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Looking back at 2013, there were many food trends that caught on. Some worth noting, like the high-end vegan cuisine trend and a rise in GMO-free foods. Some perplexed, like the cronut and the ramen burger. But the biggest food trend of 2013? It’s a bit of a shocker, but not one we can ignore: food recalls.

From horsemeat tainted beef to contaminated frozen fruits and salad mixes…food recalls are no longer the occasional concern. We’re seeing recalls on a regular basis, like 90 tons of sandwiches and salads laced with e. coli. Chicken, beef, pork and turkey that contain salmonella, e. coli and listeria. And they’re getting a bit absurd, too, like grapes overrun with deadly black widow spiders. Food Quality News notes that seven million units of food products “were recalled by the FDA in the third quarter [of 2013], more than double the previous quarter.” And the USDA has had numerous recalls as well. Eighty-six percent of the USDA recalls were classified as “Class 1″ – which the agency defines as “dangerous or defective products that predictably could cause serious health problems or death.”

In the third quarter alone, there were 14 meat, poultry or processed egg product recalls. “Q3 recalls impacted 519,465 lbs. of product, which is up more than 105% from the previous quarter with 250,829 lbs. of product,” notes Food Quality News.

Processed foods were some of the year’s biggest offenders: Trader Joe’s (undeclared ingredients, e. coli), Wegman’s (undeclared allergen) and Whole Foods (e. coli) all had recalls of processed food products in 2013. As did Chobani (mold), Plum Organics Baby Food (spoilage), and Vega ONE supplements (unapproved drug).

And let’s not forget the numerous pet food recalls as well: Eukanuba, Iams and Innova are just some of the brands that had major recalls due to possible salmonella contamination.

Despite images and advertisements that hint otherwise, our food supply is proving to be unsafe, unclean and poorly regulated. We’ve got minimal safety measures in place to avoid contamination, and, as in the case of Chobani’s moldy yogurt, companies can often be too proud to admit there may be a serious health risk to their customers and be slow to pull the trigger on issuing recalls.

“[C]ompanies need to understand that it’s not “if” a recall event will occur, but “when.” With this understanding, it becomes apparent how critical it is for companies to have a recall plan in place,” Mike Rozembajgier, vice president o recalls at ExpertRECALL told Food Quality News. “Prevention is key, but in the event of a recall – if your company puts forth its full effort—it can avoid the irreparable damage that follows a poorly handled recall.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/11/salad-and-sandwich-recall_n_4252859.html

https://www.avma.org/news/issues/recalls-alerts/pages/pet-food-safety-recalls-alerts.aspx

http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/current-recalls-and-alerts

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Image: Megan Hemphill