FDA urged to implement guidelines for notifying consumers of food recalls

Dec 12, 2018

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue clear guidelines for grocery stores to notify customers about purchased products that have been recalled.

The New York Democrat says foodborne illnesses are at "crisis" level in the United States.

"The numbers are stunting," Gillibrand said. "The CDC estimates 3 million New Yorkers suffer from a foodborne illness each year. Nationally, foodborne illnesses affect 48 million Americans - 48 million get sick - 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die every year. So it's a huge crisis."

She said there is already a law on the books to limit the number of people who get sick, but it has not been fully implemented.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011. Gillibrand said the law requires consumers to be notified about food recall notices.
    
"It's actually a law that I wrote and fought to pass years ago that requires our supermarkets and grocery stores to do amuch better job of telling people when the food they bought has since been recalled," she said. "Unfortunately, years have gone by and the FDA still has done nothing to implement this law."

Among this year's food recalls was romaine lettuce grown in Arizona. An E. coli bacteria outbreak from the lettuce lasted for months and sickened dozens of consumers.

The FDA issued "nonbinding recommendations" for industry and FDA staff in November. It also issued draft implementation guidelines for public comment in January.

"It is critical that public warnings are distributed in a way that ensures that the information conveyed in the warning actually reaches the public," the draft said. "A public warning may be considered deficient if, among other things....it is determined that the warning did not sufficiently reach the target audience."

"The ones that already do this notification are Wegmans, ShopRite, Price Chopper and Costco. These regulations would bring other stores up the same standard," Gillibrand said. "Worst case they'd post it at the grocery store where you bought it or put it on your receipt, because they usually know what you've bought in the past."

Gillibrand said stores can also use shoppers cards, texts, emails or whatever communication methods they have available to them.