The year 2021 again found food recalls competing with the pandemic for the public’s attention.

Food recalls are never simple. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration regulate food recalls, but the two agencies do it differently.

Generally speaking, the FSIS tracks the recall of meat and poultry products by the pound while FDA counts product units on those occasions when it reports the volume of recalled foods. 

FDA posts recall lists from information gathered from press releases and other public notices about certain recalls of FDA-regulated products. Not all recalls have press releases or are posted by FDA. See Additional information about recalls for a more complete listing.

The Recalls, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts remain on FDA’s website for three years before being archived.    The FSIS website posts recalls and public health alerts.

For both FSIS and FDA, the actual number of recalls is less significant than the volume of food recalled and measured by pounds or unit.  Total pounds or units tell more than the number of recall events. 

Total recall events falling under the regulatory authority of FSIS hit 47 with the final week of 2021 remaining. That compares to 32 recalls during the first pandemic year of 2020.

During 2018 and 2019, FSIS recall reports hit 128 and 126, respectively.

FDA-regulated firms, which include food and cosmetic companies, reported 427 recalls by the end of 2021. During the first pandemic year, FDA-regulated firms reported 495 recalls. 

FDA recall numbers are roughly on par with pre-pandemic years.

Memorable 2021 Food Recalls

  • Before Christmas, meat producer Alexander & Hornung expanded its nationwide recall for pork and pepperoni products to 2,320,774 pounds, up from 234,391 pounds, for Listeria contamination.
  • Tyson Foods Inc. recalled 8,492,832 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products for possible Listeria contamination.  
  • Serenade Foods recalled 60,000 pounds of frozen, stuffed chicken products sold nationwide for possible salmonella contamination. 
  • Nestlé Prepared Foods recalled 762,615 pounds of pepperoni Hot Pockets because consumers reported finding pieces of glass and hard plastic inside the packaged products. Hot Pockets have a shelf life of 14 months.
  • Norwalk, CA-based Milky Way International recalled 297,715 pounds of Ox and Palm corned beef products because they were imported from Australia without being inspected in the United States.
  • Euro Foods (dba Citterio USA) of Freeland, PA, recalled 119,091 pounds of Citterio-brand “Salame” snack sticks because of possible salmonella contamination. The recall was associated with a multistate outbreak of 31 salmonella cases of ill people who had consumed the product.
  •   Almost 100,000 pounds of Trader Joe’s brand chicken patties were recalled  by Kent, WA-based Innovative Solutions, Inc. for possible foreign matter contamination from “bits of bone.” There were no reports of adverse reactions, but the USDA issued a warning to consumers who might have the meat product in their freezers.

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