An increase in the number of FDA recalls this past year point to new policies/procedures from the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) goal of revamping the agency to fulfill its mission to prevent foodborne illness and protect public health. While increased notices of contaminated or unapproved products is not a good thing, the agency’s ability to identify and protect consumers from contaminated products is certainly positive.

Over the past year, FSIS at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has moved forward in its goal of modernizing the agency from top to bottom while fulfilling its mission to prevent foodborne illness and protect public health.

“It’s all about the science,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “Science and data inform every decision we make.” Some of those decisions made were to improve and update the way the agency inspects and targets foodborne illness, the way they collaborate with foreign and domestic agencies, and just overall, how efficient and effective they are at protecting public health and safety. 

Much of FSIS’s work is conducted in cooperation with federal, state and municipal agencies and other stakeholders including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FSIS also re-inspects all commercial products imported to the U.S. from eligible foreign countries at official import inspection establishments. For example, FSIS re-inspected 4 billion pounds of meat and poultry and 7.5 million pounds of processed eggs in FY 2019. Of this, 5 million pounds of meat and poultry and 5,000 pounds of processed eggs were refused entry.

The past few months have been busy with recalls, some of which are still in effect today. Most notably are the recalls of romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas, Calif. region, which left over 102 sick, and is still in effect. 

Various recalls and updates on ranitidine products primarily used to treat heartburn saw its most recent voluntary recall on Dec. 18. Another recall on Basic Resent, Biogenyx products was issued for failure to comply with FDA safety standards. These products are still being pulled from shelves across the nation and the FDA is asking anyone who may still have these products to return them to the store of purchase or to contact the FDA for proper disposal methods. 

Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Consumers can also browse food safety messages at Ask USDA or send a question via email to MPHotline@usda.gov. For consumers that need to report a problem with a meat, poultry, or egg product, the online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at https://foodcomplaint.fsis.usda.gov/eCCF/.

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.