Most Meat Recalls Due to Allergens?

July 13, 2011

Food safety and recalls are important topics to cover with customers, but did you know this year, thus far, most recalls are due to undeclared allergens?

There is little doubt that food retailers must educate shoppers about food safety, specifically food recalls. If we are to rebuild confidence in the safety of our food supply, we must educate and empower shoppers with the tools they need to insure proper food safety practices in their homes, when eating in restaurants and even food trucks. Educating shoppers about the reasons for a recall in a timely manner is critical; they want to know more, understand where our foods come from and how they are produced.
A recent article in Food Safety News reported on the fact that this year so far, the majority of recalls were related to undeclared allergens versus the possibility of dangerous pathogens. The number of recalls for pathogens found in beef, pork, and poultry dropped dramatically, while the recall of meat and meat products for allergens spiked.
In response to this issue, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently announced that they would develop instructions to tackle this issue. The FSIS reacted after seeing 27 recalls for undeclared ingredients in the first six months of the year; 20 were the result of undeclared allergens. This year thus far, only five of forty-five meat recalls involved disease-causing E. coli contamination.
As for the new instructions on allergens, FSIS personnel will educate establishments regarding the importance and prevalence of undeclared allergens in meat and poultry products, and how to best ensure labels are kept accurate and current.
According to FSIS, many of this year’s recalls were prompted by a change in product formulation or supplier's ingredients that was not disclosed on the labels. Undeclared allergens can result in adverse health reactions. Included in the category of allergens are wheat, shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts and soybeans.
The places we purchase our foods are the best places to share information about recalls - and it is not only about hanging a poster or shelf talker.
Seeing is believing. Each time a shopper is handed a piece of fish, or meat, or salad from the deli, an opportunity exists to have a one-on-one food safety dialogue. Yes, staff in most service departments are already over-worked and under time pressure, however, taking the time to remind the shopper how to take care of the product - in their cart, car and at home - can do more than just share helpful tips; it can also reinforce the stores’ image and relationship with shoppers. After all, there is nothing more powerful than protecting one's life.