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Recall Basics for Consumers

On Wednesday, the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) launched it’s Recall Basics for Consumers campaign.  The campaign’s aim is to educate consumers on the need to pay attention to recalls and encourage them to take action to identify recalled products in their homes.

According to the partnership’s Executive Director, Shelley Feist, “These new materials are intended to take the mystery out of major food recalls and bring consumers back to basic steps that bridge the gap between understanding and action.”

A study done by the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University found that the majority of Americans claim to pay attention to news about food recalls and 81 percent say they spread the news to others.  Though these numbers indicate consumer concern, in terms of taking action, less than 60 percent of Americans have actually checked their homes for recalled food items.

The Recall Basics website provides four downloadable brochures for consumers and retailers; FAQs, definitions, and terms; and a “What to Look For” sheet.  These documents list the basic identifying information on various food products that consumers can use to match with recall notices in order to identify recalled products within their homes.

William K. Hallman, psychologist and Director of the Food Policy Institute said, “Getting consumers to pay attention to news about recalls isn’t the hard part.  Getting them to take the step of actually looking for recalled food products in their homes is the real challenge.”

The PSFE lists these simple steps to increase awareness and encourage action in identifying recalled products in consumers’ homes:

  • Learn about food recalls in the news, through your food retailer, or sign up to receive recall notices at www.recalls.gov
  • Identify the type of food product in the recall notice — i.e. meat, poultry, canned goods, fresh produce, frozen food, etc.
  • If you think you may have a recalled product in your home, start by matching the details.
  • Match identifying marks on the food product you have including product name, brand, container codes, container size, and container weight.
  • Remember to check your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator–many consumers believe that most recalled food has already been eaten by the time the recall is issued, but this is not always true.
  • Understand that the recall of one product does not mean all forms of that product are a potential problem.
  • Be aware that occasionally recalls will be expanded to include additional products as more information becomes available.
  • If you do find that you have a recalled product in your home, do not eat or open it.
  • Handle the recalled product carefully, always washing hands after touching the product.
  • Return the product to the store in which it was purchased or dispose of it properly following the recall notice guidelines.

Consumers can learn more about recalls by going to www.recalls.gov and www.foodsafety.gov.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service provides a virtual representative 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at AskKaren.gov.

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