A decade of food recall data shows allergens still top the list

During the last decade, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) coordinated 707 food recalls in Australia, with 40 per cent of these due to undeclared allergens (283 recalls). There were 32 allergen-related recalls in 2019, compared with 46 in 2018 and 35 in 2017.

Undeclared milk remains the most common cause of allergen recalls, accounting for 30 per cent of this recall category. Multiple allergens is the second most common type of allergen-related recall, accounting for 18 per cent. Fourteen per cent of allergen recalls were due to peanut being present as an undeclared ingredient.

In 2016, with allergens persistently causing recalls, FSANZ began tracking the key reasons for undeclared allergens being present in packaged foods. The root causes are categorised as: lack of skills and knowledge of labelling requirements; supplier verification issues; packaging errors, and; accidental cross contamination either of a raw ingredient or during final production process.

Customer complaints are still the most common means of detecting an allergen labelling problem, with routine testing by the company and then routine government testing the next most common prompts for recalls. Last year, customer complaints led to exactly half of all allergen recalls. Packaging errors were the cause of exactly half of all allergen recalls.

More details about allergen-related food recalls in Australia can be found on the dedicated FSANZ webpage while the 10-year all-cause food recall statistics can be found here.