Are you alarmed by the overwhelming number of food recalls lately?
It seems like we hear more every day.
Does it make you wonder if the food you buy at the grocery store is safe anymore?
You are not alone!
Before we abandon our hopes of a safe meal, Detective Foodsafe® will help explain what is really going on behind the scenes to see what is making the alarm bells ring!
Clarifying Food Recalls
Did you realize that there have been more than 600 food recalls this year?
A food recall is defined as:
A voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to protect the public from products that may cause health problems or possible death. A recall is intended to remove food products from commerce when there is reason to believe the products may be adulterated or misbranded.
Our food can be affected by contamination, adulteration or misbranding.
Contamination occurs when something physical, such as glass or plastic fragments, rubber pieces, wire or wood shavings or some other object, enters the food or pathogen, such as Listeria, Salmonella or E. coli, is found to be present.
Food that is considered adulterated is unsafe, impure or unwholesome. An adulterated food should not enter the market. A person or company that knowingly sells adulterated food can face civil penalties.
Some of the ways that food can be adulterated is It could have been packed under filthy conditions exposing it to impurity, come from a diseased animal, contain poisonous substances, have a valuable portion of the food removed, contain an unsafe pesticide or chemical residue, or have something added to make it appear larger or of greater value than it is.
A food that is misbranded may have a false label, it may not have the name and manufacturer information on the label, it could be missing the nutrition fact panel and ingredient list, is using a different food name than what it is, is an imitation food without stating such, or if it does not follow package standards.
Allergens that are present but not supposed to be in the food will yield an undeclared food alert to inform consumers who might be at risk if the food is consumed. Almost 22% of recalls are undeclared allergens.
Who Is Responsible For Our Food Safety?
Food can come to market either as a whole food or as an ingredient in a processed food. Both have the potential to make us sick.
Food manufacturers and federal regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), collaborate to inform the public of any danger.
When a product or ingredient comes into question, these two entities are responsible to remove them from distribution, supermarket shelves and our kitchens!
The FDA is responsible for the safety of most of our food supply for both avenues – domestic and foreign production sources.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry and eggs through the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Of course, we have to play a key role in our own safety.
What is the Process To Declare a Problem?
There are a few ways that we find out that a food is potentially hazardous.
- The food manufacturer or distributor is responsible to notify the FDA or FSIS about a food safety concern in their product.
- After an inspection of a processing facility or food importer by either the FDA or the FSIS, a food might be found to be unsafe.
- Sampling studies performed by the FDA or FSIS are failed signaling a problem.
- State health departments can uncover an outbreak of a foodborne illness working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC then contacts the FDA or FSIS who investigate.
If a food recall is determined to be necessary, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer or distributor to take action to remove the product from distribution and alert the public.
The FDA has the authority to shut down a food production facility if there is a threat to the health of the public.
Once a product is recalled, the FDA or FSIS determines the severity of the issue and decide if all necessary action has been taken. They help to spread the word through the media to inform consumers.
They post food safety information through their websites.
The FDA or FSIS is responsible for ending a food recall when they believe all hazarous product has been safely removed from use or the issue corrected so that remaining production is safe.
Are More Recalls Better for Consumers?
Many of us wonder why it seems like there is one more food recall issued every day and more food items to check out in our pantries.
Detective Foodsafe has some theories you might actually like!
It could be a very good sign for food consumers that there are more recalls being issued because this means that food manufacturers and distributers are taking our safety seriously.
They are looking more in depth at their processing facilities and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) guidelines to discover gaps in their production system. Preventing contamination of our foods is the key to a good HACCP plan.
More recalls also have come about because our food inspection process has improved.
Researchers are also much more knowledgeable about identifying pathogens using genetic technology. This helps them match outbreaks with facilities or foods.
While there have been more and more recalls, fewer people have experienced illness as a result in food safety proactivity.
Detective Foodsafe knows that learning of another food recall that could have caused illness in our families is scary, but it is important to take action when we have foods involved in recalls and alerts.
Remove the food from your pantry if you have the batch that is recalled. Follow the instructions which could be to destroy the food or return it to the store where it was purchased.
If you suspect you or someone in your family has been a victim of food poisoning, alert health authorities so that they can investigate and prevent others from getting ill too.
If you or someone in your family has a dangerous food allergy, it is crucial to be sure you are aware of any foods with undeclared contents that could make you ill.
Being forewarned is being forearmed!