Once again, the meat industry deserves to be congratulated for another great year! With fewer than 50 recalls at the time of this writing, 2021 will go down in history as one of the safest years for the meat industry in the last two decades.
That is quite an accomplishment considering there were 125 and 124 recalls of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-regulated products in 2018 and 2019, respectively. While in 2021 we witnessed the lowest number of recalls in the last 20 years with only 33, the last time the meat industry had a year with less than 50 recalls was 2007. Being able to maintain back-to-back years with record-low recall numbers in an amazing accomplishment.
So, where were the successes in 2021? Pathogen control was a major victory for the industry. While there were more than 50 recalls for pathogens in 2018, there were only 12 in 2021. Five recalls were announced for Listeria monocytogenes, four for Salmonella, two for E. coli O157:H7, and one for Bacillus Cereus.
Recalls for foreign materials were also way down. In 2021, there were only nine recalls for the presence of foreign materials. Six involved plastic and the remaining three involved glass, rubber, and an unwanted (and unexpected) bone. Here too, the industry managed to pull off another record year.
The meat industry also achieved rarely seen success with respect to allergen control. In 2021, there were only slightly more than 10 recalls for undeclared allergens. Milk was the leading undeclared allergen culprit, with soy and fish taking second and third place, respectively. One of the fish recalls involved a chef salad; the other involved undeclared anchovies finding their way into a beef jerky product.
As we begin 2022, you should all commend yourselves for a great year and your notable accomplishments. As we look back at the statistics and accomplishments in 2021, we can truly say with pride and confidence that the U.S. meat industry is producing and supplying products that are safer than ever before. Work to keep up the great work this year, and please know that we are all thankful for all you do.