Food Recalls: How Effective Are They? By James Hill Business Writing Ethics Paper November 10,2011 Meredith Beckman, instructor Food is an important resource for the human race. It nourishes our bodies and provides needed energy for daily life. The types of food we eat can determine how healthy we become and how our bodies function. Too often we don’t consider these issues when choosing food. We also take for granted that the food options available are safe. It usually takes a food recall to focus our attention on food safety. This paper will look at the agencies that monitor our food and examine the food recall process.
The companies that manufacture food are regulated by two groups of the federal government. They are the US Department of Agriculture( USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration( FDA)(Hunter,2002). “The USDA is responsible for meat and poultry safety; the FDA for all other foods and food products”(Hunter,2002). Even though these agencies are charged with the safety of our food, their power is limited. Whenever people become ill due to contaminated food, the agencies can only request, not order, a recall(Hunter,2002). The only exceptions are for infant formulas or foods containg bacteria that could spread disease(Hunter,2002).
The USDA and FDA, by these limits, are hindered in getting foods recalled causing delays in removing contaminated food in stores. Both agencies work with companies to issue voluntary recalls(Hunter,2002). But too often dangerous foods remain on the shelves, sometimes for days, after a recall(Mills,2010). An example of this involved ConAgra Foods which makes Banquet pot pies(Mills,2010). During the fall of 2007, several cases of salmonella poisoning led ConAgra to issue a recall of the pies(Mills,2010). But Kenneth Maxwell and his wife failed to hear about it and purchased several pot pies two weeks after the recall(Mills,2010).
They ate some of the pies and became sick. This illustrates that food recalls do not recover all the contaminated foods and some is still consumed(Mills,2010). One reason that contaminated food remains on the shelf is how stores view the recall. Some experts believe many stores do not find it necessary to remove the foods since recalls are voluntary(Mills,2010). And though the government gives notices about recalls, it is usually left to the media to inform the public(Mills,2010). Despite the fact that companies are required to notify their distributors about a recall, the agencies do not specify the method companies should use(Hunter,2002).
Companies could send notice by mail rather than e-mail or fax. So many stores learn about the recall several days later. By then the contaminated food has been sold and consumed. Why the importance of timely recalls? “ As many as 76 million people in the US become sick from food-borne illness every year, with 325,000 ill enough to require hospitalization and 5,000 dying”(World Geography and Culture Online,2010). This means about one fourth of the US population will consume dangerous food and fell its effects. Considering the recent recalls of beef, eggs spinach, lettuce and canteloupes, there is a need for better recalls.
Legislation is also a factor in the effectiveness of recalls. There have been attempts in several years, from 1993 to 2000, to pass bills giving the USDA more power to mandate meat recalls and impose fines(Hunter,2002). In all instances the bills were defeated. For the 2000 bill, Congress wanted a study to determine the procedures that the USDA and FDA had in place for recalls(Hunter,2002). But there is some good news. A bill was passed in December 2010 that will allow the FDA to require processing plants to have a safety plan(World Geography and Culture Online,2010).
This is the first step in helping make our food safe. In summary, food recalls are necessary to protect the public from harmful products. But the agencies created to oversee the food manufacturers do not always bring about the desired results. Voluntary recalls can leave shelves stocked with recalled foods. The burden then rests on the consumer to know which foods have been recalled. But delays in recalls reaching stores make this difficult. Consumers need to take action by visiting websites about recalls and reading their newspapers. We all need food to survive, and we should do what is needed to make it safe.
If we can do this, food recalls will be more effective and our food will have higher quality. References: Hunter,B. (2002, August) Food Recalls: How Well Do They Work? Consumer’s Research Magazine Vol. 85 Issue 8, p10, 6p. Retrieved from https://ehis. ebscohost. com Mills,S. (2010, July 29) Recalls of tainted food often fall far short: Warnings fail to reach many who may eat unsafe product. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from https://search. proquest. com World Geography and Culture Online. (2010, December 22) Food safety bill passes House. Facts on File,Inc. Retrieved from https://www. fofweb. com