The Food and Drug Administration has proposed new policy guidelines that would allow it in certain circumstances to publicize the names of retailers that have received shipments of recalled foods.
According to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency hasn’t released store names in the past in order to protect supply chain information that is confidential between the food supplier and the retailer. Also, he pointed out, other information released as part of an FDA recall – product descriptions, labeling information, lot numbers and geographic distribution – often are sufficient for consumers to determine if they’ve purchased recalled food.
But, there are instances when packaging alone doesn’t provide enough information in a recall, Gottlieb said in a Wednesday statement. That includes products that lack a bar code or are sold without packaging – such as deli cheese, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables sold individually and rawhide chews and pet treats sold in bulk.
Under its new draft guidance , the FDA may cite retailer names and locations in a recall announcement when “a recalled food is related to a food-borne illness outbreak and where the information is most useful to consumers,” Gottlieb said. “These circumstances will particularly apply in situations associated with the most serious recalls, where consumption of the food has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.
“Knowing where a recalled product was sold during the most dangerous food recalls can be the difference between a consumer going to the hospital or not.”
Gottlieb acknowledged that the FDA may “not be able to fully verify the accuracy or completeness of the information it receives from recalling companies or distributors, and information may change over time. Identifying retail locations can be complex. It can involve obtaining information from multiple parts of the supply chain, including the recalling company and intermediate distributors.”
The FDA moved toward the new policy this past summer when it released detailed retail distribution information by state during a recall of pre-cut melon associated with an outbreak of Salmonella infections.
The draft guidance is not yet official. Comments will be accepted at www.regulations.gov for 60 days.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.