The U.S. government takes food recalls seriously - So should you

Until the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed in 2011, food recalls were voluntary in the U. S. The FSMA changed food recalls from voluntary to mandatory.

When there is a reason to believe that a food may cause consumers to become sick a food recall occurs. A food manufacturer or distributor begins the food recall to remove foods from the market. The Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can also request recalls.

Both the USDA and the FDA have responsibilities in regards to our food and its safety. The USDA is responsible for meat, poultry and some egg products. The FDA is accountable for foods other than meat and poultry. Both work to get the tainted food out of grocery stores, restaurants and the marketplace in general.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011 by President Obama and gives the FDA the ability to recall food. The purpose of this act is to prevent food borne illness, instead of responding to it once it has occurred. The FSMA is a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. Before the FSMA, recalls were voluntary by the manufacturers and distributors.

Most Americans say that they pay close attention to news reports about food recalls. If you hear about a food being recalled and tell your family and friends then you are like 81 percent of the population according to an April 2009 Rutgers University Food Policy Institute research report. But what people say and what they do are often two different things. The Rutgers study also mentions that often people don’t actually check their own food products at home when they hear of a food recall.

Michigan State University Extension encourages you to become a wise consumer. Pay attention to food recalls and then look to see if you have any of the recalled food in your home. Get up to date information on recalls at This site provides complete, accurate and up to date food recall information. To determine if you have a recalled product match your product with the recall notice details like:

  • Product name
  • Brand
  • Container codes
  • Container size

The recall of one product does not mean that all forms of that product are a potential problem so look carefully.

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