Analysis Of Food Recall Data Biology Essay


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A recall is a process for removing product from distribution and/or the marketplace. A recall is required when there is a reasonable possibility that use or consumption of the food could cause adverse health consequences. Depending on the extent of distribution of the food product, the recall action initiated by the sponsor will be either a trade level recall or a consumer level recall. In this project analysis of food recall data is done in four countries i.e. is Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia for a period of five years from 2005-2009. The recall data is analysed on the basis of the hazard category that includes Microbial contamination, foreign matter contamination, allergens, Quality related hazards, and lastly chemical hazards.


The procedures that are used for recognizing and recovering possibly contaminated, misbranded, and/or dangerous foods so as to prevent prospective food safety problems or economic fraud are known as Recalls (University of Florida December, 2004). It is a voluntary accomplishment, and the recall process is decided by the management of the company involved. Recall is conducted by the Federal and state agencies in cooperation with the food industry involved (Gonul Kaletunc 1999). A food recall may be instigated as a result of reports referred from a variety of sources - manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, medical practitioners, government agencies and consumers. Most recalls are preventative in nature and started by the food companies as part of a national food safety strategy to ensure that potentially hazardous or unsafe foods do not end up in the food supply (Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2010). Manufacturers try hard to avoid a recall. Employing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans are essential in preventing a recall (Gonul Kaletunc 1999). if at all there is a reasonable possibility that use or consumption of the food would cause adverse health consequences or even death then a Recall action is required (Food Standard Australia New Zealand 2008).

In determining the recall level, most important factors to be considered are:-

The channels by which the food product has been circulated (eg the food product destined only for catering purpose)

The extent of supply (eg has food product reached the retail chain)

(Food Standard Australia New Zealand 2008)

Recalls can be accomplished at either the trade or consumer level. A trade recall entails recovery of the product from distribution centres and wholesalers and may also involve recovery of product from hospitals, restaurants and other major catering establishments, and outlets that sell food manufactured for immediate consumption or food that is prepared on the premises. A trade recall involves food product that has not been available for direct purchase by the general public. A consumer recall is the most extensive type of recall. It involves recovery of the product from all points in the production and distribution networks/chains including from consumers. This includes any affected product in the possession of consumers (Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2010). In addition to government, the public must be informed of a consumer recall. This normally involves the use of media such ads newspaper advertisements.


"Class I recall: a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death. Examples of Class І recalls are Product rampering and mislabelling, confirmed cases of Clostridium Botulinium toxin in the food, Listeria Monocytogenes in ready to eat foods, undeclared allergens and undeclared sulphites.

Class II recall: a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote. Examples of Class ІІ recall are botulinium potential, norovirus(contamination in seafood), undeclared allergen i.e wheat, food that requires refrigeration but is not labelled with this precaution.

Class III recall: a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences. Examples of Class ІІІ recall are minor labelling problems, economic fraud which includes incorrect weight or some non-organic product labelled as organic, food that contain yeast and mold contamination etc.

Market withdrawal: occurs when a product has a minor violation that would not be subject to FDA legal action. The firm removes the product from the market or corrects the violation. For example, a product removed from the market due to tampering, without evidence of manufacturing or distribution problems would be a market withdrawal.

Medical device safety alert: issued in situations where a medical device may present an unreasonable risk of substantial harm. In some case, these situations also are considered recalls." (U.S Food and Drug Administration 2009).


Problem Reported

Regulatory agency believes that your product is causing illness

Assemble recall team and ask if recall is recommended


Media story on possible on possible problem with a type of food you produce

Assemble recall team and review internal records

Evaluate situation, Decide if, what and how much to recall

Reviewing inernal QC or customer log

Review by health department

Assemble team and contact appropriate regulatory agency

Planning of the recall management well before a problem occurs leads to a successful recall process. Time is the vital factor in the recall process. The recall instructions must be given immediately to the product distribution channels. Post-recall assessment is extremely important in determining the effectiveness of the recall plan in order to improve the efficacy of potential future recalls (Gonul Kaletunc 1999). A recall system consists of the actions and activities that a food business has in place which enable it to retrieve food products from the food supply chain if a problem arises.

