By Allergen Bureau

‘Unprecedented’: Australia’s allergen-related food recalls hit a record high in 2020

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have released annual figures, which show there were a total of 109 food recalls in Australia throughout 2020, up from 87 recalls in 2019 and 100 in 2018. Undeclared food allergens were behind 51 of these (compared with 32 in 2019), with half reportedly due to packaging errors.

Most of the allergen-related recalls were triggered by a customer complaint, with others coming after results of routine testing by the government or by the company.

Last year continued a trend seen across the past decade during which undeclared allergens have been the single biggest cause of Australia’s total food recalls (321, or 42% of all recalls). The most common undeclared allergens were milk (93 recalls; 29%), multiple allergens (55 recalls; 17%) and peanut (54 recalls; 17%).

FSANZ has identified the following four key root causes of allergen-related recalls.

  • accidental cross contamination either of a raw ingredient or during production process
  • lack of staff skills and knowledge to fulfil labelling requirements
  • packaging errors
  • supplier verification issues or the root cause was unknown (when the business couldn’t find what caused the issue or FSANZ wasn’t able to get enough information from the business).

Additional data collected by FSANZ since 2016 report the main corrective actions taken by food business operators following allergen-related recalls involved altering the product label, training staff, amending processing or handling procedures and improving communication

The Allergen Bureau has some comprehensive resources covering these topics as indicated below:

Click here to download a PDF of this table

Further insights about allergen-related food recalls in Australia are available on the FSANZ Undeclared allergen food recall statistics page.