What's the best thing to do when you hear a food that you've recently purchased is being recalled?
First, find out why the product is being recalled. If it's due to an undeclared food allergen, for example, and no one in your household suffers from that allergy, you don't have to worry about it.
However, if the recall is due to concern about foodborne illness and you haven't yet eaten the product, you have two options. You can return the product to the store and ask for a refund, or you can throw it away. If you decide to dispose of it, do it in a way so you're sure it won't be consumed by anyone else. Also: It's not a good idea to feed the recalled food to pets. They can get sick from the food just like you can.
If you've already consumed the product and feel ill, check your symptoms with those listed in the recall alert. For example, a recent recall of ground beef from Michigan due to concerns about Salmonella contamination listed symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after consuming the product.
If it appears that your illness may be due to the recalled product, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends:
- Preserve the evidence. If you still have some of the food available, wrap it securely, mark it clearly with "DANGER" and put it in the freezer. If possible, save all the packaging materials, including cans or cartons. Write down when the product was consumed and when the symptoms started. If you have identical unopened products, save them but mark them so no one else will consume them.
- Seek treatment as necessary. If your symptoms get severe or persist, contact your doctor or other health professional. That's especially important if you're at high risk for foodborne illness. High-risk groups include children, older adults and anyone dealing with a weakened immune system due to another illness, including conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or organ transplant patients, or when taking certain medications.
- Call your local health department.
- If the suspect product is meat, poultry or eggs and you still have its packaging, contact the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.
To find out about food recalls, check the website http://www.foodsafety.gov/recalls/. It contains information about recalls and alerts about foods regulated by both the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. There, you can also sign up for alerts about current food recalls.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.