The key steps in conducting a successful recall are:

• obtain and consolidate all necessary information about the food product

• find out the level of recall required

• inform relevant parties

• recover the food product from the market place

• Disposal of the food product

• Report on the recall, including the action taken to prevent a repetition of the problem.

(Food Standard Australia New Zealand 2008).

To identify common trends and problems occurring in the food industry, food recall data is collected. For example, recall statistics may provide useful baseline data to measure the effectiveness of the food safety reforms. Recall data can also be used as a method to inform food businesses on those hazards most frequently occurring in the food industry so that they can take steps to prevent further occurrences through food safety programs. Ensure that businesses have a food safety program and are well-informed about how to apply these programs will help to reduce the incidence of food contamination reaching the marketplace rather than detecting it after the food has been released thus keeping the number of food recalls to a minimum (Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2010).

Food Recall Checklist

The checklist below outlines the requirements of the sponsor when a problem is identified with one of their food products.

nominate the person/team to assess the problem

contact the Government agency to help determine the appropriate course of action

If a recall is to occur, comply with the food recall system. Key steps include:

identify which batches of food product are affected

isolate stock that is still with the sponsor (to minimise further distribution of the

affected product)

Contact the person who will coordinate the recall.

contact distributors

compile a distribution list, including the types of premises at which the food

product is likely to be sold

inform the public (for consumer recalls only)

arrange for the isolation, storage and disposal of affected stock

check the effectiveness of the recall

implement a course of action to prevent a recurrence of the problem

Prepare an interim and final report.

Reasons behind the actuation of a food recall- Hazards

There are a number of situations that can result in a food product recall.

1). Allergens - Allergic reaction in humans caused due to a product or component containing an unlabeled ingredient.

2). Bacterial contamination - Contamination by spoilage organisms or harmful bacteria, which may be the result of processing equipment malfunction, mistakes in the production process, hygiene issues, etc.

3). Chemical contamination - Use or presence of unapproved pesticide, herbicide, fungicide or animal drugs; and/or residues of these items in amounts that exceed established residue tolerance levels; excessive sanitizer, industrial cleaners, solvents.

4). Communicable diseases - Human illnesses that can be transmitted through foods.

5). Foreign objects - Production line mishaps may introduce foreign objects (such as glass, plastic or metal fragments) into food products; or they may be present in the ingredients a firm receives from a supplier.

6). Misbranding - Food product labels that do not declare ingredients or misstate nutrient composition. A recall may result if the label claims are false or misleading, net content statements are inaccurate, or if printing errors occur in labels that result in misstatement of facts.

7). Packaging defects - Includes faulty seams, microscopic leaks, etc.

8). Real or fraudulent consumer claims - Consumer complaints filed with and investigated by state or federal regulatory agencies may prompt a recall if the complainant was injured or made ill by a product; or if the allegation is serious enough to pull product off the market until a more thorough investigation is done.

9). Scientific reports - Data from government agencies or recognized scientific organizations suggesting a potential problem with a food can prompt regulatory agencies and food firms to take recall action.

10). Suppliers' notification - Sometimes a company must participate in someone else's recall-an ingredient or equipment supplier that has reason to believe there is a problem with its own product, and needs its customers' and end users' cooperation to round up the affected inventory.

11). Company-generated information - Companies find problems with products through their own internal record review and examination processes and decide to recall as a precaution.

(University of Florida December, 2004)

Food Recall Done in Canada by Canadian Food Inspection Agency :-

Canada has a sound and internationally respected food safety system. Its food recall process is one part of that system. Health Canada establishes policies and standards related to the quality of food sold in Canada and these policies are enforced by Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The recalling firm is responsible for the implementation of the recall and verification of its effectiveness. However, if a company is not available or willing to conduct the recall voluntarily the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food can, under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act, order a company to recall a product where the Minister believes that it poses a risk to public, animal or plant health. Below are the numbers of food recalls done by CFIA from the year 2005 to 2009.

