The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new draft guidance that will help determine when it is necessary and appropriate for retailers to be publicly identified when a food recall or outbreak is underway.
Once in place, the new policy will allow FDA to publicize retailer lists for food recalls or outbreaks when the food product in question is not easily identified as being subject to a recall from its retail packaging, or lack thereof, and if the food is likely to be available for consumption. Some food products contain no universal product code or barcode, which FDA says is common for items like deli cheese, nuts, or pet treats sold in bulk, and fresh fruits and vegetables sold individually.
FDA says this policy of identifying retailers is already underway, in some cases. The agency was able to identify retailers in the recent pre-cut melon Salmonella outbreak that spread to 9 states over the summer.
Retailers have not traditionally been publicized during the recall process for two reasons:
- Certain supply chain information is confidential between the supplier and retailer.
- In most cases, information publicized by the recalling company is sufficient to allow consumers to identify and avoid recalled product.
Now, the benefits of disclosing such information is believed to be a step forward in the name of public health, and transparency.
Benefits of providing consumers with retailer information:
- Consumers will be able to quickly and accurately recognize recalled product and take action to avoid the product or seek assistance if they’ve already been exposed.
- It will improve the efficiency of recalls by helping the public to identify and focus on the foods that are recalled.
FDA does caution that the agency may not be able to fully verify the accuracy or completeness of the information it receives from recalling companies or distributors, and information may change over time.
The current draft guidance document is being distributed for the purpose of collecting comments only. Comments and suggestions regarding this draft document should be submitted within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register of the notice announcing the availability of the draft guidance. Submit electronic comments to Regulations.gov.