Product recall events are real and the facts are alarming

Product recalls/contamination outbreaks can be one of the most damaging events a business can encounter. Companies are often prepared for general business risk management, yet frequently fail to address large-scale product recall endangerment. To complicate matters, the regulatory environment is constantly evolving which puts them at greater risk. In order to successfully navigate recalls, businesses must be prepared to effectively manage an event and address the financial consequences. The organization’s future is likely to be at stake.

One of the biggest reasons why companies fail to address product recall and contamination protection is a lack of knowledge—lacking an understanding of the frequency and/or severity of recalls in their industry, the tremendous implications, and their true vulnerability.

Let’s take a look at some of the real facts in 2019 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Open your client’s eyes to the imminent risk.

Meat and Poultry Recalls in 20191

  • Over 15.5 million pounds of meat and poultry were recalled for containing metal, plastic or other extraneous material—that’s 75% of the weight of all meat recalls and a seven-year high.
  • Class 1 (most hazardous) meat and poultry recalls have nearly doubled with an 85% increase since 2013.
  • Over 20 million pounds of meat and poultry were recalled last year with over 96% falling in the Class 1 (most hazardous) category.
  • While the number of poultry recalls was similar to previous years, the 17 million pounds of poultry and egg products recalled last year more than tripled the average of the previous six years.
  • There are over 250 pathogens that cause contamination/foodborne illness, with new strains constantly emerging. While extraneous material was the number one reason for USDA recalls of meat and poultry, STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli) was the number one pathogen. 
  • Although the number of pork recalls decreased in 2019, the total weight of pork recalled increased by 60 percent compared to the average amount of meat recalled between 2013-2018.

Summary of Recall Cases in 2019 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)2

Reasons for FDA Recalls in 20193

The FDA oversaw 509 separate recall events affecting 1,884 different products including:  

  • 398 products recalled due to listeria contamination—more than one recall per day
  • 157 products recalled due to labeling error—the highest number in the past 7 years
  • 142 products recalled due to salmonella contamination
  • 250 products recalled due to undeclared allergens such as milk, tree nuts, eggs, peanuts and soy

Top Foodborne Outbreaks of 2019

A foodborne outbreak occurs whenever two or more people get sick from the same contaminated food or beverage. If the illness occurs in two or more states, the situation becomes a multistate foodborne disease outbreak.

Here are the 2019 Top 10 Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks by number of illnesses4:

  1. Fresh hard-boiled eggs by Almark Foods of Gainesville, GA were contaminated with Listeria.  Seven illnesses and one death were blamed on the contaminated eggs. The recall included products sold under more than 30 brand names for foodservice use and for direct sale to consumers in stores.
  2. Multiple outbreaks of cyclosporiasis—10% of the cases tied to fresh imported basil. There were 144 hospitalizations in 37 states without any deaths5. Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite that is so small it can only be seen under a microscope.
  3. E.coli O157:H7 involving Romaine lettuce, caused 138 illnesses, 72 hospitalizations and spread through 25 states.
  4. Caito Foods in their Indianapolis facility had a salmonella carrao outbreak with their pre-cut melon products—137 people were sickened and 38 hospitalizations within 10 states.
  5. Imported Cavi Brand whole, fresh papayas sickened 81 people, hospitalizing one-third in nine states with Salmonella Uganda.
  6. Another E.Coli contamination of Romaine lettuce, however this one continuing from late 2018, effected 62 people, 40% required hospitalization within 17 states.
  7. Between August and October, 47 Americans in 10 states were victims of scombrotoxin fish poisoning of a yellowfin or Ahi Tuna from a Vietnamese company. Only one person was hospitalized and no one died. Scombrotoxin fish poisoning is caused by not properly chilling or preserving the fish.
  8. Ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison in Saint Leonard, Quebec, Canada was the likely source of e.coli in the U.S. Fifty-five percent of the 33 people sickened in eight states required hospitalization.
  9. Fresh blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and Woodman’s Market are responsible for a six-state Hepatitis A outbreak that infected 18 and sent 10 to hospitals.
  10. Salmonella Newport sickened 13 people in seven states through frozen ground tuna that was contaminated with the pathogen.


  1. “How safe is our food? Food recall trends through 2019”, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Jan., 2020,
  2. Summary of Recall Cases in Calendar Year 2019,
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Recall Information Search September 23, 2020,
  4. Dan Flynn, “2019’s Top 10 multistate foodborne outbreaks by number of illnesses”, Food Safety News, Dec. 27, 2019,
  5. Domestically Acquired Cases of Cyclosporiasis — United States, May–August 2019,

Disclaimer: Berkley Global Product Recall is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.