The fourth quarter of 2016 saw the greatest number of FDA food and beverage recalls in six years, according to the most recent publication of Stericycle Expertsolution’s quarterly Recall Index. The 246 food recalls that took place in Q4 represent the highest figure since Q1 in 2010. Interestingly, while the number of Q4 food recalls are a 12% increase from Q3, the quantity of food units that were actually recalled dropped by 92% from the previous quarter.

Supplements and baked goods were responsible for more than half of the total recalled units, with eggs and dairy rounding out the top four product categories. The top four causes for the recall of units remained unchanged from Q3: bacterial contamination, undeclared allergens, quality issues, and the presence of foreign materials.

The number of meat and poultry recalls, which are overseen by the USDA, decreased by 16% from Q3 to Q4. Of the 2.8 million pounds of product that were recalled, 82.1% were poultry.

In comments published on Meat + Poultry’s website, Stericycle Expertsolutions Vice President Mike Good provided insight into the sizeable gap between the large number of FDA recall events and the small quantity of recalled product: “There was definitely an increase in contamination recalls…I think it’s important to note that does not mean there was a rise in contamination. It means issues were pinpointed more often and more accurately.”

Good also attributed the rise in recalls to advancements in food testing.

“We live off the phrase: ‘It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. Much of it has to do with food testing and the advancements being made.”

To download a copy of the Stericycle Q4 2016 Recall Index, click here.