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Understanding the food recall process

Every year, billions of pounds of food is cultivated, packaged, and distributed to consumers in Bozeman and throughout the rest of the U.S. Despite food safety standards, a small portion almost always has issues dangerous enough to warrant being pulled from store shelves. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2015, over 21.1 million pounds of food was reclaimed through 150 product recalls. Understanding the food product recall process may help consumers better comprehend the potential dangers they may face from contaminated foods on the market.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration is the federal agency tasked with managing product recalls. In cases involving contaminated foods, a majority of the recalls are initiated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After hearing about localized outbreaks of food-borne illnesses through state health departments, the CDC then alerts FDA officials about the potential for a public health crisis. The FDA then investigates the issue to determine whether an identified food product should be pulled from the market and, if so, how this information should be disseminated to the general public.

The manner through which food recall information is shared may depend largely on the recall classification. According to the FDA’s website, these are broken down as follows:

  •          Class III: Products that violate manufacturing and packaging regulations, yet are unlikely to cause harm.
  •          Class II: Products that can lead to temporary health concerns or present a slight risk of developing serious problems.
  •          Class I: Products whose consumption could result in serious illness or death.

Consumers should also understand that even if a recall on a food product has been issued, that does not preclude them from pursuing legal action against its manufacturer or distributor should they be harmed by its use. 

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