Food safety

FDA Food Recalls: Insights from the 2023 Food & Beverage Category

In 2023, food recalls reached their highest level since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In 2023, food recalls reached their highest level since before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But while foodborne illness is common and costly, it’s also preventable.

As we enter the second half of this year, there’s still much to learn by looking back at adverse event reports and specifically FDA food recalls from 2023. Especially with the CDC estimating that 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages and 3,000 die from foodborne illness every year.

The USDA also estimates that the cost of foodborne illnesses is $15.6 billion a year.

Until there are no food recalls, we’ll have reason to study the past and improve upon our food safety standards, regulations, and software.

Key points covered:

  1. The five most common food recall reasons in 2023 were undeclared milk, listeria monocytogenes, undeclared peanuts, potential salmonella contamination, and potential foodborne illness.
  2. The five least common food recall reasons in 2023 were foreign object, undeclared peanut allergen, contamination with shiga toxin-producing E. coli ,undeclared soy and egg allergens, and other types of potential or undeclared allergens.
  3. The first and third quarters saw the least number of food recalls while the second and fourth quarters saw the most.
  4. Five factors that may be influencing food recall frequency are seasonal production increases, new product launches, supply chain fluctuations, regulatory and testing cycles, and climatic influences.
  5. Frito-Lay was the company with the highest number of recalls in the FDA's Food & Beverage category in 2023.
  6. 65 of the 232 FDA food recalls in 2023 were eventually terminated.
  7. FoodDocs food safety compliance software, with its Traceability System, can keep businesses recall-ready.


All right — let’s look at the FDA food recalls 2023 had and break some of them down:

Top 5 most and least common recalls for FDA recalls in the Food & Beverage category

According to FDA Food & Beverage recall data, there were 232 records in 2023. The most common recall reasons for F&B recalls were:

  1. Undeclared Milk: 14 occurrences
  2. Listeria Monocytogenes: 12 occurrences
  3. Undeclared Peanuts: 8 occurrences
  4. Potential Salmonella Contamination: 6 occurrences
  5. Potential Foodborne Illness: 6 occurrences

The least common recall reasons occurred once each and were:

  • Foreign Object
  • Undeclared Peanut Allergen
  • Contamination with shiga toxin-producing E. coli
  • Undeclared soy and egg allergens
  • Potential or Undeclared Allergen (multiple types)

An infographic outlining the top five most common and least common reasons for the FDA food and beverage recalls in 2023.

The prevalence of undeclared allergens and bacterial contaminations like Listeria and Salmonella highlights critical control points in food safety management, particularly in allergen labeling and microbial contamination control.

In fact, according to a 2024 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund stated:

"The number of food recalls and alerts in the United States increased again in 2023, but the total soared primarily because more products failed to disclose allergens."

Food recall patterns throughout the year: a look at monthly trends

If you're at a regional facility, looking at monthly food recall trends over time can help identify any seasonal patterns or operational periods when businesses should consider timely food safety workshops or internal audits to ensure monitoring and traceability systems are up-to-date and working as designed.

A bar graph illustrating the monthly distribution of FDA food and beverage recalls in 2023.

The bar chart above shows the monthly distribution of food recalls in 2023. Some key observations include:

  • High Peaks: There are notable peaks in certain months where the number of recalls is significantly higher, such as in May and December.
  • Low Activity Months: Conversely, some months like January and September show relatively fewer recalls.

In general, it appears that Q1 and Q3 had the least number of food recalls whereas Q2 and Q4 had the most.

These trends could suggest that certain seasonal factors or operational cycles in the food industry might influence the frequency of recalls. For example, increased production volumes during specific times might lead to more quality control issues.

Interestingly, some research covering outbreak seasonality exists.

According to a Scientific Reports study, researchers analyzed the seasonal synchronization of foodborne outbreaks in the United States. In other words they looked at whether or not there was a correlation between seasonal co-occurrences (alignment of seasonal peaks) and synchronization (similarity of seasonal patterns) of foodborne infections.

In their conclusion, researchers stated:

"With thousands hospitalized or dying, millions of pounds of foodstuffs recalled, and billions of dollars lost annually, methods of describing and analyzing the seasonality and synchronization of foodborne infections can lead to important health benefits and cost savings for food producers, food retailers, and public health agencies alike."

