Tuesday, February 8, 2011
THE FOOD RECALL MYTH
I have always wondered how much of the "bad" food recalled by food companies (often under pressure from federal agencies) was actually recovered. So today I did a simple analysis of the past 6 months of the recalls conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Why look at the USDA rather than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? Well frankly, because I had their data handy. They helpfully just publicized their closed recall file for 2010 which listed the amount of product reported as recovered. All I did was go back to the original recall notice, and add the amount of product actually recalled in the first place. I only did it for the past 6 months, as it was the same pattern for the previous 6, and the list was getting too long (and, admittedly,the task was boring). By the way, I doubt findings for the FDA would be much different.
Notice the difference between product recalled and actually recovered in all but two cases. So where did this missing recalled food go? I would bet it didn't get lost in transit. The chances are, that we ate it. In many, if not in most cases, food recalls come too late - at least in the United States. And as you can see, too little is recovered.
Here's the list.
-- Raw Pork Paste and Ready-to-Eat Fried Pork Loaf, Dec 8, 2010. Recalled 2,182 lb. Actually recovered, 204 lbs.
-- N.Y. Gourmet Salads Products Dec 2, 2010. Recalled 12 products, (unknown total weight) . Actually recovered, 0 lbs.
-- Appetizer Products (Listeria), Nov 23, 2010. Recalled 57 lbs. Actually recovered, 566 lbs (This is very unusual).
--Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad (Salmonella), Nov 5, 2010. Recalled, 7,325 lbs. Actually recovered, 2,012 lbs.
--Canned Meat and Poultry Products .Nov 4, 2010. Recalled, 12,086 lbs. Actually recovered, 495 lbs.
--Spicy Vegetable Potstickers .Oct 4, 2010. Recalled 1,608 lbs. Actually recovered, 420 lbs.
--Cured Uncooked Pork Ginger Sausage Sep 24, 2010. Recalled, 29, 893 lbs. Actually recovered, 5,019 lbs.
--Ground Beef Products . Aug 28, 2010. Recalled, 8,500 lbs. Actually recovered, 0 lbs.
--Marketside Grab and Go Sandwiches. Aug 23, 2010. Recalled, 380,000 lbs. Actually recovered, 168,249 lbs.
--Canned Meatball Products Aug 3, 2010. Recalled 147,667 lbs. Actually recovered, 118,892 lbs.
--Chicken Nugget Products . Jul 19, 2010. Recalled, 91,872 lbs. Actually recovered, 33,072 lbs.
--Fully Cooked Turkey Breast. Jul 7, 2010. Recalled, 17.5 lbs. Actually recovered, 17.5 lbs.
--Firehouse Jerky Beef Jerky Products Jul 6, 2010. Recalled, 8,000 lbs. Actually recovered, 2,901 lbs.
-- Beef Stroganoff with Noodles.Jun 30, 2010. Recalled, 600 lbs. Actually recovered, 0 pounds.
My point: Don't rely on food recalls to keep you safe. They won't.