Food safety: what’s the cause of most product recalls?

Product recall

Product recalls are expensive and can cause serious damage to the brand and reputation of a food manufacturer. So what is the cause of most product recalls? And how can food manufacturers avoid them happening in future?

Tony Hines, head of crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research, says: “Check your labelling, look at your ingredients, look at your formulation and look at your labels. The vast majority of recalls have been simply: right product, wrong box.”

This month’s recalls from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) –  listed below – prove Hines’s point. Some of Tesco’s products that were labelled Frozen Classic Turkey Dinners contained breakfast meals inside the packaging, while Walkers’ poppadoms contained egg and shrimp that were not declared on the label, putting consumers that were allergic to these ingredients at risk.

“With many recalls we see the same problem emerging again and again,” says Hines. “Not labelling sulphites on a pack. Or milk, or nuts. It’s quite simple but we do the same things wrong time and time again in different factories.

Pressure to meet deadlines

“Why? Pressure. People rushing. I don’t think it’s negligence or delusional behaviour. It’s pressure to meet deadlines.”

Hines stresses the importance of having an integrated supply chain and working with suppliers that you can trust. “Don’t always believe the certificate,” he says.

He added: “In a manufacturing environment the critical thing is understanding HACCP, [hazard, analysis, critical, control point] and good manufacturing practice and doing the right thing. If things go wrong, it’s because you’ve done something differently.”


The month in recalls: from the FSA


Date Company Product Reason for recall
01/10/13 Tesco Frozen Classic Turkey Dinner A manufacturing error means some packs may contain a Tesco Classic All Day Breakfast meal, which contains egg. This makes the product a risk to people with an allergy or intolerance to egg.
03/10/13 Walkers Sensations Lime and Coriander Chutney Poppadoms The product contains egg and shrimp, which has not been declared on the label. This may prove a health risk to people with an allergy or intolerance egg or shrimp.
04/10/13 Tesco Finest sweet and zesty side salad Some packs may contain edamame (soya) beans, which make the product a possible health risk for those with an allergy or intolerance to soya.
11/10/13 United Cater Vaisyaa frozen fish products They were produced in an unapproved establishment and do not comply with food hygiene legislation
15/10 Cook Trading Braised Beef in Brandy and Mushroom sauce The product was incorrectly labelled with beef bourguignon ingredient information. This makes it a possible health risk to anyone with an allergy to milk or milk constituents or an allergy to mustard.
23/10/13 Asda Ground almonds They contain traces of peanuts, which can be a serious health risk to those allergic to peanuts.
25/10/13 Whitworths, Sainsbury and Tesco Ground almonds They contain traces of peanuts, which can be a serious health risk to those allergic to peanuts.
28/10/13 Patak’s Jalfrezi Cooking Sauce Hard plastic material was detected in some of the jars.
29/10 Boots Delicious Chocolate Brownie They have been packed with Boots Delicious Caramel Shortbread, which contains milk. This makes the product a possible health risk to anyone with an allergy or intolerance to milk or milk constituents.



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