5 Factors influencing food recall frequency

The food industry's operational cycles influence the frequency of recalls due to various factors, including:

1. Seasonal Production Increases

  • Holidays and Festivals: Certain times of the year, like the winter holidays, Halloween, and summer barbecues, see an uptick in food production to meet consumer demand. This can lead to hurried production processes where mistakes, such as mislabeling or cross-contamination, may occur more frequently.
  • Harvest Seasons: The harvest time for certain crops can lead to increased processing activities. For example, produce like fruits and vegetables are harvested in large quantities at specific times of the year, and the rush to process and package these can lead to mishaps.

2. New Product Launches

  • Seasonal Products: Companies often launch new products seasonally, such as special edition items. These new production lines might not be as well vetted for quality control as established ones, increasing the risk of recalls.

3. Supply Chain Fluctuations

  • Raw Material Sourcing: Whether your sourcing locally or working with foreign ingredient suppliers, seasonal variations in the availability of raw materials can lead to changes in suppliers or ingredient quality. As a result, this can inadvertently introduce contaminants or allergens into the food products.

4. Regulatory and Testing Cycles

  • Increased Surveillance: Certain times of the year might see heightened regulatory scrutiny, such as during public health campaigns or following a major foodborne illness outbreak. This increased testing can lead to a higher detection rate of potential issues, resulting in more recalls.

5. Climatic Influences

  • Temperature and Humidity: Seasonal changes in weather can affect the storage and transportation conditions. For instance, higher temperatures in summer can increase the risk of bacterial growth in food products, leading to recalls.

These operational factors underline the importance of robust quality control and risk management systems in the food industry, especially during peak production periods or when dealing with new or seasonal products.

The most common food and beverage recall reasons by month

The analysis of the most common recall reasons for each month in 2023 reveals a variety of concerns:

  • January: Undeclared peanut allergen
  • February: Listeria monocytogenes
  • March: Undeclared Soy
  • April: Undeclared milk
  • May: Potential for Listeria monocytogenes
  • June: Undeclared milk
  • July: Undeclared sesame allergen
  • August: Possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination
  • September: Potential Foodborne Illness
  • October: Possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination
  • November: Potential Salmonella contamination
  • December: Potential contamination with Salmonella

A monthly breakdown of the most common recall reasons by the FDA in 2023 for food and beverage products.

These results show a mix of undeclared allergens and microbial contamination as dominant reasons for recalls across different months. This pattern underscores the need for vigilant ingredient disclosure and microbial testing in food products, reflecting ongoing challenges in the food industry's quality control and regulatory compliance.

Companies with the highest recalls in the FDA’s Food & Beverage category

Here's the ranking of companies based on the number of recalls in 2023, from most to least:

  1. Frito-Lay: 4 recalls
  2. Chang Farm: 3 recalls
  3. Daiso California LLC: 3 recalls
  4. Cricket Creek Farm, LLC: 3 recalls
  5. Scenic Fruit Company: 2 recalls

Is there a correlation between these companies’ types of products and the frequency of recalls?

Highest frequency companies included:

  1. Frito-Lay: Recalled a variety of snack foods including classic potato chips and Doritos Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips.
  2. Chang Farm: Involved in recalls of different types of sprouts, including bean sprouts and mung bean sprouts.
  3. Daiso California LLC: Recalled diverse items like various snack foods, powdered apple tea, and crackers.
  4. Cricket Creek Farm, LLC: Recalled various types of cheese such as Sophelise, Tobasi, and Berkshire Bloom.
  5. Scenic Fruit Company: Recalled organic frozen pineapple and frozen fruit blends.

Companies with lowest number of recalls:

  • 8th Avenue Pharmacy: Recalled a specific medicinal granule product.
  • A.S.K. Foods, Inc.: Recalled Penne Rigate Mozzarella Salad.
  • AH USA Group, Inc.: Recalled black fungus (Nam Meo).
  • Albertsons Companies: Recalled oatmeal raisin cookies.
  • Almondy: Recalled chocolate cake with Daim.

Correlation insights

  • Top recall companies: The brands of products with the highest number of recalls tend to involve a variety of product types. It’s important to note that these companies often produce mass-consumed products such as snacks or widely used fresh produce. The variety and volume of products these companies manage might contribute to the higher recall frequency.
  • Lowest recall companies: These companies typically deal with specific and possibly niche products, ranging from specialty foods to health-related products. This might suggest that their production volumes or distribution scales are smaller, but the specificity of the product does not necessarily mitigate the risk of a recall.

The type of products, combined with the scale of operations and product diversity, appears to correlate with recall frequencies. Companies producing a broader range of products or operating on a larger scale seem to face more recalls, highlighting the challenges in maintaining consistent safety and quality across extensive product lines and supply chains.

How many food recalls in 2023 were eventually terminated?

