FDA product recalls
A massive outbreak of salmonella in whole onions led to a 1,547% increase in units recalled in the fourth quarter, compared to the quarter prior. Of the 126 recall events recorded in quarter four, 14 of them were related to salmonella in onions. Among the 39.4 million units recalled, 91.9 million of them were connected to onions.
In addition to this huge rise in recalled units, the number of FDA product recall events in quarter four also increased (34.0%), taking the total number to 126. Despite this increase, 2021 saw four fewer recalls overall compared to 2020, with 414 and 418 respectively. This marks the fewest number of annual product recall events for the past 11 years.
Consistent with previous quarters, the 46 Class I recalls in the fourth quarter made up 36.5% of events. Undeclared allergens remained the leading cause of product recall events for the 25th time in the last 28 quarters with 42 events. Despite being the cause for 33.3% of the events, recalls due to allergen-related concerns accounted for only 0.4% of all related units because of the surge with onions.
Produce was the top category impacted by fourth quarter recalls, both in terms of events and units. It was linked to 31 product recalls (24.6%) and 36.3 million units (92.0%) for the quarter.
USDA product recalls
The number of USDA recalls fell slightly in the fourth quarter to 12, a 7.7% drop. While this is low compared to fourth-quarter results from 2016 to 2019, compared to 2020 it is 71.4% higher for the respective quarter. Overall, 2021 saw 47 USDA product recalls, or 46.9% more than in 2020 for the full year. After a spike in the number of pounds recalled in the third quarter, figures dropped by 88.5% in the fourth quarter to 1.2 million pounds. While lower than the third quarter, this figure is nearly 300% higher compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.
Bacterial contamination concerns remained the leading cause of product recalls in the fourth quarter in terms of events (four incidents were recorded). In terms of pounds, a single recall for lead contamination in beef reported as “other contamination,” was the reason for the largest number of pounds of food recalled, with 684,774 pounds in the recall, accounting for 55.8% of all volume. Pork products were the most impacted category in the fourth quarter of 2021 with five recall events, or 41.7% of all recalls.
The USDA classified 10 of the fourth quarter food recalls as Class I and the other two as Class II.