The FDA will provide more details about food recalls to help consumers identify unsafe food items that could endanger their health. Previously, the FDA has excluded the names of retailers where recalled products have been purchased because of confidentiality agreements between suppliers and retailers. In most recall instances, not releasing this information has not endangered the public. But in instances where there is a reasonable probability that the food product could cause serious adverse health effects or death in humans or animals, releasing retailer names is considered crucial. This new action is particularly useful and timely considering the romaine lettuce recall and others associated with fruits and vegetables that are purchased in bulk by retailers and then sold separately to consumers.
The public needs to be quickly informed of potentially dangerous food items as soon as information becomes available to prevent them from illness or harm. However, with instances of FDA food recalls becoming so common, confusion or complacency can occur because of the limited information given to the public. This confusion can lead to people misunderstanding the danger that consuming certain products presents and puts their safety at risk. In some cases, serious illnesses or deaths can occur.
How the FDA Operates to Protect the Public
The role of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is to ensure that the food and medications that Americans buy and consume are safe. As soon as this agency learns of potentially dangerous products, they must act quickly to remove these products from the market. This involves contacting food producers and initiating food recalls.
Many recalls are voluntary on the behalf of the producers. However, when needed, typically in severe cases like the current romaine lettuce recall, the FDA has the power to issue a mandate to entirely ban a product for sale. To inform the public, the FDA and food producers will work together by publicizing:
- Product descriptions
- Labeling information
- Lot numbers
- Photographs of products
- Geographic or retail-related distribution information
Releasing this information enables consumers to determine if they have purchased the recalled food product and what actions they should take. Actions could include throwing the product away or returning it to where it was purchased for a refund.