More food products are being recalled for undeclared allergens


Open sesame? No, just make sure it’s listed.

Barely a day goes by that ConsumerAffairs isn’t writing about a food recall. In the last several months, lead-tainted applesauce has affected at least 500 children nationwide and cantaloupe contaminated with Salmonella has led to six fatalities and 400 illnesses.

And the list goes on and on, well into the hundreds. A new report just released by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, “Food for Thought 2024,” finds that food and beverage recalls rose by 8% in 2023, the highest level the U.S. government has seen before the COVID-19 quarantine. 

Food recalls often come as a result of allergens – both declared and undeclared. There are dairy products, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

And then, there’s sesame -- an increasingly common allergen. Sesame is the ninth allergen that must be listed on food labels, as of 2023. However, many manufacturers have failed to disclose it on their labels, causing the number of undeclared allergens to increase 27% over 2022.

About a quarter of recalls happened because of Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli or contamination from other dangerous bacteria. Recalls caused by foreign objects such as glass, plastic or metal in the product dropped by 40% in 2023. 

“Most problems with food should be easy to avoid. Food producers and packagers just need to focus more on cleanliness and disclose allergens that could make people sick or kill them,” said Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog at U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG).


“We should not have to worry about finding shards of metal and plastic or undeclared allergens in the food on our plates. It’s baffling that manufacturers aren’t properly inspecting equipment, testing food and properly labeling packages before they end up on grocery store shelves.”

Murray told ConsumerAffairs that there’s a good chance that you or someone you know has had food poisoning in the last few years but didn’t realize it unless they were sick enough to see a doctor. 

“It takes weeks, months or years to track down the source of food poisoning,” Murray said. “After a problem food is identified, recalls often take too long to issue because regulators can’t mandate them. And when recalls are announced, consumers often don’t find out about them in a timely fashion, if ever.

“Everyone needs to do better: food producers, regulators and lawmakers,” Murray said. “We shouldn’t have to worry that everything from soup to nuts could land us in the hospital.”

There are two good ways to stay on top of food recalls. There are the as-they-happen email notices from and the daily recall emails from ConsumerAffairs. If food allergies are a concern for you or anyone in your household, it would be wise to sign up for both.

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