Year 2005:

Microbial Hazards- 33

Foreign Contamination- 2

Allergens- 43

Quality defects- 14

Chemical hazards- 4

Year 2006:

Microbial Hazards- 27

Foreign Contamination- 3

Allergens- 66

Quality defects- 6

Chemical hazards- 1

Year 2007:

Microbial Hazards- 59

Foreign Contamination- 4

Allergens- 61

Quality defects- 5

Chemical hazards- 3

Year 2008:

Microbial Hazards- 81

Foreign Contamination- 4

Allergens- 40

Quality defects- 12

Chemical hazards- 0


Microbial Hazards- 117

Foreign Contamination- 3

Allergens- 43

Quality defects- 8

Chemical hazards- 1

Below is a Histogram that shows the food recall done in Canada from the year 2005-2009:-

Histogram is a frequency distribution that shows how often each different value in a set of data occurs. It is the most commonly used graph to show frequency distributions.

Food Recall done in USA by United States Food and Drug Administration:-

Recalls are a firm's removal or correction of a marketed product that the FDA considers to be in violation of the laws it administers and against which the agency would initiate legal action, e.g., seizure. Recalls may be conducted on a firm's own initiative, by FDA request, or by FDA order under statutory authority. Market Withdrawals are a firm's removal or correction of a distributed product which involves a minor violation that would not be subject to legal action by the FDA, or which involves no violation. Below are the numbers of food recall done by FDA from 2005-2009.

Year 2005:

Microbial- 41

Foreign Contamination- 4

Allergens- 91

Quality Defects- 2

Chemical Hazards- 1

Year 2006:

Microbial- 40

Foreign Contamination- 3

Allergens- 68

Quality Defects- 3

Chemical Hazards- 6

Year 2007:

Microbial- 59

Foreign Contamination- 9

Allergens- 89

Quality Defects- 4

Chemical Hazards- 6

Year 2008:

Microbial- 46

Foreign Contamination- 4

Allergens- 94

Quality Defects- 3

Chemical Hazards- 11

Year 2009:

Microbial- 604

Foreign Contamination- 3

Allergens- 100

Quality Defects- 0

Chemical Hazards- 3

Below is a histogram that shows the frequency of food recall done by FDA:

Food Recall done in New Zealand by New Zealand Food Safety Authority:-

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority's mandate is to protect consumers by providing an effective food regulatory programme covering food produced and consumed in New Zealand as well as imports and exports of food products. NZFSA coordinates and monitors food recalls only within New Zealand. If a food needs to be withdrawn from sale, because it is unsafe, unfit to eat, or contaminated the following actions can be taken:

NZFSA issues a statutory recall under the appropriate legislation.

The Company initiates a recall of the product with assistance from NZFSA.

The Company initiates withdrawal of the product with assistance from NZFSA.

Below are the numbers of food recall done by NZFSA from the year 2005-2009:-

Year 2005:

No recall done as per the New Zealand Foos Safety Authority Website.

Year 2006:

Microbial- 4

Foreign Contamination- 5

Allergens- 2

Quality Defects- 2

Chemical Hazards- 0

Year 2007:

Microbial- 6

Foreign Contamination- 7

Allergens- 6

Quality Defects- 1

Chemical Hazards- 0

Year 2008:

Microbial- 6

Foreign Contamination- 5

Allergens- 5

Quality Defects- 1

Chemical Hazards- 0

Year 2009:

Microbial- 2

Foreign Contamination- 4

Allergens- 3

Quality Defects- 2

Chemical Hazards- 0

Below is a histogram that shows the food recall done by NZFSA

Food Recall done in Australia by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission:-

The Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs does have the power to order a compulsory recall of a product if it will or may cause injury to a person and where it appears that the supplier has not taken satisfactory action to prevent the goods from causing injury. The ACCC monitors and audits the effectiveness of product recalls of general consumer goods. The ACCC defines a product as being recalled when a supplier voluntarily asks consumers to dispose of or return the product for a refund, replacement, or modification. Below are the numbers of food recall done by ACCC.

Year 2005:

Microbial- 16

Foreign Contamination- 9

Allergens- 25

Quality Defects- 15

Chemical Hazards- 0

Year 2006:

Microbial- 13

Foreign Contamination- 16

Allergens- 15

Quality Defects- 8

Chemical Hazards- 1

Year 2007:

Microbial- 15

Foreign Contamination- 19

Allergens- 12

Quality Defects- 5

Chemical Hazards- 1

Year 2008:

Microbial- 12

Foreign Contamination- 14

Allergens- 12

Quality Defects- 3

Chemical Hazards- 4

Year 2009:

Microbial- 21

Foreign Contamination- 8

Allergens- 20

Quality Defects- 3

Chemical Hazards- 1

The histogram below shows the frequency of the recalls done:

Trend over these countries for the past 5 years i.e. from 2005-2009:-

If we take a look at the past five years i.e. from 2005 to 2009 for the food safety recalls to look for possible trends in food safety, we notice that number of reported incidents in Canada increased progressively from 96, then 103, 132, 137, and finally to 172 from 2005 to 2009, respectively. If you then categorize the reasons for recall as Microbial, allergens, chemical, quality hazards, or foreign contamination, some remarkable trends come into sight.

