Food recalls issued by the FDA might soon include the names of retailers that sell the affected products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has released a statement which highlights the regulator’s interest in potentially releasing retailer information for “serious” food recalls.
The regulatory body has issued a new draft guidance which describes situations in which releasing retailer information during recalls would be appropriate. However, the FDA plans on releasing retailer information for only “serious” recalls which involve food products that could cause serious health consequences such as death to humans and animals. Additionally, the FDA plans on releasing retailer information for situations in which the recalled products involved are hard to identify through their food packaging – or lack thereof– such as deli cheese, fresh produce, nuts, rawhide chews or pet food sold in bulk.
This is a big step for the FDA, which might be why the organization is being so careful with it. The agency does not typically release retailer information during food recalls because certain supply chain information is confidential between retailers and suppliers. Instead, the FDA works with the manufacturers of the recalled products to publicize information such as product descriptions, photos of labels, lot numbers and distribution details. Both the FDA and affected manufacturers usually advise consumers to throw away or return recalled food products.
This new guidance enables the FDA to release retailer information if they believe that it would help the general public.
“For example, the FDA might release retailer information for a packaged food that was distributed in a particular geographic region or through a particular online retailer if providing that information could help consumers protect their health and wellbeing from a recalled food potentially purchased at one of these establishments,” wrote Gottlieb.
Gottlieb claims that the FDA has already begun implementing this new measure.
“This summer, the agency released detailed retail distribution information by state during a recall of pre-cut melon associated with an outbreak of Salmonella infections so consumers could better identify where the recalled food may have been purchased. The draft guidance released today, provides greater transparency on our intention to regularly use this approach in these and other scenarios,” wrote Gottlieb.
This announcement comes just a week after the agency participated in a major recall of Cargill beef products. Last week, Cargill recalled over 132,000 pounds of ground beef due to a potential E. coli contamination. Just a few weeks prior to that, Cargill withdrew 25,000 pounds of the same ground beef product. These major recalls have been associated with 17 illnesses and one death.
Unfortunately, recalls like this are not uncommon which might be why the FDA wants to decrease future illnesses and fatalities associated with bacterial contamination through disclosing retailer information. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also known to release retailer information for certain recalls, so the FDA might be following in their footsteps with this new measure.
“We continue to assess how best to execute our authorities during food-related emergencies and build on our commitments to consumers. The new draft guidance issued today represents yet another meaningful step to improve our recall processes. We’ll continue to seek out opportunities for improved processes, education and awareness. And we constantly strive to learn from every recall, and every issue, so that we can help to prevent future outbreaks and limit their impact when they do occur,” wrote Gottlieb.