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US Food Recalls on the Rise

November 27, 2019

An unprecedented rise in recalls may not be a bad thing. More companies are voluntarily recalling their products as soon as a potential public health threat surfaces.


Food recalls are now so common in the US that grocery shopping has turned into a Russian Roulette where what you’d have for lunch could make you seriously sick. Increased surveillance has become the call of the day and safety checks the need of the hour.

The total number of food recalls in the U.S. increased by 10% between 2013 and 2018, hitting a peak of 905 in 2016, according to a report published by Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)



Source: US PIRG

Reasons for recall

A food recall occurs when there is reason to believe that a food may cause consumers to become ill. A food manufacturer or distributor initiates the recall to take foods off the market. In some situations, food recalls are requested by government agencies (USDA or FDA).

  • Discovery of an organism in a product which may make consumers sick
  • Discovery of a potential allergen in a product
  • Mislabeling or misbranding of food. For example, a food may contain an allergen, such as nuts or eggs, but those ingredients do not appear on the label.

Examples of food recalls

  • Ready Pac Foods, Inc. recalled Salad Kit Products due to misbranding and undeclared Allergens
  • Joseph Epstein Food Enterprises, Inc. recalled gluten-free Turkey Meatball Products due to misbranding

Cost implications of a recall

There are several costs an organization incurs for a recall. They are

  • advertising costs,
  • stock value depreciation,
  • recovering of physical stock in retail stores and stock points,
  • investment in re-testing and finally
  • destroying recalled stocks.

A single food recall can lead to severe financial loss and reputational damage for food producers. 52% of all food recalls cost the affected US companies more than USD 10 million each and other losses which were estimated to be more than USD 100 million. This figure excludes the reputational damage that may take a company years to recover from.

Challenges and Way forward

Today ingredients are sourced worldwide. This leads to greater complexity for food manufacturers as they need to know what the ingredients contain and how it was produced. Not knowing the details could mean that a label warning or an allergen declaration could be missed out, resulting in a recall. The finished product may also be sold globally which means labels have to be designed based on local regulations.  The solution lies in providing a collaborative platform on which all the stakeholders are on the same page. The following recommendations can help in reducing recalls

  • Setup a structured workflow that involves all stakeholders irrespective of where in the world they are located
  • Use standard Brief templates that will prompt stakeholders to share information in a systematic manner
  • Provide comparison tools to check if the designer has correctly used the brief content in the artwork PDF
  • Provide an updated checklist
    • specific to the Product (different products have different claims and content to check),
    • specific to the Market (different regulations for different markets),
    • specific to the Component (different things to check for a carton and label) and
    • specific to the Approver (different departments have different things to check)

ManageArtworks provides food and beverage manufacturers with just that. Its customizable workflow, sophisticated proofing tools, collaboration platform and custom check lists ensure that packaging labels are created in accordance with the standards prescribed by bodies like FDA and USDA.

Milk is present in many forms in the ingredient list. Milk is also present in the ‘Contains’ list. This is the correct way to declare allergens.


Soy is present as ‘Organic Soy Lecithin’ in the ingredient list. But ‘Soy’ is not listed in the ‘Contains’ list. The allergen declaration is not correct.

There’s a reason why the ‘Smart Checklist’ feature is such a prized favorite among our clients.

Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that food manufacturers label food products that contain an ingredient that is one of the 8 major allergens:

1. Peanuts

2. Tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, hazel nuts, almonds)

3. Soybeans

4. Wheat

5. Eggs

6. Milk

7. Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)

8. Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)


The software checks for over 2000 common, scientific and market names for the 8 food groups and validates if an allergen statement is required or not. So essentially with the smart checklist, you push out error-free artworks faster, hit the markets sooner, gain an edge over your competitors and accelerate your revenue.

Contact us and have our experts reach out to you pronto!

References: FSIS, Food Safety, Faarp, Lockton, Swissre

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