Food-Related Recalls and Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Hit All-Time Highs

David Fiske

Senior Vice President

Lori Hunter

Executive Vice President

November 13, 2019

David Fiske, Senior Vice President
Lori Hunter, Executive Vice President

Does it seem like every day there is a report about a new food recall? Well, it may not be on a daily basis, but close enough. According to a study by the Public Interest Research Group, the U.S. experiences more food recalls today than it did five years ago, particularly when it comes to meat and poultry.

In fact, meat and poultry recalls increased by two-thirds from 2013 to 2018, while food recalls overall edged up 10%. Class 1 recalls, the most hazardous, edged up 6% overall and a whopping 83% for meat and poultry. With Class 1 recalls, there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death, the study noted.

Foodborne Outbreaks

When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is referred to as a “foodborne outbreak.” This event triggers an FDA investigation, and actions are taken to control the outbreak – both to prevent more people from getting sick and to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logged over 25,606 food-related infections, 5,893 hospitalizations, 120 deaths and a notable rise in foodborne outbreaks spanning multiple states. The same year, the CDC investigated more than 23 known foodborne outbreaks — the most in at least 12 years — including last year’s E. coli salad scare, which made 210 people ill across 36 states, and the recall of millions of pounds of red meat thought to be contaminated with salmonella.

In addition to raw foods, 2018 also showed an uptick in outbreaks involving pantry foods, including breakfast cereals and baking mixes. Today, fresh produce is the top source of foodborne illnesses, followed by meat and poultry, dairy and eggs, and seafood.

Possible Causes for the Uptick

It isn’t crystal clear why there has been an increase in food-related recalls and foodborne illnesses; however, some experts attribute the high numbers to new technology that is making it easier to catch and identify bacteria in food products, as well as more expedient CDC assessments and quicker, more reliable diagnoses in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Reducing Risks

It was hoped that new regulations on chicken and egg production would reduce salmonella outbreaks, yet the 9,084 cases logged in 2018 indicate that the pathogen has not been fully controlled. In 2018, E. coli cases were up from previous years, with more than 2,925 cases reported. The CDC tells the Washington Post that these and other infections live in animals raised as food and in their environments, and that the microbes can spread to produce. Many food experts believe that stringent legislation and oversight are needed to help reduce the number of foodborne illnesses and food-related recalls.

At Worldwide Facilities, we make it our job to stay informed regarding product recalls and foodborne outbreaks, so you can provide your clients with the very best coverage options to mitigate risks. Keep checking our recall blog for updates and information.

For coverage questions, please contact David Fiske at 312-465-5305 or, or Lori Hunter at 213-236-4585 or

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