Food Recalls Should Include Specific Stores, Retailers In Some Cases: FDA

Federal safety officials have released a new guidance regarding food recalls in the United States, highlighting the need for notices to include specific stores that may have received or sold contaminated foods, to better inform the public and prevent the spread of illnesses. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new food recall retailer disclosure guidance this week, which calls for manufacturers to publicize specific geographic and store information involving retailers known to have potentially contaminated on their shelves.

When food recalls are initiated, the FDA typically works with companies to publicize labeling information, product descriptions, lot numbers, as well as photographs and state distribution information to allow customer to take a more accurate approach in identifying and discarding potentially harmful or contaminated products.

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Although the agency does disclose certain stores information when recalls are initiated, it does not release specific store information, due to the confidentiality of supply chain information between the distributor and retailer. This can make identifying recalled products much more difficult for the consumer if there is not a label.

“We recognize the importance of providing consumers with actionable information related to recalled food products,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release. “That’s why today the FDA issued new draft guidance that describes situations when disclosing retail information for products undergoing recalls is appropriate.”

The draft guidance seeks to release lists of the specific retailers and locations the recalled products may have been purchased from to better inform customers. The FDA has noticed there are many cases in which publicizing specific retailer information could protect consumers when the food is not easily identified, such as produce or ingredients within mixed salad. Listing the specific retailers could also prevent customer confusion and help prevent the spread of illnesses.

The draft guidance outlines certain situations when the FDA would intend to make public the retail locations. These scenarios include, but are not limited to, Class I recalls, where it has been deemed that consumption of the food has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

Under the new guidance, FDA officials would be authorized to list retailers known to have sold or currently be selling food products linked to a foodborne illness outbreak. One example listed where specific retailer information could have helped prevent the spread of illness was the multi-state pre-cut melon recall that occurred earlier this year sickening over 60 individuals with Salmonella in five states.

In the guidance, officials explained that if specific retailers had been identified by the melon suppliers, it could have prevented many individuals from becoming ill and would have helped remove the recall products from store shelves much quicker.

The FDA would also publicize retailers known to have sold recall food products in situations where the products are not easily identifiable from its retail packaging and if the food is likely to be available for consumption.

The guidance encourages retailers and suppliers to work with the FDA to identify specific retailers to help improve recall processes.

The FDA is accepting public comment on the draft guidance over the next 60 days. Comments can be submitted electronically at Written comments can be submitted to Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be submitted to docket number FDA-2018-D-1752.

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