Have you noticed that there seems to be another major food recall every week or so? With the recent food recall over E. coli in three different brands of flour, the one over frozen berries with hepatitis, and the one over beef during a holiday weekend, lots of people are asking why there are so many food recalls. Let's look at why this is happening, what the real risks to consumers are, what to do if you do get sick, and how to prevent getting sick in the first place.
Why are there so many food recalls?
This is the million dollar question. Food recalls are alarming. No one wants to get sick, especially when several common foodborne illnesses can be fatal. Checking through the last decade's worth of food recalls listed on the USDA website, here are the various causes that trigger a recall:
Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (E. coli)
Misbranding (previously used term for both undeclared and unapproved substance)
*Includes producing without inspection, failure to present for import inspection, and labeling issues, among others.
A quick look will show that some recalls are for labeling issues, improper inspection issues, or some other administrative trigger. Other recall triggers, like extraneous material, can cause damage, like chomping down on a rock hidden in your breakfast burrito and chipping a tooth.
Undeclared allergens are another big recall trigger. Two reasons for this are:
The number of people developing adult-onset food allergies is on the rise.
More varied types of foods are triggering uncommon allergies.
This biggest concern in food recalls, however, are foodborne illnesses.
The cases that concern us the most, however, are foodborne illnesses. Recently both chocolate and frozen berries have been recalled due to potential hepatitis A virus contamination. Who expects to get hepatitis from a snack?