Food recalls can be a dangerous situation for consumers. From electronics to vehicles and the food we consume, no product is immune from the potential for a recall, but when items you bought at the grocery store are deemed unsafe, there is often an extra concern. Add in the fact that a company knows that recalls can affect consumer trust in its brand if it mishandles a safety issue, and it’s normal to question what you should do when food is recalled.
Food product recalls can be especially problematic as concern about the disease often increases. How can consumers protect themselves when a food recall occurs? What avenues of restitution are there, if any, for those who have been adversely affected by such a recall?
What to do if you have a recalled food item
According to FoodSafety.gov, the official website of the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), an affiliate of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the first step in dealing with a recalled product is not to panic. “Most food recalls are not associated with an outbreak of foodborne illness, and many recalls are issued because there is a potential so that the food is contaminated”, says the website.
Matt Regusci, director of growth at ASI Food Safety, agrees. “Food and beverage products can be recalled for many different reasons,” Regusci told Yahoo Life. “It could be as simple as a labeling issue or as scary as a multi-state pathogen outbreak.”
Experts say it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if an item is recalled because of a simple labeling issue. The safest response to a recall is not to consume the product.
How can you protect yourself during a food recall?
Consumers have the right to know when a food product is recalled and why. Francine Shaw, director of operations for Savvy Food Safety, shares that many recalls are voluntary. “However, if a company chooses no to recall a product, the FSIS or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will have no choice but to take the product off the shelves or stop processing that food product,” says Shaw.
Sometimes products affected by a recall may be returned to the store for a refund. However, these refunds are situational and often determined by the supplier or consumer packaged goods (CPG) company. Either way, when a recall occurs, all affected products are removed from the shelves of stores or restaurants where the item is being used. Consumers are also made aware of the change through signage and alerts posted on the company’s website and social media pages.
Clear and concise instructions for consumers to follow are just as important as recalling a potentially dangerous product. The USDA Food Safety website maintains a page for recalls and outbreaks and also posts important alerts on its Twitter account, @foodsafetygov.
Important food safety principles
Some food safety basics can also help consumers during a recall. Once a recalled product is identified, it is difficult to resist the temptation to open and “check” the food, but the viruses or bacteria that cause foodborne illness often cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted.
Shaw says washing your hands before you start preparing food is one of the easiest things to do when it comes to basic food safety. Likewise, washing your hands after handling a recalled product is a great way to reduce the chance of illness from contaminated product.
Toby Amidor, clinical nutritionist and food safety expert, told YahooLife: “If someone has a recalled product that they are eating, they should not continue to eat it. They can either return it to the store for credit or discard it according to Reminder. be aware of the warning instructions.”
“They should monitor for symptoms of foodborne illness – such as vomiting or diarrhea – or an allergic reaction, and should contact their doctor if necessary,” adds Amidor.
How food brands restore consumer trust
How a beloved brand handles a voluntary or mandatory recall can make or break the public’s perception of the brand. “I’ve seen recalls handled so badly that brands were ruined, and I’ve seen the opposite where companies handled the recall so well that consumers came to trust the company even more after the recall,” says Regusci.
Chris Harvey, senior vice president at Sedgwick, a third-party medical claims administrator, says communication is critical. “Communications strategy can be a critical component of demonstrating that safety is a core priority for a brand,” says Harvey. “Clear and concise instructions are important to drive consumer response, along with a fair and timely resolution. If recalls are managed properly, they can help build trust and brand loyalty.”
Food recalls are on the decline
Food product recalls may seem alarming, but according to the FDA, they have declined significantly over the past five years.
Data from Sedgwick shows that over the past five years, the most impacted products were:
Eggs (207 million units withdrawn)
Supplements (185 million units withdrawn)
Prepared foods (172 million units collected)
The main cause of these recalls were undeclared allergens, bacterial contamination and foreign materials.
Brand transparency and effective communication are among the top reasons consumers maintain or regain trust in brands after a recall. Peace of mind is an important aspect of maintaining public trust in a brand when negative associations threaten consumer trust.
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