At Healthy Intake, one of our goals will be to help you stay abreast of some of the latest food and dietary supplement recalls. After all, staying healthy means staying safe, too! Some of the recalls may not apply to you, based on your health or where you live, but it is important to understand the risks that some foods carry, even when all precautions have been taken to protect the public.
A food recall, by definition, is any corrective action by a company needed to protect consumers from potentially adverse effects of a contaminated, adulterated, or misbranded product. Factors that usually trigger a recall include unsafe, contaminated or mislabeled products, nonconformities to the manufacturer’s specifications, and missing allergen or other hazard warnings.
A recall, you may be interested to know, is voluntary and the recall decision is made by the company. However, because mistakes do happen, if a company fails to initiate a recall and people are becoming sick, one of the two government agencies that regulate that particular food product will step in and request a recall.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for monitoring domestic and imported foods. The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) is responsible for meat and poultry. The one exception to the division of duties is eggs, which is shared by the two agencies. The USDA FSIS regulates pasteurized egg products (eggs that have been removed from their shells for further processing) and the FDA is responsible for egg products after leaving the processing plant.
Each agency has a classification system for the type of recall that they are issuing. Class 1 is the most serious. This type of recall involves a health hazard where a reasonable probability exists that eating the food would cause serious adverse health consequences. An example is a bacteria such as E. coli or Listeria monocytogenes that has contaminated a food product. Another example is the presence of an allergen, such as peanuts or eggs, which is not listed on the label.
Class II recalls indicate a potential health hazard where the probability of serious health effects are more remote or if the condition that results from eating the food is temporary or medically reversible. An example is the presence of FD&C Yellow #5 dye in candy or the presence of a less common allergen, such as dry milk.
Class III recalls involve a situation where eating the food will not likely cause adverse health consequences, such as when a package weight is mislabeled or where a meat product has had water added – which is required by federal regulations to be listed, but not likely to cause harm if it is accidently left off.
Usually the plan of action for the consumer after a food recall is to throw away the food and contact the manufacturer for either a refund, a replacement, or a coupon toward the purchase of another food.