May 25, 2024

Food Recalls Have Reached Highest Levels Since Covid

Food recalls have reached their highest level since before the Covid pandemic happened in 2020, according to U.S. PIRG. During the pandemic, food recalls dropped precipitously.

Food Recalls Have Reached Highest Levels Since Covid

The lead poisoning outbreak linked to WanaBana cinnamon applesauce products and the Salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupe helped drive those recalls. At least 500 children were sickened in the WanaBana outbreak, and in the cantaloupe outbreak, at least 407 people were sickened, 158 people were hospitalized, and six people died.

That agency has released a report, “Food For Thought 2024,” which found that food and beverage recalls increased by 8% in 2023. Meat, poultry and egg recalls issued by the USDA hit the highest levels since before the pandemic. FDA recalls have been about the same for the least three years.

Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog at U.S. Public Interest Research Group said in a statement, “Most problems with food should be easy to avoid. Food producers and packagers just need to focus more on cleanliness and disclose allergens that could make people sick or kill them. We should not have to worry about finding shards of metal and plastic or undeclared allergens in the food on our plates. It’s baffling that manufacturers aren’t properly inspecting equipment, testing food and properly labeling packages before they end up on grocery store shelves.”

Almost half of the recalls issued were for undeclared allergens. About 25% of recalls were issued because of possible Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli contamination. Foreign material recalls, including pieces of plastic, glass, and metal in foods,  dropped by about 40% in 2023.

The study identified three problems with food safety. First, it can take weeks, months, or years to find the source of food poisoning. And when the problem food is identified, recalls can take too long because they can’t be mandated by government. Finally, when recalls are announced, consumers usually don’t find out about them in a timely manner.

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