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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

FSIS, I am sorry. I was wrong about Friday Night Recalls – Again

Last Friday night when I should have been doing many things other that blogging about food recalls, I penned “Another Friday Night FSIS Recall – this time E. coli in Beef.” Considering that I had apologized once before about the same topic – “I was wrong, FSIS gets bad news out nearly every day of the week” – I probably should have just taken the night off.

It does go to show you how things that look one way can actually look different if you step back, but emotions in check, and let those pesky facts do the talking.

The question about Friday Night Recalls came up again recently, after FSIS announced on Friday, July 29, that ground turkey was being recalled nationwide because it was implicated in a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infection. Then on Aug. 12, FSIS announced more Friday recalls — of beef possibly contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and imported diced bacon potentially tainted with Listeria. 

For those who regularly track recall announcements, it sometimes seems as if meat recalls are announced by federal regulators late in the day Friday. There may even be some truth to this notion, but only if one takes into account all FSIS recalls, including those due to mislabeling, undeclared allergens, foreign materials, etc.

Looking at the number of recall announcements issued each day of the week from 2005 to the present (below) shows that the pattern of fewer Sunday recalls remains steady, but the addition of the past year’s data has led to some new, interesting patterns at FSIS: The agency has tended to recall items for non-pathogen related reasons on Wednesdays and Fridays, while the busiest day for announcing meat recalls due to pathogen contamination is Tuesday.

Recalls.png While Friday has had the largest number of recalls of any day of the week during this time period, the small difference between Friday and other week days is not statistically significant. There were 85 recalls on Fridays, while Tuesday through Thursday averaged 73 recalls during the same time period.

But the increase in Friday recalls is apparently due to the new focus on allergens in meat as reported in FSN. These allergen-related recalls have been announced with the greatest frequency on Wednesdays and Fridays, according to the archive record.

Taking only pathogen-related recalls into consideration, a different pattern emerges, with Tuesdays seeing larger numbers of recall announcements total and on average. Tuesdays are just shy of having statistically significantly more pathogen-related recall announcements than other days of the week. This particular pattern may be related to how meat samples are sent, received and tested at FSIS, because bacterial samples require time to grow and be analyzed.


According to this analysis, the largest number of pathogen-related meat recalls occur on Tuesdays, when people may be more likely to learn about the call back via a variety of media. 

Thanks to research by Marijke Schwarz Smith, Epi student.  Also, if any of my readers see that I am wrong – on any topic – call me 1-206-346-1890 or shoot me an email bmarler@marlerclark.com.

  • Theresa Kentner

    I really appreciate that you’re open to admitting errors on the rare occasions when they happen. It’s something I always admire and try to emulate.