Food fraud: What’s the real reason for the increase in food recall?

Manufacturers work thoroughly to ensure that all food on the market is safe. However, sometimes problems arise which are out of their control. In such cases, corrective action needs to be taken in the form of product recall, causing foods to be taken off the market. Although very common, recalls can have detrimental effects on any manufacturer as they are unpredictable, costly, and damaging to a brand’s reputation. If not managed properly, they can easily transpire into crisis.

What are the main causes of food recall?

Incorrect labelling or misbranding of a product

We all trust that the labelling on food we eat is truthful, but the reality is that mistakes are made – and incorrect labelling can have serious consequences.

As a result of the events discussed in Can We Really Trust the Food on Our Plates?, the National Food Crime Unit has been established by the Government to uncover food fraud occurrences. The unit has been responsible for closer monitoring of supply chains and an increase in the number of food and drink recalls to protect consumers.

Tightened standards enforced by the Unit have led to a significant increase of product recalls. Last month, Sykes House Farm recalled Yorkshire Outdoor Six Pork Sausages and its Smiths Beef & Caramelised Onion Burgers because their labelling stated a use-by date extended by a month. Not an isolated case, Argo Poultry also had a similar case with their Whole Cooked Chickens in April. Nua Naturals had to recall their Organic Apricot Kernels after they misadvised on the recommended consumption. ‘No more than 3 to 5 kernels daily’ was found on the label but in fact 1-2 should not be exceeded due to the potential toxicity of the product. This information is available at just the click of the button, meaning all potential customers can find it as easily as us.

Things to watch out for:

• Raw material/ingredient replacement – Finding an alternative due to unavailability can have a huge impact on your labelling.
• Deviations from the original recipe – This will result in both your ingredients list and nutritional data being incorrect.
• Incorrect cleaning – This can leave residues of allergens behind, which can cause product recall or even worse – death.
• Change of supplier chain – This can significantly reduce costs, but brands differ in their compound ingredients which may have different additives and allergens.
• Lack of training – Keep up-to-date with the latest legislation and review your current labels.

Discovery of a potential allergen within a product

As reported in Peanut Prosecution Highlights the Importance of Allergen Awareness, approximately 2% of the adult population suffer from food allergies and 3-7% of children. Since December 2014, it has been a legal requirement to display this information to customer.

With 14 major allergens that need to be declared, manufacturers have a lot to think about:

• Cereals containing gluten
• Fish
• Peanuts (groundnuts)
• Soybeans (e.g. tofu)
• Milk
• Nuts (tree nuts)
• Celery
• Mustard
• Sesame
• Molluscs
• Lupins
• Sulphur dioxide or sulphites (additives)
• Crustaceans (shellfish)
• Eggs

But sometimes errors are made. Frozen Value Ltd last week recalled their Gut & Gunstig Rocket Ice Lollies due lactose being missed on the label and therefore posing a serious health risk to anyone with the allergy.

Many people may not have realised that the wine they were drinking contained egg white and milk protein until a change of regulations in 2012. FSA guidance now states that ‘Wines from the 2012 vintage onwards which are produced using egg or milk as fining agents must state an allergens warning on the label if residues exceed 0.25mg/l’. Older vintages, however, do not have this crucial information displayed so sufferers of these allergies would be advised to choose their tipple with caution. The recent first sentencing for false allergen information and handling is an example of how tragic the consequences can be if the correct ingredients are not included or communicated to the consumer.

Discovery of an organism in a product which may make consumers sick

Lastly, the presence of Listeria in products which can result in Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) is another reason for food recall. Listeria can cause serious, life-threatening illness. Earlier this year, Fromagerie Beillevaire UK recalled a batch of its ‘Brie de Meaux à la Truffe’ because high levels of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes have been found in the product.

Recently Tesco and Sainsburys are recalling their Sainsbury’s Beef Ravioli in Tomato Sauce and Macaroni Cheese, and Tesco’s Beef Ravioli and Everyday Value Beef Ravioli – after suspecting they may contain pieces of rubber. Kettle Foods Ltd is also recalling bags of Kettle Crisps with a best-before date of 28 May 2016 because they could contain pieces of plastic.

Whether you’re a newly established small business, or a multi-site brand, the safety of your customers is the ultimate key to success. Any business that handles, stores, processes or distributes food is legally required to have a HACCAP or Food Safety Management System in place (FSMS).

At Shieldyourself, our team of Food Safety experts can provide you with the perfect recipe for Food Safety, including your very own FSMS, tailored to the needs of your business. This will combine HACCAP theory and safe methods which will be tailored to each specific dish. The FSMS mirrors the four Cs – Chilling, Cooking, Cleaning, and Cross Contamination – used in the current Food Standards Agency FSMS and the Safer Better Business (SFBB). We also conduct Food Safety Audits which include completing checks to ensure you are remaining compliant with latest legislation.

As long as you have your Food Safety Management in place, adapt it to your business and follow the advice on what to do and how to do it, you can rest assured your business and your customers are safe. We know that mistakes do happen, but why wait for them when you can avoid them? Visit our homepage or call us on 020 3740 3744, let the experts help you.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shieldyourself take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shieldyourself services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email

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