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News Releases
USDA Issues Instructions to Reduce Allergen and Other Ingredient-Related Recalls
Bill Bagley (301) 344-4764

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today issued instructions to its inspection program personnel in an effort to protect vulnerable consumers after an increased number of products have been recalled in the first half of 2011 due to the presence of undeclared allergens or other ingredients. The agency has overseen 27 recalls for undeclared ingredients in the first six months of 2011; 20 are the result of undeclared allergens. In the preceding two years combined, FSIS issued recalls for a total of 32 undeclared allergens.

"This rise is of particular importance to me both as a medical doctor and as a parent, especially as recent reports have shown that the number of children with allergies is on the rise," said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, Under Secretary for Food Safety. "FSIS will continue to improve its efforts to ensure that public health and labeling requirements are met."

Under the new instructions announced today, FSIS personnel are charged with making establishments aware of the importance and prevalence of undeclared allergens in meat and poultry products, and how to best ensure labels are kept accurate and current.

In many of these cases, the recalls were a result of a change in product formulation by an establishment or a change in a supplier's ingredients which had gone unnoticed on their labels. As stated within the Notice, the consumption of one of these undeclared allergens could result in an adverse health reaction. Included in the category of allergens are: wheat, Crustacean shellfish (e.g. shrimp, crab, lobster), eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pecans, walnuts) and soybeans.

"I am confident that FSIS inspectors and establishment personnel will take a close look at any changes or variations in their ingredient labeling," said Al Almanza, Administrator of FSIS. "This is an important issue, and a good opportunity to evaluate and work on our best practices."

Mislabeling for one of the eight main allergens listed above typically results in a Class I recall because of the associated public health risk.

President Obama's Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) developed three core principles to help guide food safety in the United States: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery. In the past four months, USDA has announced a variety of new measures to safeguard the public from foodborne illnesses. In March, USDA announced implementation of revised and new performance standards which require establishments slaughtering chicken and turkey to make continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. USDA expects the new standards to prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses. In April, USDA proposed a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry called "test and hold" that, once enacted, will significantly reduce the amount of unsafe food reaching consumers. In May, FSIS launched the Mobile Ask Karen app, a Web-based smartphone application that brings accessible food safety information to consumers in a new way. And in June, USDA joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to debut Food Safe Families, their first joint public service campaign to help families prevent foodborne illnesses in the home.

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Last Modified Jun 04, 2013