That’s right! The FDA doesn’t have the legal power to require companies to recall their tainted products. How’s that for a food safety loophole?
Companies that discover a food safety issue in their products may voluntarily recall them and issue a notification to the FDA, but they don’t have to. While in practice most companies do recall bad food, they sometimes delay the decision (a costly one) to do so much more than, say, a regulatory body would.
In a report about food safety handed to the government by the Institute of Medicine earlier this week, one of the recommendations was to close this silly gap and give the FDA the power to mandate recalls.
Additional the IOM suggested that the FDA, severely underfunded and understaffed, build a food safety strategy, put in place a risk management plan, and delegate some of the food inspection powers to state and local authorities.
The FDA is responsible for more than 150,000 food facilities, more than 1 million restaurants and other retail food establishments, and more than 2 million farms, as well as millions of tons of imports. Every year there are several thousands of deaths in the US due to food-borne illnesses. This is a serious problem.
What to do at the supermarket:
Unfortunately for consumers there is not much we can do before the fact. Only when a recall has begun do supermarkets take products of the shelves. Both processed foods and unprocessed items like produce and meats are potentially harmful if infected with salmonella, listeria, or other bacteria.
Some of the more advanced chains notify consumers if products they have bought are recalled. This is based on the fact that they know all the items bought through the customer’s loyalty card.