Food Recalls: How to Keep Your Family Healthy
By Kate Gardner
Last summer we couldn't eat Romaine lettuce. A few months ago, I had to throw out all my flour. Right now I'm wondering if I have any of the frozen vegetables from a recall issued in early July (spoiler alert: yes!). As of this writing, there are more than 1,000 recalls listed on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recall website. But as I browse through the list, I realize I didn't know about most of them! Why are foods recalled and what's the best way to find out about them?
Why Foods Are Recalled
There are many reasons food products may be recalled. The most common reasons include:
Undeclared or mislabeled allergens - This means the food contains a common allergen but it is not labeled properly. For the millions of Americans with food allergies, proper labeling is extremely important.
Foodborne pathogens - These are the recalls meant to keep us from getting sick. Testing has shown these recalled foods may contain something that will make us sick like E. coli or salmonella.
Physical contamination - Sometimes, we discover food is contaminated with other things, like pieces of wood, insect, or metal.
Steps to Recall
In the United States, food recalls are issued by two main groups, the FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The latter deals with recalls of meat, poultry, and eggs. The FDA recalls all other foods, including pet foods, as well as many medications and medical devices.
Food recalls are typically triggered in one of two ways. First, FSIS and the FDA conduct regular testing that may discover a problem that causes a recall. Second, people or pets may become ill or discover problems with a product. If it is determined their illness is connected to a particular food, a recall will be issued.
Where to Find Out
We often find out about recalled food products through the news or our Facebook feed. This means we don't always get all the information we need. In order to stay on top of all the recalls that may affect your family, go directly to the source. Both the FDA and FSIS have recall lists on their websites that will tell you what products are included, as well as where they were sold and any information that can help you identify if your food is on the list.
What to Do
If you discover you have a recalled product in your home, stop using it! Even if you have already used some of the product, it is best to throw out the rest. You can check with the store you purchased the product from to see if they offer refunds for recalled food. After you have gotten the recalled food out of your kitchen, clean any surfaces it may have come into contact with.
Eating healthy isn't just about making good food choices. It's also about making sure we know what's safe to eat!
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