Food Recalls Get Smarter

The Lempert Report
November 29, 2018

The Food and Drug Administration wants to change its policy and food recalls will now start giving consumers more information about the stores where certain products were sold.

Many retailers are not happy about the move as they fear that shoppers will shy away, or even lay blame on them – but that’s short sighted. When it comes to food safety we are talking about avoiding illnesses or even death – so the more information we can share with shoppers and quickly – the better.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that“in most cases, information publicized by the recalling company is sufficient to allow consumers to identify and avoid recalled product.”  But it often is not, especially when the affected product does not have a name brand or label, the FDA said. “This might include deli cheese, nuts, rawhide chews, or pet treats sold in bulk and fresh fruits and vegetables sold individually," Gottlieb said.  

The FDA said it has already started naming retailers more often, for instance during an outbreak of salmonella that affected pre-cut melon contaminated with salmonella in June.  

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has long made retailer names available for all recalls involving meat and poultry that pose a health hazard, but the FDA has traditionally resisted releasing this information in all but the rarest cases,” CSPI’s Sarah Sorscher said in a statement posted on their website.

One example of bad policy - the FDA refused to name retailers that had received potentially contaminated papayas involved in an outbreak of salmonella that that killed one person and sickened 20.

"Knowing where a recalled product was sold during the most dangerous food recalls can be the difference between a consumer going to the hospital or not," Gottlieb said.

"While we can’t prevent every illness, we can make sure we provide information to consumers to prevent more people from becoming sick from a recalled or hazardous food product."