot kernels), accounting for 17% of all biotoxin recalls.
Chemical and other contaminants
Figure 8: Chemical and other contaminants recalls, as a proportion of all chemical and other contaminant recalls between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019.
Recalls due to chemical and other contaminants are less common. The total number of recalls due to chemical and other contaminants between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019 was 20 recalls (see Table 1).
Figure 8 shows the types of chemical and other contaminants present in food recalled under this category. Other contaminants and cleaning and sanitising agent contamination each accounted for 35% and 30% of recalls.
Food categories associated with food recalls
Figure 9: Number of recalls by food category from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2019.
Figure 9 shows the types of foods most commonly associated with food recalls. The food categories have been developed by FSANZ to aid reporting requirements and data collection. The food type most commonly associated with a recall is ‘Mixed and/or Processed Food’. This is likely due to the wide range of foods that are categorised under this heading, including most long-life packaged food and manufactured items that contain multiple ingredients. ‘Breads and bakery products’ is the second largest food type associated with recalls. It includes breads, biscuits, cakes and pastries.