After devouring your favorite meal, the last thing you want to hear about is how five people across the country just contracted some illness by eating whatever food you’re currently digesting. Recalls are scary, and easy to overreact to when your local news station makes it seem like all lettuce is killing everyone.
The reality is, food is the fifth most recalled category, with just over 200 products recalled in the past decade. And while some of these recalls could have been in response to very serious medical emergencies, most are likely to go unnoticed by the average person.
However, food safety is still an incredibly important topic. Being aware of potentially dangerous items can go a long way in reducing the risk for you and your family.
Each month, an average of just under two recalls are issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. While that may seem like a lot, the large majority of these are called for improper labeling. Specifically, the product contained some allergen that was undeclared on the packaging.
This can be a very real issue for those who suffer from allergies. That’s why it’s so important to not just read the label, but perform adequate research to know what you’re putting in your body - especially if you or your child face sensitivities.
Over 35% of recalls are a result of listeria monocytogenes, salmonella or e. coli. In other words, these are the products you most definitely want to avoid. But how can you be sure that your food won’t be a part of these statistics?
On top of performing the basics for handling food safely (from shopping and storage to preparation and serving), consumers should remain informed by paying attention to the news and government agencies. There are a number of resources publicly available for looking up recent recalls such as recalls.gov, foodsafety.gov, fsis.usda.gov, etc (hint - sites that end in “.gov” are government owned and typically reliable).
Additionally, if a product you own or consumed has been recalled, pay close attention to the direction of the government, manufacturer, or seller. Do not continue to eat the recalled item if it is potentially dangerous (even if it is delicious!).
Food recalls not only plague homes and local grocery stores, but restaurants are also affected by unsafe products. Whether it was out of the restaurant management's hands or not, unsafe food taints the image and reputation of the dining service.
Infamous for this is the burrito gurus at Chipotle. Over 600 customers reportedly developed an illness after eating at their favorite Mexican grill. Does that mean you should avoid Chipotle? That’s up to personal judgment. You should check to see if your local locations are involved in the recall and ask yourself if your favorite meal worth potential sickness.
Recalls certainly aren’t meant to scare customers out of ever eating their favorite items again. Instead, they are meant to spread awareness of potentially dangerous items. While in most cases the product is likely harmless, in our opinion it is always better to be safe than sorry!