In January 2021 a food retailer recalled cartons of their ice cream due to metal fragments in the product. Only one consumer reported metal pieces found in their ice cream; however, due to this incident, as many as 11,000 cartons were recalled due to the concern that there could be metal fragments found in other cartons that were shipped out during the period of production and quality control. A popular microwaveable meal was also recalled recently due to possibility of plastic and glass contamination. Last year, there was also an E.coli outbreak due to Romaine lettuce. This article focuses on how severe recalls can be but the majority of recalls do not pose a threat to human health.

What is a food recall? A food recall is when a food manufacturer must remove their product for consumers to purchase due to reported cases of illnesses caused from the product. Food recalls are common and there have been countless cases of illnesses that have been linked to recalled products. These recalls have affected customers greatly by ways of adverse health consequences, or – in some extreme cases – even leading to death. When individuals go inside a grocery store or market, it is often not their first priority to think about the consequences of what may happen if they were to purchase tainted goods.

There are many reasons why food recalls occur: Biological hazards, misleading claims, chemical hazards, physical foreign objects, and undeclared allergens are all primary reasons. Food can also be recalled if health inspectors spot faults within a food plant and they want to prevent individuals from getting sick. Due to the following reasons, consumers should take major precautions when it comes to food recalls. Food recalls, if they are not followed, have the potential to be detrimental and can lead to further outbreaks of contamination towards healthy individuals. 

As a consumer, what should you do and look out for? It is possible for any food or product to be recalled suddenly. So before running to grab groceries, take a minute to research and keep up-to-date with what goods are under active recall. There are a lot of resources online to do this! Depending what product it is, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), have links on their main websites to trace current recalls. When grocery shopping, look at the physical state of the product. One should ask themself – Is it damaged? If yes, then choose another. For individuals that have allergies, read the labels! There can always be undeclared allergens and misleading claims to look out for. Lastly, rinse the produce before use. Not all raw produce goes through a vigorous sanitation process. Food should be disposed when they are recalled. There is also another choice, which is to go back to the store and return the product for a refund. If product is consumed after finding out about the recall – do not panic! Food recalls are often done as a precautionary measure. There are a lot of other precautions to look out for, but these are some of the vital safety measures.

How serious are food recalls actually? Food recalls have become fairly common nowadays, but you should never underestimate the seriousness of the recall. Consumers should double check what they are purchasing to consume and ask themselves: “Is it safe to eat?”

A note from ConnectFood CEO Matthew Botos: When teaching Preventive Controls for Human Foods we look at recall plans as a building block in our overall food safety system. After completion of a company’s hazard analysis and understanding what needs to be monitored and why it needs to be monitored, we create a living recall plan. We must emphasize that an effective recall plan can reduce the financial impact for the company by facilitating rapid retrieval of adulterated products. An effective recall plan can also reduce the number of people who become ill. It is important to note that not all recalls are food safety issues but can come from other issues such as quality, mislabeling, etc. Knowing your product, knowing where that product is distributed, and having a capable team will keep the food supply safe with a recall plan.

If you’re looking for assistance with recall documentation for your facility or products, ConnectFood can help! Contact us today to schedule a consultation for your recall plan, or take a look at our subscription tiers for more services.

About the Author:

Daniela Jugueta received a B.S. degree from SUNY Buffalo State College. She is currently pursuing a M.A.S. degree in Food Safety and Technology in the Food Science and Nutrition department, Illinois Institute of Technology. She is also an intern for ConnectFood as a Food Safety Specialist.