The most common reason for food to be recalled in the US and UK is a failure to correctly label allergens, a study from consultants at RSSL has revealed.

An analysis of data published by the UK Food Standards Agency, the US Food & Drug Administration and the US Food Safety & Inspection Service found that 50% of recalls in both countries during 2008 were triggered because packaging failed to alert consumers to the presence of one or more allergens included in a product.

"It is interesting that allergen mislabelling is the stand-out statistic from both countries," Karen Masters of RSSL said.

"It is also curious that the findings match so closely with respect to allergens because the figures are completely different for other causes. For example, in the USA, microbial contamination led to 33% of recalls, whereas in the UK, the figure was only 11%. On the other hand in the UK, nearly 20% of recalls were due to foreign bodies, whereas in the USA foreign bodies were implicated in less than 5% of the recalls."

Despite the scare relating to melamine in Chinese milk, relatively few recalls were required. This suggests that the monitoring and analysis of ingredients was "largely successful" in keeping melamine out of the US and UK food supply chains, RSSL claimed.