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New Reports Highlight Food Recall System At Work

A new report by New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) identifies Salmonella in imported sesame seed-based products as the most significant food safety event of 2023, resulting in 14 recalls affecting 65 food products.

The Consumer-level Food Recalls Annual Report for 2023, one of two recall reports published by NZFS today, says the recalls were initiated after Salmonella was detected during routine testing by a New Zealand business making products containing tahini.

“A complex investigation by our Food Compliance Services team – involving product testing and tracing of ingredients through the domestic market – found the contamination was from tahini imported from a Turkish manufacturer,” says NZFS deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle.

“The team dug deeper and subsequent online surveillance and scanning of international food safety issues also identified concerns with products from a manufacturer in Jordan.

“By the time all the sesame seed-based products were tracked down and removed from sale, we had supported 14 recalls affecting 65 products. And, most importantly, we had no confirmed reports of related illness.”

The annual reports are a new initiative by NZFS to share information on consumer-level recalls with the public.

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“Our priority is to protect consumers, and these reports help identify trends and find ways to prevent food safety incidents,” says Mr Arbuckle.

“New Zealand’s food safety system has a strong track record of keeping people safe and – given the volumes of food being produced, manufactured and imported – incidences of related illness remain rare.

“However, there are occasions when food safety issues occur, and that’s when we work quickly with food businesses to recall the affected product, removing it from the food supply chain and promoting public awareness.”

The 2023 report shows NZFS supported food businesses to conduct 70 consumer-level food recalls.

“It’s important to note that the number of recalls is not an accurate indicator of the level of risk to consumers. Numbers are dependent on many factors, including regulatory changes, business and public awareness of food-related problems, and reporting of those problems,” says Mr Arbuckle.

Of the 70 recalls, 48 were initiated for domestically produced foods and 22 were for imported foods.

“Another food safety event to highlight from 2023 was the possible presence of Listeria and Campylobacter in raw milk, which led to three recalls.

“Drinking raw milk carries inherent risks as it may contain harmful bacteria that would normally be killed through the pasteurisation process.

“In this case, there were fortunately no associated reports of Listeriosis, which can be very serious for vulnerable people like the very young, pregnant, older and those with low immunity. But we were notified of three related cases of Campylobacter, which causes vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, and body aches.”

Allergens in food were the leading cause for recalls in 2023, with milk being the allergen that triggered the most recalls.

“Food recalls are a sign that our food safety system is working to protect consumers,” says Mr Arbuckle. “You can help keep yourself and your family safe by subscribing to our recall alerts from the NZFS food recall page.”

By the numbers:

• 70 consumer-level recalls in 2023

• 48 recalls for domestically produced foods

• 22 recalls for imported foods

• 26 recalls for allergens (the leading cause for recalls)

• 12 recalls for milk (the allergen triggering the most recalls)

• 23 recalls due to microbiological contamination

• 14 recalls due to physical contamination

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