Although FDA contamination recall levels increased a historical 167% from the first to the second quarters of 2016, the rise is being attributed, not to increased food safety issues but to "powerful new testing methods and tighter regulation," according to the Q2 2016 "Recall Industry Spotlight" report released today by Stericycle ExpertSolutions.
The report, which focuses on noteworthy developments related to product recalls, shows a significant trend in the food and beverage industry. More accurate and cost-effective genome testing has enabled companies and regulators to identify food contaminants faster in a wider range of products.
As testing has become more precise, regulators have also reduced the acceptable levels of pathogens in certain classes of foods, with even foods meant for cooking, which kills most contaminants, are subject to stricter regulations, the report notes. Its findings reveal new opportunities and challenges for food producers and manufacturers. With enhanced testing there are opportunities to improve food safety; however, the likely side effect is more recalls and greater regulatory complexity as each new safety issue arises, it states.
"It's not that there's necessarily more contamination, it's that the industry is getting better at detecting what's there," said Stericycle Vice President Kevin Pollack. "These recalls increased when genome testing gave companies and regulators better tools for detecting bacteria. In the past, they might not have known what was causing an outbreak, but now it's easier to identify contamination causes and recall affected products to better protect consumers."
The Q2 Recall Industry Spotlight also revealed that global food recalls are on the rise, making recall execution more complex than ever before, as even a labeling error can trigger a recall when there are jurisdictional differences in the way an ingredient is regulated. "Disparities between U.S. and EU regulations are already having an impact on global food recalls, and it's a trend we expect to continue. For example, companies have been forced to remove products from shelves in some European countries due to propylene glycol, which is 'generally recognized as safe' in the U.S.," Pollack said. "The long-term goal is to increase consumer safety. It's just that each jurisdiction has their own idea of how to reach that goal."
To read more details, download the Q2 2016 Recall Industry Spotlight at stericycleexpertsolutions.com/thought-leadership/.