by Marion Nestle
Apr 24 2018

Food recalls increasing: Is this good or bad news?

Do food recalls reflect failures in food safety regulation or should they be considered a success?

USDA reports a significant increase in recent food product recalls.

  • Between 2004 and 2008, food recalls averaged 304 a year
  • Between 2009 and 2013, they averaged 676 a year.

USDA attributes the increase to

  • Improvements in pathogen and risk-detection technology
  • Increased regulatory oversight and enforcement
  • Congressional passage of food safety legislation

This sounds like success, no?

The food categories accounting for most recalls?

  • Prepared foods and meals
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Baked goods and grains
  • Candy
  • Sauces, condiments and dressings

The most common reasons for the recalls:

  • Failure to declare major allergens
  • Possible Salmonella contamination.

Here’s another reason, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office: USDA’s inadequate standards for pathogens in meat and poultry, particularly turkey breasts and pork chops.

The report recommends that USDA work on this problem.  The USDA says it will.

Food safety requires endless vigilence, and government agencies need to do vigilent oversight.

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