Insights Into the FDA Recall Process: Part III

By Karin Krisher

Last week we talked about the potential pitfalls of the Food and Drug Administration’s recall protocol. This week, we want everyone to feel empowered to take thinking about food safety into our own hands. How can you ensure your safety and the safety of your children, pets or patients?

fda-recall-processFirst, if you recognize a problem, report it. The FDA has options for this here. If you see a problem in the process of dealing with your concerns, report that as well. You can get in touch with the GAO to discuss the high-risk list.

But the most important thing any consumer can do to keep everyone we love safe? Pay attention.

This advice probably comes as no surprise. What might, though, is that we’re not just talking about the type of paying attention that means heeding the recall’s advice. It’s not enough to throw out a package of treats when you hear about the recall, although that is important.

It’s not really about those actions because the interim—the time between when the FDA or the USDA first suspected a safety issue and when you first found out about it—isn’t covered. These two things rarely coincide; they can’t, for many reasons discussed in part II, economic and otherwise.

The goal, then, is to create as much overlap (as little time) as possible between their information release and your knowledge of that information. And that’s where paying very careful attention comes in. So careful that you can’t even keep track of the attention you’re paying yourself; so careful you might need an algorithm’s support.

What resources can help you? Instead of trying to do painstaking research on every product recall that occurs, set up a google alert in your e-mail. You can use any keywords you see fit: FDA recall, pet food, pet recall, salmonella, FDA voluntary, FSMA…you name it. That way, e-mails about your chosen topic will come directly to you. You can organize them into folders or delete the ones that don’t matter to you.

fda-recall-processYou can also follow (Twitter) and set up alerts (e-mail) for several websites that track this information. Just yesterday morning, reported an FDA recall of two brands of raw pet food from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. You can follow the FDA site that includes every FDA recall’s details. That site even features an RSS feed or a sign up for consumer updates. Another site,, includes recalls from all government agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and cosmetic and EPA recalls.

Staying safe is really about staying informed, and about prevention. Don’t hesitate to report things on your own, and don’t hesitate to encourage others to do the same. Waiting for the facility the product came from to pass its inspection is no way to ensure safety. If you or someone you love gets sick, be proactive. Get a diagnosis and find a cause, so you can prevent others from enduring the same.

And no matter what, pay attention. FDA recall processes aren’t perfect, and neither are we. But paying attention can help minimize your risk, and maybe one day, the inevitable wrinkles in the system will iron out.

What do you do to stay informed? Did you feel we left our any great resources? Let us know how you felt about our FDA blog post series on the Vetri-Science Facebook page!