The system controlling food recalls discriminates unfairly against food manufacturers because there is no risk involved for the

FSA when it issues one, Greencore boss David Dilger claimed this week.

The chief executive of the Ireland-based group, which produces a range of fresh foods for the UK multiples, said this meant the regulator would always err on the side of caution because there was no reason not to.

"Food is safer than it's ever been, yet we're seeing more product recalls," he said. "There's no risk whatsoever for the regulator to insist on a product recall, but there's a massive level of perceived risk on not doing one. It's a massive flaw. Recalls are ludicrously easy to demand.

"We need to balance that risky approach and there needs to be a similar amount of risk to recalling as not. Recalls cost the food industry and are damaging for the industry."

Greencore, which last week acquired the stock and production equipment of pickle manufacturer James Ross & Son, as well as the Ross Pickles brand, has not been involved in any recalls since the Sudan 1 crisis in 2005, when its cooking sauces were found to contain the illegal dye as a result of a supply contract with Premier Foods. However, Dilger said he was concerned generally about the impact such incidents were having on the industry.

In December a survey of 232 food and drink manufacturers across Europe by insurance firm Marsh revealed that, although contamination within products was rare, regulators were faster to withdraw products.

Some 60% of recalls were now enforced by government.

FSA figures show there were 70 food alerts in the UK in 2006, including a Cadbury recall of one million chocolate bars after a salmonella scare. More recently supplier Bakkavör pulled houmous off shelves, again in response to salmonella fears.

The FSA declined to comment.