FDA to reveal retailer information for food recalls
From the Salmonella infections linked to eggs to the hepatitis A scare linked to frozen pomegranate arils, 2018 has been no stranger to recalls. Recalled food is often potentially dangerous for consumers, which is why it is important to help them avoid these products by providing actionable information.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new draft guidance that describes appropriate situations to disclose retail information for products undergoing recalls.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said a recall usually involves publicising labelling information, product descriptions, lot numbers, photographs and geographic distribution information, but it does not traditionally release lists of specific retailers where recalled foods may have been purchased.
Gottlieb explained this is because certain supply chain information is confidential between the supplier and retailer and there is normally sufficient information to help consumers identify and avoid recalled products. However, the FDA recognised there are some cases where additional information is needed, such as retailer information.
The circumstances of the new draft guidance particularly apply to food that is difficult to identify and deemed to pose a potentially serious threat to human or animal health, such as those linked to foodborne illness outbreaks.
“The FDA intends to publicise retail consignee lists for food recalls when the food is not easily identified as being subject to a recall from its retail packaging, or lack thereof, and if the food is likely to be available for consumption.”
This may include foods sold directly to consumers with no UPC or barcode, such as deli cheese, nuts, rawhide chews, pet treats, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
While this will improve consumer safety and the efficiency of product recalls, Gottlieb noted that identifying retail locations can be complex and it would be difficult to ensure all information was fully accurate.
The agency has already begun taking actions that align with this approach, as it recently released detailed retail distribution information by state to help consumers better identify where recalled pre-cut melon associated with Salmonella may have been purchased.
Gottlieb said the draft guidance “provides greater transparency on our intention to regularly use this approach in these and other scenarios” and “represents yet another meaningful step to improve our recall processes”.
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