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Food recalls in the UK
In recent years, we have become more aware of food recalls and their effects as a result of the increase in food standards and consumer expectations.
Figures from the UK’s Food Standards Agency show a 28% increase in allergy alerts and a 52% increase in food alerts in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland just in the 2018-19 financial year.
However, a foodmanufacture.co.uk article titled ‘Rise of the recall’ notes that this rise is reflected by a global trend.
Within Q1 of 2019, food and drink recalls rose by 7.1%, the third largest quarter in the history of the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).
These statistics certainly appear to be a cause for alarm. However, in an interview with Time magazine, Matt Stasiewicz, an assistant professor of applied food safety at the University of Illinois, states this may not be the case.
Even though recalls are getting more common, Stasiewicz says that doesn’t automatically mean more pathogens are ending up in the food supply, since “the vast majority” of recalls are precautionary and “not linked to any illness”.
The role of Regulatory changes in the rise of food recalls
The Food Safety Act 1990 for England, Scotland and Wales provides the framework for all food legislation within these nations and states that the main responsibilities for food businesses are to ensure:
- “Businesses do not include anything in food, remove anything from food or treat food in any way which means it would be damaging to the health of people eating it
- The food businesses serve or sell is of the nature, substance, or quality which consumers would expect
- The food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading”
The Food Safety Order 1991 for Northern Ireland is a similar document with very similar aims outlined as those above.
With maximum penalties for failure to comply with the regulations including two years’ imprisonment, some experts feel that the increase in food recalls may be rooted in more comprehensive or conservative enforcement or self-policing as precautionary measures.