It’s never fun to find a foreign object in your food. And recently, there have been a series of recalls and contaminations of store-bought brands that have gone far beyond a stray hair.
In the last few months alone, “extraneous materials” (metal fragments, rubber gaskets, insects) are among the top reasons for food recalls in the U.S., according to a report from ABC News.
The annual Recall Index from brand protection firm Sedgwick found that, in 2022, the total number of units recalled by the FDA (which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food supply) increased by 700% as compared to 2021. In 2022, there were 13 recalls by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA).
But so far in 2023, there have already been eight recalls by the USDA due to “possible foreign matter contamination.”
However, the uptick in recalls doesn’t necessarily mean that the food we buy is “more contaminated” than it used to be.
Keith Belk, director of the Center for Meat Safety and Quality at Colorado State University, told ABC that contamination detection has significantly improved in recent years, contributing to the number of recalls. Factors like new investigation tools, heightened monitoring by the FDA, and third-party testing companies have also contributed to the rising number of recalls being reported.
Also, the FDA acknowledges that some level of contamination may be expected.
“It is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects,” the agency notes in its handbook.
“The thing is, there’s never going to be a day where there’s zero risk associated with consuming a food product,” Belk told ABC.