Swiss authorities have published information about 80 food recalls from 2017 to 2019.

The number of public warnings for food increased sharply between 2018 and 2019 and the amount of food recalls also went up between 2017 and 2019. During the past five years the country has seen food recall alerts and public warnings grow steadily.

Public warnings were most often because of contamination by pathogenic microorganisms and undeclared allergens. Food recalls mainly concerned the presence of foreign bodies, mycotoxins, allergens and contamination by pathogens.

Domestic figures
In 2017, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) posted 19 food recalls on its website. The three main triggers were excessive concentrations of mycotoxins, presence of foreign bodies, and microbial contamination.

The agency also issued 15 public warnings. Nine of these concerned food. They were due to contamination with pathogenic microorganisms, undeclared allergens, high mycotoxin levels and veterinary drug residues.

Chart showing rise in recalls and warning in Switzerland

In 2018, FSVO, also known as OSAV in French, BLV in German and USAV in Italian, published 29 food recalls. Most were because of too high concentrations of mycotoxins, followed by the presence of foreign bodies and microbial contamination.

The agency also issued 16 public warnings, of which 12 were for food. Pathogenic microorganisms, biological contamination, food additives and flavorings and undeclared allergens prompted the warnings.

In 2019, FSVO published 32 food recalls. Most were because of foreign bodies, followed by composition issues and high levels of mycotoxins.

The authority issued 26 public warnings in 2019, of which 21 were about food. These were because of contamination by pathogenic microorganisms, undeclared allergens, foreign object detection, biological contamination and additives.

Between 2015 and 2019, the product category that caused the most undeclared allergen recalls was sweets followed by ready meals and snacks. Foreign bodies were mostly found in dairy and poultry meat products. Mycotoxins were detected in cereals and derived products and nuts, nut products and seeds. Pathogens were spread across fruits and vegetables, nuts, nut products and seeds and herbs and spices.

Involvement in RASFF
In 2019, 4,000 notifications were managed by the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), with 201 involving Switzerland.

The main reasons for these notifications were contamination by pathogenic microorganisms, issues with composition, allergens and heavy metals.

Almost a quarter of the 201 notifications were issued by Switzerland. They were because of problems with product composition, excessive levels of mycotoxins and pesticide residues.

In 2019, the most problematic product category was food supplements and dietetic foods, followed by fish and fish products, and fruits and vegetables.

The number of cases reported by Switzerland through RASFF went from 54 in 2018 to 46 in 2019 but officials said it doesn’t allow concrete conclusions to be drawn about the state of food safety as many campaigns are risk-based.

Several federal government departments in the country recently joined together to launch a phone app to warn consumers about dangerous products.

The “RecallSwiss” application is aimed at all consumers in Switzerland and informs users of advisories issued by the authorities including recalls.

Product issues are also identified following tips from the public. The app allows consumers to report potentially dangerous products with alerts sent to authorities.

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