A Quick Intro to US Food Recalls

Disclaimer: I wrote this article for Kitchology’s blog today (Jun 13, 2013). Kitchology is a startup seeking to “create menus based on your family’s preferences and restrictions” with a specialized focus on individuals with dietary restrictions (ie: allergens, intolerances, etc.) You can visit our BLOG (link) or the WEBSITE (link)…although both are still under construction. Please leave us any feedback of interest.

You turn on the television and lo’ and behold, your favorite food has been declared unsafe to eat, the produce you bought yesterday seems to be contaminated with some pathogen, an allergen you hadn’t expected in the specific food you bought was suddenly revealed, and the list can go on! “What’s happening? What do I do?” you exclaim to yourself. The news seems dire and distressing in some cases (with authorities declaring that you should throw out or return the product at once) and in others it is merely an offhanded discussion.

Recalls, specifically in our case, food recalls, are a touchy but important topic in ensuring continued food safety and working food system.

     Recall : When a regulated item is determined to be either (a) defective, or (b) harmful thereby leading “removal from the market or correcting the problem” [3].

  • What is the purpose? 

To keep consumers like you and me safe!

  • When does this happen? 

Whenever a product is (a) contaminated, (b) mislabeled, or (c) adulterated.

  • Who declares these recalls? 

One of two agencies: (a) FDA [Food and Drug Administration], or (b) USDA FSIS [United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Services]

  • Where can I find out about recalls?

There are multiple resources (federal and private) to locate food recalls. Or you can stay on the Kitchology blog here and tune in every week for a list of compiled recalls! 🙂 Federal and private recall websites can be found at the bottom of this post.

  • Are there different types of recalls?

While recalls are voluntary, the government can request – or “force the hand” – of companies to declare a recall if the threat is great enough.

Indeed, there are 3 classes of food recalls:

  • Class I – The food product has an incredibly high chance of causing serious health problems & even death. (ie: Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7,  or Listeria monocytogenes contamination, undeclared allergens, high levels of metals, botulism toxin)
  • Class II – The food product has the potential to be a health hazard but whatever illness incurred can be treated. (ie: foreign physical objects, wheat allergens, certain other pathogens)
  • Class III – The food product violates FDA/USDA labeling or manufacturing laws. Unlikely to cause negative health effects. (ie: low pesticide levels, mislabeling, unnecessary dents in containers)

If there is a Class I recall on the product that you have or are consuming – seek immediate medical attention if you begin feeling ill & notify a public health official. If you have yet to eat the product and it’s still sitting there in your refrigerator or in your cabinets toss it out immediately. 

Hopefully this covers the very basics of food recalls for y’all! 🙂

Besides our Kitchology site, here are some official websites to check out for the most recent food recall activities:

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at: lily.yang@kitchology.com


  1. Jackson, LeeAnne. “FDA Recall Activities.” EDEN: Extension Disaster Education Network. Food and Drug Administartion, Oct. 2009. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://eden.lsu.edu/Conferences/RegionalFoodProtection/Northeastern/Documents/LeeAnne%20Jackson%20FDA%20Food%20and%20Drug%20Administration%20-%20Oct%202009%20Food%20Protection%20Conf.pdf&gt;.
  2. Kaletunç, Gönül, and Ferhan Özadali. “Understanding the Recall Concept in the Food Industry [AEX-251-02].”Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet. Ohio State University Extension – Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, n.d. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://ohioline.osu.edu/aex-fact/0251.html&gt;.
  3. United States. FDA & USDA. FDA Consumer Health Information. FDA 101: Product Recalls From First Alert to Effectiveness Checks. FDA Consumer Health Information & U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mar. 2010. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM143332.pdf&gt;.

About floatingsheep
Recently moved to Blacksburg, Virginia (Virginia Tech) for graduate school from good ol' sunny California. Wanting to share my (mis)adventures around the East Coast and in general. :D

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