• Decrease font size
  • Return font size to normal
  • Increase font size
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Safety

  • Print
  • Share
  • E-mail

FDA's Pilot Program to Better Educate Consumers about Recalled Food Products

 

FDA's Pilot Program to Better Educate Consumers about Recalled Food Products

 

What is the purpose of this pilot program?
What are typical food risks that FDA alerts the public to?
Which recalled products are part of the pilot program?
Where can I find the Web site where information and photos about recalled foods are posted?
Why is FDA piloting the use of photos with recalled human food products only?
How long will this pilot program last?
What is the purpose of the pictures and what do they show?
Why do some recalls include photos and others do not?
Can I be alerted by e-mail when there is a new recall?
Where can I comment on this pilot program?
What does FDA do with the comments it receives?

 

 What is the purpose of this pilot program?

FDA is conducting a six-month pilot program to educate and assist consumers in identifying recalled food products that may pose a significant health risk. FDA wants to help consumers identify these products by posting a photo of the principal label panel. We believe that by posting a photo of the label, consumers will be able to more easily identify and avoid these potentially hazardous food products. This pilot is one among a number of measures taken by FDA to proactively educate the public and improve food safety.

 What are typical food risks that FDA alerts the public to?

Typical significant food risks include, among others, foods contaminated with dangerous microorganisms such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes and allergens in foods such as nuts, dairy, soy, and fish ingredients.

 Which recalled products are part of the pilot program?

The pilot covers recalled food products that pose a significant health risk. This generally will involve potential Class I food recalls and may also involve some potential Class II food recalls.

A Class I recall is one in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a product that violates FDA regulations will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

A Class II recall is one in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.

The pilot will not cover Class III food product recalls, which are products unlikely to cause any adverse health reaction but that violate FDA regulations.

Over 100 Class I recall events involving food products took place in the United States from Oct. 1, 2005, though Sept. 30, 2006 (fiscal year 2006). During the past five fiscal years, there has been an average of 188 Class I food recall events each year.

 Where can I find the Web site where information and photos about recalled foods are posted?

Go to "Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts,” which lists press releases of recalled products. Click on the press release about the specific product recall in which you are interested. A link to a photo, if posted, appears at the end of the press release. Although this Web site lists recalls of all FDA-regulated products, at this time photos appear only for recalled food products that could potentially cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

 Why is FDA piloting the use of photos with recalled human food products only?

FDA agrees with consumers and consumer groups that posting a photo will help consumers identify recalled food products so that they can avoid using them. During the course of the pilot and after it concludes, FDA will evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot. FDA will explore and consider expanding this program to other FDA-regulated products if this pilot is shown to be beneficial to consumers.

Consumer as well as industry feedback will weigh heavily into FDA's decision process. You can comment on this pilot by e-mailing FDA at pilotphotofoods@fda.hhs.gov.

 How long will this pilot program last?

The six-month pilot began in mid-February 2007 and formally ended Aug. 12, 2007. The pilot is continuing for a short time after the end date while it is being evaluated.

 What is the purpose of the pictures and what do they show?

The purpose is to increase food safety by making it easier for consumers to identify a recalled product that poses a significant health risk. The pictures will show a sample of the principal display panel, which consumers generally see when the product is on a retailer's shelf. It is important for consumers to read the text of the press release that will be posted along with the photo for specific identifying information such as lot numbers and manufacturer's name.

Generally, if multiple products or multiple varieties of a food product are recalled, such as various flavors of an ice cream product, only one photo of one of the recalled products would be shown. However, there may be exceptions if FDA finds that posting multiple photos may more clearly identify the affected recalled products.

 Why do some recalls include photos and others do not?

During the pilot period, photos will be posted only for potential class I and, in some instances, potential class II recalled food products where press releases have issued. All other FDA-regulated products that are recalled are not included in this pilot. Some recalled food products covered by this pilot may not have photos posted if FDA determines that posting photos would not provide a benefit to the consumer or would likely cause consumer confusion or undue alarm.

 Can I be alerted by e-mail when there is a new recall?

Yes. You can sign up for FDA's recalls e-list to receive an e-mail when FDA posts a recall about any FDA-regulated product. 

 Where can I comment on this pilot program?

Send an e-mail to pilotphotofoods@fda.hhs.gov

 What does FDA do with the comments it receives?

FDA reviews and analyzes the comments. As of July 18, 2007, 188 comments have been received, and FDA is working to improve the pilot program based on the many useful suggestions made. The majority of consumers who commented on the pilot find the program beneficial. The agency continues to encourage public feedback so that we can provide the most useful information to consumers on food recalls.

Some of the many suggestions that FDA has received and is considering include

  • Improve the presentation of photos by showing different varieties of recalled products and more identifying information.
  • Expand the program beyond recalled human food to include all recalled products regulated by FDA, such as pet food, drugs, medical devices, blood products, and radiation-emitting products.
  • Better promote the program's Web site by using other health authorities and organizations to help spread the word.
  • Make recall information and photos more available to the public by distributing them to grocery stores and other public places.