As some of you likely recall, we here at Food Industry Counsel track recalls throughout the year. To that end, as we pass the midpoint of 2021, we wanted to check in and see how things going so far. At this point, we are pleased to report things are going pretty well!
So far in 2021, there have been just 21 recalls of USDA regulated products. The month of May has had the most recalls of any month so far, with a total of six. January and March had the fewest, with three each. The month of June is on pace for the best month yet, with zero recalls in the first two weeks.
Of the 21 recalls so far this year, only three were related to pathogens. That is an incredible accomplishment for industry. The first recall involved Listeria monocytogenes (LM), the second recall involved Salmonella, and the third recall involved E. coli O157:H7. The LM recall affected only 33 pounds of product, which was recalled after the company's third-party lab confirmed that a product contact surface sample tested positive for LM. The Salmonella recall involved 6,804 lbs. of ham products, and the E. coli O157:H7 recall involved 4,860 lbs. of boneless beef from Australia. While we would, of course, like to completely eradicate all pathogens from all food, that feat remains elusive and, scientifically, is still not realistically possible at this point. Given the tremendous volumes of meat products produced annually in the U.S., having only three recalls involving only 11,000 pounds of product for the suspected presence of pathogens is an amazing accomplishment for industry.
The presence of foreign materials and labeling issues also remain common cause for recalls so far this year. There were single recalls for each of the following: the presence of hydraulic fluid, labeling errors, mislabeling, and undeclared ingredients. The oddest sounding recall is perhaps the one for milk in polish sausage.
Last year was a significant outlier due to COVID, so any year-to-year comparison would likely be ineffectual. Looking back to 2019, however, we see the pace of recalls is significantly lower this year. By this point in 2019, there had already been 70 recalls of USDA-regulated product, more than three times what there have been this year.
Collectively, this data continues to show how the hard work and improvements to food safety programs continue to reduce recalls, and most importantly, the number of pathogen related problems. The industry is doing a fantastic job. While there will likely always be room for additional improvement, there is also room for a great deal of pride in a job well done. As we move into the second half of 2021, keep up the fantastic work!