Food recalls will name affected stores more often, FDA says

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Food recalls will start giving consumers more information about the stores where certain products were sold, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The FDA said it plans to start giving out more information about retailers that received shipments of potentially contaminated foods — a move consumer groups have been clamoring for.

Right now, the FDA sometimes names stores, but not always. That can be confusing for consumers.

“The agency has not traditionally released lists of specific retailers where recalled foods may have been purchased. This is because certain supply chain information is confidential between the supplier and retailer,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

“Moreover, in most cases, information publicized by the recalling company is sufficient to allow consumers to identify and avoid recalled product,” he added.

But it often is not, especially when the affected product does not have a name brand or label, the FDA said. “This might include deli cheese, nuts, rawhide chews, or pet treats sold in bulk and fresh fruits and vegetables sold individually,” Gottlieb said.

Some retailers consider the source of their supplies to be proprietary information, but the FDA is proposing a new policy under which it will more routinely name affected retailers.

The FDA said it has already started naming retailers more often, for instance during an outbreak of salmonella that affected pre-cut melon contaminated with salmonella in June.

Consumer groups welcomed the change.

“This an important step that will provide information consumers need to protect themselves from harm,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest said on its website.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has long made retailer names available for all recalls involving meat and poultry that pose a health hazard, but the FDA has traditionally resisted releasing this information in all but the rarest cases,” CSPI’s Sarah Sorscher said in the statement.

For instance, she said, the FDA refused to name retailers that had received potentially contaminated papayas involved in an outbreak of salmonella that that killed one person and sickened 20.

The new guidance proposal is open for public comment.

“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 said.

“While we can’t prevent every illness, we can make sure we provide information to consumers to prevent more people from becoming sick from a recalled or hazardous food product.”