Report: Safeguarding Public Health

Total Food Recall

Unsafe Foods Putting American Lives At RIsk
Released by: U.S. PIRG Education Fund

No Progress in Reducing Foodborne Illness

Over the past few years, Americans have grown accustomed to seeing headlines about tainted food being recalled and pulled off of store shelves.  These high-profile recalls leave many Americans wondering whether enough is being done to reduce the risk of contaminated food and foodborne illness.  And they are right to do so – 48 million people get sick from eating tainted food each year, and despite significant costs to our economy and Americans’ public health, the number of such illnesses, particularly from Salmonella, has remained stagnant over at least the past 5 years.

More needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food.  But important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety have been blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

This report is a snapshot look, from January 2011 to September 2012, at recalls that were directly linked to identified incidents of foodborne illness.  Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous high-volume recalls over the past two years that left many Americans sickened and at least 37 dead.  And the economic costs of the illnesses caused by food products recalled over the past 21 months come to over $225 million.

According to recall information compiled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), from January 2011 to September 2012 there were:

  • 1,753 foodborne Illnesses linked to recalls of food products; 
  • 464 hospitalizations due to recalled food products;
  • 37 deaths linked to recalls of food products;
  • 1,446 incidences of  Salmonella linked to recalls of food products; and
  • 165 incidences of Listeria linked to recalls of food products.

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