More Than Just E. coli
Allergen risk is also present in
When a recall occurs due to a food safety issue, the first thing that enters most people’s minds is pathogenic organisms, such as Listeria, Salmonella nd Escherichia coli. Second would be
extraneous material such as metal or plastic fragments.
Although these are serious issues, in recent years, the
majority of food safety-related recalls have actually been
due to the undeclared presence of foodborne allergens.
In the U.S., eight major food allergens cause more
than 90 percent of food allergies: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Worldwide,
sulfur dioxide/sulfites, celery, gluten-containing grains,
mustard, sesame seeds and lupine are also significant
allergens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined there was an 18 percent increase
in food allergies between 1997 and 2007 in children
under the age of 18,1 and it was estimated in 2014 that
4 percent of adults and 5 percent of children in the U.S.
suffer from food allergies, although some studies have
put that number as high as 8 percent.
2 This increase has
spurred more research into the area, with the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases intending to
award more than $42 million to a Consortium of Food
Allergy Research to treat these types of allergies.
For those who suffer from food allergies, symptoms
can range from mild to severe, and even life threatening.
As there is no known cure for food allergies, avoidance
is the only major approach sufferers have to prevent
these attacks. For this reason, it is key
that food companies provide accurate
ingredient information on their product
In July 2017 alone, there were 14
U.S. Food and Drug Administration-related food recalls (not including dietary supplements). Of these 14 recalls,
8 were due to undeclared allergens,
including eggs, milk, nuts and soy, in
products ranging from cookies and protein bars to beverages, soups, dips and
4 Although no meat or poultry is
considered a major food allergen, meat
and poultry products are not immune
to this type of recall. A variety of processed meat products, such as breaded
cutlets, nuggets, hot dogs and meat
sauces, may be formulated with ingredients considered allergens. Many of
these products include milk powder or
wheat protein, and therefore these ingredients and any other included major
food allergens must be declared on the
Recalls and Repercussions
The consequences of a major food
recall are illustrated by an incident in
mid-2017. In June, Tyson Foods Inc.
had to recall approximately 2,485,000
pounds of a variety of ready-to-eat
breaded chicken products because of
the presence of milk, which was not
declared on the product labels. This
was, in fact, part of an even larger recall caused by one ingredient supplier,
which involved nine food processing
companies and more than 3,780,000
pounds of product by the end of June.
The products ranged from breaded
chicken products to chicken salad,
spaghetti and meatballs, sausages and a
variety of other beef products.
This incident highlights many issues
pertinent to modern-day meat safety.
First, the recall was due to an allergen.
As already mentioned, consumers (and
often processors) are most worried
By Emefa Monu, Ph.D.