USDA Report: 18.7 Million Pounds of Meat Products Recalled in 2014

USDA Report: 18.7 Million Pounds of Meat Products Recalled in 2014
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January 16, 2015

As Washington lawmakers discuss revamping the process by which industries are regulated, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a summary of recall cases for 2014.

The agency reported 94 recalls affecting about 18.7 million pounds of animal products, excluding fish, which is monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Last year marked the highest number of cases since 2011, when 103 total recalls were issued. Cargill that year recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey for salmonella contamination that killed one person and made more than 70 people sick.

Recalls are initiated either voluntarily by the company, which then reports the problem to the USDA, or by the USDA as the result of an inspection or investigation.

Poultry products, including eggs, had the largest number of recalls at 31. Beef products had less, 22, but at 13.2 million pounds, it made up of the majority of the recalled meat. Poultry only accounted for about 2.2 million pounds.

Recalls are classified by the severity of health consequences that come from eating the recalled products. In 2014, 67 percent of the recalls were at the highest severity, Class I, which includes a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death. About 14.3 million pounds of animal products were included in Class I recalls.

Only eight recalls were Class III, which does not pose any health consequences.

Recalls are issued for a variety of reasons, including labeling errors, lacking inspection, processing defects and bacteria contamination.

Bacteria contamination – E. coli, salmonella and listeria - accounted for a total of 16 recalls affecting about 2.5 million pounds of meat.

Undeclared allergens resulted in 43 recalls, the most of any other single category. Processors are required to place allergy warnings on products that contain specific ingredients that are considered known allergens, like nuts, wheat, soy and eggs. Recalls for undeclared allergens are done when products don't include these warnings, increasing the likelihood that it will be purchased by someone with a food allergy. Generally, these products are considered safe for those that don't suffer from food allergies.

The complete summary can be found on the USDA website.