A recent report by Stericycle ExpertRECALL with recall data from the fourth quarter shows that 552 food recalls were announced during the last few months of 2012. This broke down to an average of six items per day, a total of 18.5 million products. This means that the last three months of the year were especially active given that numbers of products recalled were more than double the amount of products impacted by recalls in the third quarter. The 552 food recalls are 33% more than were issued during the previous three months of 2012 and are also the highest number of recalls announced by the FDA in over two years.
Of some concern to consumers is how serious the recalls in the fourth quarter were. A whopping 94% of all recalls were given a Class I label, which means use of the products could result in serious adverse health consequences or even death. Worries over salmonella contributed to more recalls than any other category. Undeclared allergens were yet another big group of recalls.
Unlike food recalls, the number of medical device recalls dropped in the fourth quarter. Though there was a decrease in the number of individual recalls, the recalls still affected more than 10 million units and 40% of all medical device companies. Pharmaceutical recalls were also lower in the fourth quarter than in the rest of the year. The good news comes with a bit of down side, almost half, 45%, of all pharmaceutical companies had more than one recall event in the fourth quarter. This amounted to the highest percentage of repeat violations in almost three years.
The number of consumer product and children’s products recalls both spiked during the last three months of 2012. The biggest culprit behind the rise was the huge increase in sports and recreation product recalls. Stericycle found that there were more such recalls at the end of 2012 than at any time in the past two and a half years.
Though the numbers can sometimes feel like abstractions, it’s important to realize the human cost that comes with each recall announcement. Whether the recalled product is a medical device, prescription drug, item of food or consumer product, there are real lives impacted each time a new warning is issued. In fact, in the last three months of 2012 alone, consumer product recalls were linked to more than 2,000 safety incidents, 58 reported injuries and six deaths.
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