Global food recalls and alerts associated with labelling errors and its contributory factors

Soon, Jan Mei orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0488-1434 and Wahab, Ikarastika Rahayu Abdul (2021) Global food recalls and alerts associated with labelling errors and its contributory factors. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 118 (B). pp. 791-798. ISSN 0924-2244

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Background: Food recalls and alerts associated with undeclared allergens and other forms of labelling errors are on the rise. Besides undeclared allergens, other mislabelling such as undeclared ingredients, providing wrong shelf-life, wrong or lack of storage instructions also pose significant health consequences to consumers. Hence, by identifying the causes of labelling errors, this would facilitate preventative and mitigating strategies in food supply chain. The aim of this study is twofold. First, the study aims to identify the affected food and drink categories, types of allergen, and other labelling issues and associated labelling errors. Second, it aims to identify the causes or contributory factors of labelling errors.
Scope and approach: This study reviews food recall, withdrawals, and alerts of five official food safety websites (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, UK Food Standards Agency, US Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service and US Food and Drug Administration) from 2011 – 2020.
Key findings and conclusions: A total of 2,470 food recalls and alerts linked to labelling errors were identified. Undeclared allergens were identified as the most common type of recall. Among the 2301 recalls and alerts associated with food allergens, 3,100 undeclared allergens were reported of which milk (26.55%), gluten (13.16%) and tree nuts (11.52%) were recorded as the top three contributors. Food products most affected by undeclared, incorrect or missing information associated with food allergens were baked goods (18.65%), ready-to-eat meals / heat and serve (11.10%) and confectionary (10.87%). There were alerts and recalls associated with undeclared ingredients (n=67), wrong expiry dates (n=36), undeclared ingredients & allergens (n=26), and other labelling issues such as incorrect claims or wrong usage / storage instructions (n=40). Most labelling errors remain unknown or un-reported. Where known or suspected causes were reported, packaging and printing error, supply chain failures, product formulation and ingredient change, cross contact and process failure / manufacturing error were recorded as contributory factors. The root cause of labelling error remains underreported or unknown and should be documented clearly and/or investigated further.

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