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FAQs About Food Recalls

Crystal Futrell

K-State Health & Food Safety Extension Agent, Johnson County

Knowledge for Life – September 2021

According to recent research from Rutgers University’s Food Policy Institute, most Americans say they pay close attention to news reports about food recalls, and 81% say that when they hear about a food recall they tell others. Yet fewer than 60% of Americans have ever checked their homes for a recalled food item. This suggests that, for many Americans, food recalls are seen as important, but not particularly relevant to themselves. Here are some frequently asked questions about food recalls to help you stay informed and keep yourself safe from contaminated foods.


Q: How can I stay informed on food recalls?

A: www.recalls.gov is the best source for complete, accurate and up to date food recall information. Food recalls are often featured on local or national news broadcasts, and your grocery store should confirm that recalled food is removed from shelves. But checking this website can provide more information about the product being recalled and if/where it’s located in your community.


Q: Who issues recalls?

A: In most cases, the product manufacturer or producer initiates a recall in cooperation with the federal agency of jurisdiction.


Q: Who regulates food products?

A: The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspects and regulates meat and poultry products and pasteurized egg products that are produced in federally-inspected plants. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all food products not regulated by the FSIS.


Q: How are potentially unsafe food products discovered?

A: The manufacturer or distributor may identify the problem and voluntarily inform FSIS or FDA that a potentially unsafe food product has been placed into commerce. FSIS, the FDA, or a state or local regulatory agency may discover potentially unsafe food products during sample testing                 one inspections. Other federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) or Department of Defense (DoD) may report a potential health problem to FSIS or FDA.


Q: Can consumers report an issue with food products?

A: Yes! Kansans can report a food safety issue caused by a restaurant, food item, or event via this website: http://www.foodsafetykansas.org/. Consumers can also report issues directly to FSIS, FDA, or another government agency. Please note, however, that most symptoms of food borne illness do not occur until hours or even days after consuming contaminated food. So, it is difficult to determine if a specific food product is unsafe. If you do suspect your illness is related to food, it’s important to document all the food you’ve consumed before becoming ill. This information will be helpful when making a food safety complaint/report.

  • Kansas Department of Agriculture food safety website: http://www.foodsafetykansas.org/
  • FDA information line: 1-888-SAFEFOOD
  • USDA Meat and Poultry hotline: 1-888-674-6854


Q: Are some recalls more serious than others? What’s the difference between a Class I and a Class III recall?

A: Yes, recalls are given a class number based on the potential adverse health impacts:

  • Class I Recall: Involves a dangerous or defective product that is reasonably likely to cause serious health problems or death. Example: raw ground beef found to be contaminated with coli O157:H7
  • Class II Recall: Involves a product that may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences.
  • Class III Recall: Use of or exposure to the product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.


Q: How can I identify if a recalled product is in my home?

A: It’s important to note that the recall of one product does not mean all forms of that product are a potential problem. The recall notice will list specific details such as:

  • Product name
  • Brand
  • Container codes
  • Container size
  • For meat and poultry products, including deli in-store products, all of the above plus:
    • Establishment numbers
    • Product weight/size
    • Lot code
    • Date code
  • For fresh produce items, all of the above plus:
    • For bulk produce purchased without a label, check with the store where you bought the product
    • For packaged produce, check for brand, best if used by date (BIUB) and production code
  • For frozen products, all of the above plus:
    • Best if used by date
  • For canned products, all of the above plus:
    • UPC Code
  • Other Processed Food Products, all of the above plus:
    • Best if used by date


Q: If I find a recalled product in my home, what do I do?

A: Do NOT eat the product—even if you cook it. Dispose of the product carefully or return it to the place of purchase, if allowed. Do NOT provide the product to others, donate the item to a food bank, or give it to your pet. Do NOT puncture recalled canned goods. Wash hands with warm water and soap after handling the product.



Source: Partnership for Food Safety Education


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