Out of the 232 FDA food recalls in 2023, 65 were “terminated”, meaning that the issues leading to these recalls were addressed to the satisfaction of regulatory requirements, allowing for the termination of the recall notices.

Current problems with the U.S. food recall system

In the same report cited earlier, Teresa Murray (Consumer Watchdog at U.S. PIRG Education Fund) highlights three critical issues with the way today's food recalls roll out.

  • Whether it's a common supplier on home soil or foreign ingredient suppliers, it can take months, even years, to track down the true source of food poisoning.
  • Recalls can take too long to issue because regulators cannot currently mandate.
  • Consumers often find out about food recalls too late, if at all, when public health departments finally announce them.

It's sad to say but as authors William K. Hallman, Ph.D., and Cara L. Cuite, Ph.D. wrote for Food Safety Magazine:

"Some consumers remain unaware of recalls that affect them because they never see the warning information, while others are aware of the recall but ignore it because they don’t recognize the products being recalled or believe that they own them. Some hear about the recall, and intend to look for the affected products, but never do so, or they look for the products but cannot identify them."

An overarching theme of food recall is time. The systems and processes in place take too long. It's a major reason that the FSMA compliance updates call for a 24-hour turnaround time of data if you carry products on the food traceability list

Wrapping up: FDA food recalls 2023

Unfortunately, food recalls and reports of foodborne illnesses are going nowhere anytime soon.

A recent study in the journal Epidemiology & Infection analyzed foodborne disease outbreaks reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over a 10-year period. Researchers looked at both non-recall-associated outbreaks and recall-associated outbreaks. Regarding the latter, the study’s authors wrote:

The pathogens that caused most recall-associated outbreaks (Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes) are routinely identified as pathogens that contaminate commercially distributed foods.

Additionally, researchers found that:

  • Multistate outbreaks accounted for half of the recall-associated outbreaks.
  • Approximately one quarter of the recalls occurred during the outbreak, suggesting that they occurred fast enough to help prevent futher foodborne illnesses.
  • On average, compared to non-recall-associated outbreaks, recall-associated ones had more illnesses per outbreak and higher proportions of hospitalisations and deaths than non-recall-associated outbreaks.

All that said, improvements in food safety culture, regulations such as FSMA 204, and monitoring and traceability software like FoodDocs are all moving toward a world of completely safe food.

But it will take continuous improvement from everyone in the food supply chain.

Stay recall-ready with FoodDocs Food Safety Management software

FoodDocs' food safety compliance software helps businesses easily monitor and trace their ingredients and products so that they're always recall-ready.

Most related to FDA food recalls and other public health alerts is the Traceability System which ensures the accurate tracking of ingredient and product movement. Necessary for any recall strategy, you can create traceability logs with just three clicks, entering information like:

  1. Product name
  2. Ingredients
  3. Batch number
  4. Production dates
  5. Target amount
  6. Expiration dates

Food Safety and Quality Managers can attach monitoring tasks to traceability information, such as cooling temperature or dispatch records, to further support record-keeping. They can also attach receiving temperature tasks to ingredients using the monitoring feature and, based on batch numbers, still access relevant traceability data.

Traceability_full flow

In case of a recall or inspection, you can find historical traceability logs in seconds to get to the potential source of contamination by using the advanced search filter.

This will give you instant access to information based on entry date, expiration date, product batch, and ingredient batch data. And if you want to further analyze specific batches of food with potential for contamination, simply download the data as a CSV or XSLS file.


While food safety teams can log traceability information on desktop, logs are much easier to complete with the FoodDocs mobile app — available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Digital recipe book for organizing all recipes and instructions

Ensure that all of your recipes are organized in cloud storage with the help of our Digital Recipe Book. With this feature, you can log all recipe information, including the following, to our system:

  1. Recipe name
  2. Ingredient amounts
  3. Preparation steps
  4. Allergen information
  5. Shelf-life information
  6. Image of the finished products


The information logged into our Digital Recipe Book is also used to automatically calculate how much food you're preparing and a product's shelf-life date.

Use this smart solution to ensure food handlers have access to proper food preparation instructions and reference for the correct business processes.

Track shelf-life automatically based on information provided in recipes

Once you log individual product or ingredient shelf-life information in the Digital Recipe Book, you can access accurate data for labels and ensure that all food ingredients and products are used safey before spoilage to reduce food waste.

FoodDocs mobile app preview of the shelf-life date tracker to improve food traceability.

With the help of our comprehensive food traceability software system, you can be confident that all ingredient and product information is well-organized and can be accessed easily in case of future contaminated product recall events or inspections.


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