What do cars, children’s cribs, peanut butter, dog food, toys, and bike helmets have in common? These types of products show up on the list of items recalled due to concerns that something about all or part of the product may cause harm to the consumer who purchased the item.
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When it comes to food safety, the recall process affects almost everyone in the country. How does the food safety recall process work?
Food product recalls originate from several sources. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) may alert the FDA that a problem exists. State agencies report outbreaks of illness to the CDC. Some outbreaks constitute serious, emergency level threats to public health, while others occur only in small, local areas. Other sources may contact the FDA with concerns, and the FDA may initiate the possibility of a recall while inspecting food processing facilities.
Most of the time, a company involved in the food industry alerts the FDA to a problem with the food in question.
The recall process relies on self-regulation by the companies involved in food production and distribution. Companies voluntarily recall FDA regulated food products which may be contaminated, not appropriately labeled, or which may contain inaccurate concentrations of various ingredients.
The food industry acts quickly when problems occur; it is in the best interest of the company to assure the public of the safety and quality of the food products offered. Only in rare cases does the FDA have to request that a company begin the recall process.
When the FDA receives an alert from a company, the threat to the public falls into one of three categories, as described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Dangerous or defective products that predictably could cause serious health problems or death. Examples include: food found to contain botulinum toxin, food with undeclared allergens, a label mix-up on a lifesaving drug, or a defective artificial heart valve.
Class II: Products that might cause a temporary health problem, or pose only a slight threat of a serious nature. Example: a drug that is under-strength but that is not used to treat life-threatening situations.
Class III: Products that are unlikely to cause any adverse health reaction, but that violate FDA labeling or manufacturing laws. Examples include: a minor container defect and lack of English labeling in a retail food.
Not all recalls garner widespread publicity. Only those recalls deemed to be serious hazards will be reported by the various media outlets. All recalls, however, do get posted on the Website fda.gov under the classification “For Consumers→Consumer Updates. Remember, never consume any food that may be contaminated or unsafe.
The Master Food Preservers cover basic food safety in their public classes and are available to answer any questions you may have regarding the safe handling of food.
Call the Master Food Preservers and leave a message at 530-621-5506. A Master Food Preserver will return the call.
The Master Food Preservers are also available free of charge to speak to organizations and clubs about food safety or food preservation topics. Just call the number above to arrange for a speaker for small or large groups.
For more information about the public education classes and activities, including the free public classes on food safety and pressure canning, be sure to go to the Master Food Preserver Website at ceeldorado.ucdavis.edu/Master_Food_Preservers/.