By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Stephen Smith, Esq. | Last reviewed December 15, 2021
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The Center for Disease Control tracks foodborne illness outbreaks across the United States. It provides information to consumers and health agencies on salmonella and other foodborne illnesses.
This article provides an overview of food recalls, the issues of concern, and the agencies involved. It provides links to government resources and recall updates.
See FindLaw's Dangerous Foods section for more information. Also, see the federal FoodSafety.gov portal.
How and Why Are Foods Recalled?
Food recalls are initiated by the manufacturer or distributor in response to credible consumer complaints. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have the authority to stop the distribution and sale of tainted foods, but so far have not had to do so.
When there is reason to believe that a food product may cause illness if consumed, that product, or a particular batch of that product, may be recalled by the manufacturer. It is pulled from the shelves at retail stores and removed from distribution. An alert is issued to the public to throw it away if they have it at home.
A company may decide to recall a food product for any number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Safety concerns of any type
- Mislabeling or misleading claims
- Missing allergen warning
- Improper packaging or storage
While the initial news of the recall certainly doesn't help a company's image, taking swift action not only protects consumers but also can help minimize the cost of the recall and helps regain customer trust.
Food Recall Classifications
- Class I: Strong likelihood that eating a given food product will cause serious health consequences or even death. Examples of this include beef or salad greens tainted with E. coli.
- Class II: A given food product poses a remote possibility to cause illness, or the illness is temporary and not serious. This covers issues like labels failing to mention the presence of dry milk (a Class II allergen).
- Class III: A given food product likely will not cause illness but is being recalled for some other reason. For example, a bag of flour marked "1 Pound" actually contains 3/4 of a pound.
Resources from the USDA
- Current Recalls and Alerts: Constantly updated listing of all active USDA food recalls and alerts.
- Report a Problem with Food: Tips and contact information to help you file a complaint if you suspect tainted food.
- Annual Recall Summaries: Summaries of food recalls for the past eight years. This list may be searched by the product type or the reason for the recall.
Resources from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- US Food and Drug Administration: Recalls of biological products, including food.
- Safety Alerts & Advisories: This page provides links to safety alerts, consumer advisories, and other safety information about food and beverages, dietary supplements, and infant formula.
- FDA Enforcement Report Index: Published weekly, this site includes recall and field correction actions, safety alerts, and more.
Seriously Injured From Unsafe Food? Speak to an Attorney.
Foodborne illnesses can be very serious, leading to high medical bills and time away from work. Fortunately, victims of food poisoning can recover compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible company. Contact an experienced product liability attorney.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.