The most significant number of reported incidents was due to microbial hazards& allergens showing a total of 317 & 253 respectively, from the year 2005 to 2009. The frequencies of chemical and other hazards have remained in the high- to- mid- single- digit range over these years. If you analyze the data by sector and compare frequency of recalls for the meat sectors (fish, poultry, beef) to those for the dairy and other sectors (non meat and non diary), meat products and dairy products accounts for less recalls as compared to other sectors. Continuing with microbial hazard recalls in this time period and finding out the type of bacteria responsible for the hazard, across all the sectors, it was found that E.coli 0157:H7 accounts for only 10% of microbial hazard recalls, Listeria for 36%, Salmonella for 42% and other bacteria account for 13% of microbial hazard recalls.

To look further, the number of report incidents in the USA showed a decreasing and then increasing pattern from 139, then 120, 167, 158, and finally shoots up to 710 from 2005 to 2009, respectively. If you then categorize the reasons for recall as Microbial, allergens, chemical, quality hazards, or foreign contamination, it was noted that the most significant number of reported incidents was due to microbial hazards & allergens showing a total of 790 & 442 respectively, from the year 2005 to 2009. The frequencies of chemical and other hazards have remained in the high- to- mid- single- digit range over these years. Listeria Monocytogenes and Salmonella species are the major microbes that are behind the recall of various food products. The microbial hazards were 41 in number in the year 2005 and then directly showed an increased pattern to 604 in the year 2009. Meat and poultry recalls have received a high public awareness over recent years as a large incident of recall has been noticed from last few years.

In case of New Zealand, the numbers of report incidents showed almost a decreasing trend.There were no food recalls done for the year 2005. The recalls done were 13 in number during 2006 and almost dropped to 11 in 2009. If you then categorize the reasons for recall as Microbial, allergens, chemical, quality hazards, or foreign contamination, some remarkable trends emerge.

In this case foreign contamination was approximately 35% giving a lead to microbial and allergens which contribute to 30% and 27% respectively. Now if you analyze the data by sector, Groceries showed the highest number of recalls each year.

In case of Australia, the numbers of report incidents showed almost a decreasing pattern from 65 to 53, then to 52, 45 and finally 53 from the year 2005 to 2009 respectively. If you then categorize the reasons for recall as Microbial, allergens, chemical, quality hazards, or foreign contamination, some remarkable trends emerge.

The most significant number of reported incidents was due to allergens & microbial contamination showing a total of 84 & 77 respectively, from the year 2005 to 2009. Listeria Monocytogenes and Salmonella species are the major microbes that are behind the recall of various food products. If we go by the product type, Groceries counts to around 41% of the total recall done and Meat and seafood counts to 20% of the total food recall.

Comparison of these countries in relation to the various recalls done :

As per the graph above USA shows the maximum number of incident reporting of about 57% as compared to Canada, Australia and New Zealand that comes to about 28%, 12% and 3% respectively. The number of microbial contamination & allergens was found highest in USA and lowest in New Zealand.



Most of the processed food product recalls were avoidable. While the effect of a recall can be significant in the US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia's market, the impact on export markets worldwide can be devastating. Meat and poultry recalls have a direct economic and public perception effect on the industry. Studies have shown that when meat recalls are announced there is a direct negative effect on demand for the products and a move toward non-meat products. Costs associated with the prevention, response and litigation that may arise as a result of the escalating number of recalls initiated annually have increased the cost of industry products. Regarding foodborne hazards, biological or bacterial contamination have consistently been the major reason behind the food recalls incidents that occur each year. The prevention and management of product recalls in the food  industry requires careful consideration of the following areas: education, preparedness, execution, damage control and containment.

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