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Food recalls dropped by 12% in the third quarter of 2018, but a new report says fresh produce accounted for more than one-third of food units recalled in the period.

Overall food recalls in the third quarter decreased by 12% to 129, according to the Recall Index, published by Stericycle Expert Solutions. The report said that level was the lowest quarterly number since the first quarter of 2016.

It is not clear whether overall declines in recalls during the quarter point to improved production practices or a more relaxed regulatory environment, Todd Harris, vice president of international and business development for Stericycle Expert Solutions, said in the release. 

Recalled beef, poultry, pork and other food under the regulation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture decreased 58% to 731,462 pounds, the second lowest since the third quarter of 2014.
Recalled food units regulated by the Food and Drug Administration decreased 96% to about 8.5 million, with produce comprising the highest food product category at 38.5%.

Top FDA food categories based on recalls — not food units affected — were:

  • Prepared foods, 21.7%;
  • Produce, 16.3%’;
  • Baked goods, 15.5%;
  • Supplements, 14%

Undeclared allergens were the top cause of FDA food recalls at 42.6%, while the leading cause based on recalled units was bacterial contamination at 75%.

The report said that for the first time since at least 2010, multiple recalls were triggered by 
Cyclospora cayetanensis, a microscopic parasite present in fecal-contaminated food that causes severe intestinal illness.

The report said there were eight recalls and 6,476 units recalled due to contamination with cyclospora. 

“Although this is only 6.2% of the recalls and 0.1% of the units recalled in the quarter, it is the first time cyclospora has been a recall cause since at least 2010,” the report said.