October 6, 2020

First Quarter Recalls Plummet, But Experts Expect Rebound

The first quarter recalls from the FDA and USDA plummeted to unprecedented low levels during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. For instance, while the FDA’s recall level did dip in the first quarter, down 9.6% from 2019, the USDA only posted three recalls in January, February, and March 2020. That’s a decrease of 78.6% from the previous year. And in the second quarter, only five recalls were posted on the USDA web site, with just 18 days left in the quarter.

First Quarter Recalls Plummet, But Experts Expect Rebound

Stericycle Expert Solutions, which analyzes recalls every quarter, predict that “the coronavirus pandemic will lead to an eventual spike of recalls across the food, drug, consumer product, medical device, and auto industries once restrictions on businesses are lifted and regulators resume their traditional oversight activities.”

The FDA is still posting warning letters and is requesting voluntary recalls. Regular inspections of food facilities have been curtailed during the pandemic. Remote workforces and supply chain disruptions are also having an effect on recalls.

Chris Harvey, Director of Recalls at Stericycle Expert Solutions said in a statement, “While it may be too early to tell whether recalls will drop for the duration of the second quarter across the board, we’re more confident that a spike will occur in the months after enforcement discretion and emergency authorizations are lifted, regulatory officials get back on the road and inspectors return to the field. Anything that may have slipped through the cracks will be rectified.”

Some recalls have increased. For instance, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has posted a record high number of recalls of products for not having childproof packaging.  Experts think this may because children are spending more time at home.

Only two new food poisoning outbreaks have been announced this year either. The last multistate food poisoning outbreak investigated by the CDC, the Listeria monocytogenes enoki mushroom outbreak, began in March 2020. The other 2020 outbreak was for E. coli O103 illnesses  linked to clover sprouts, which began in March 2020.

In contrast, there were about eight to twelve multistate food poisoning outbreaks reported by the CDC in the first half of 2019 and 2018. Outbreaks may be occurring, but with the pandemic fewer people want to go to a doctors office to be tested and treated.

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