How often do you see a news report about food recalls? Fairly often, if you live in the U.S., and usually the recall is accompanied by information about the reasons for it. Food safety is one of the critical issues affecting the agricultural and food industries. This means that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have a challenging time staying abreast of the production and distribution of potentially dangerous foods.
When and why food recalls take place
Foods can be recalled for several reasons. The most common of these are contamination, although this isn't always the case:
- Bacteria or other organisms are found in food that could make consumers ill.
- The manufacturer discovers problems with the production of a batch of food, such as inadequate hygiene or packaging issues.
- A food item contains allergens that are not usually in it, such as nuts or dairy products.
- Mislabeling of foods, including leaving out ingredients that are usually in the product.
Most manufacturers in Atlanta are aware of food safety issues and initiate early recalls when a problem is discovered. Occasionally, government agencies initiate a recall based on customer complaints about a product. Sign up to receive alerts at FoodSafety.gov.
Worst food safety recalls in history
The top 10 worst food recalls in U.S. history are an interesting mix, with salmonella and E. coli contamination playing a role in seven of them.
Foods recalled because of salmonella were:
- Peanuts from Georgia-based Peanut Corporation of America, 2009
- Ground turkey meat from Cargill, 2011
- Eggs from two Iowa farms, 2010
- 178 products containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein from Basic Food Flavors in Las Vegas, 2010
Foods recalled because of E. coli contamination included:
- Toll House cookie dough from Nestle USA, 2009
- Bagged spinach from California-based Ready Pac, 2006
- Romaine lettuce from Ohio's Freshway Foods, 2010
The other three of the top 10 recalls were:
- Kraft Chicken Strips in 2008 for listeria bacteria
- Hallmark Beef in 2008 for general contamination
- Menu Foods Pet Foods in 2007 for general contamination
Tips for staying safe
Food safety issues affect so many foods that it's impossible to avoid a specific item in the hope of staying safe. The secret is to ensure that you buy, store and prepare everything in a way that maximizes safety and freshness:
- Buy the best quality fresh foods that you can find in Atlanta, and avoid anything that appears old, bruised or damaged.
- Keep your refrigerator clean and dispose of anything that starts to develop fungus.
- Store meat, fish and poultry separately from fruit and vegetables and keep all items in sealed containers or bags.
- Wash everything before peeling, eating or cooking it, unless the package states it has been pre-washed.
- Heat your oven or pan to the right temperature before adding the food. This avoids warming it up gradually, which enables bacteria to survive.
Follow these tips to keep your family healthy and ensure the safety of everything you eat.