In the past few months, retailers pulled hundreds of products from shelves after a spice supplier found traces of peanut proteins in their cumin spice – an ingredient that dozens of manufacturers use in products across the country.
Ramifications from the recall, which began in December, still occur daily; over two months after the spice supplier first identified the issue. To some the recall may seem miniscule, however, to the nearly 15 million Americans the CDC says has food allergies, undeclared allergens can be a life-threatening scare.
Despite increasing regulations and industry scrutiny, undeclared allergens continue to serve as a primary cause of food recalls in the U.S. According to the latest Stericycle Recall Index, in the fourth quarter of 2014, undeclared allergens accounted for 50 percent of all FDA food-related recalled units and 83 percent of USDA recalled units.
According to FDA, the most common foods involved in food allergen recalls are bakery products, snack foods, candy, dairy products and dressings. The FDA also identifies the most common allergens causing the recalls as milk, wheat and soy.
Undeclared allergen recalls are often a result of a simple manufacturing operational error, such as mislabeling, mis-packaging or unintentional cross-contamination. In the U.S., manufacturers of FDA regulated foods are required to identify major food allergens on the label; if mistakes occur in manufacturing, companies may be subject to a product recall.
As recent recalls show, the more complex the supply chain, the more complex product recalls become. Globalization of the supply chain also complicates recalls, especially when regulatory agencies from multiple countries have different recall mandates. The Stericycle Recall Index highlights some of these unique challenges in the global supply chain, including accessibility to remote areas.
Companies with proactive recall strategies in place can navigate their supply chain with ease when a supplier or an undeclared allergen issue arises. Having these processes identified prior to an event can save valuable time, money and help a company maintain regulatory compliance, while also concentrating on future growth.