The recent beef recall because of possible contamination with E. coli highlights weaknesses in a recall system that often experiences delays in informing consumers. The significance of this recall is emphasized when considered in conjunction with the separate salmonella outbreak sickening nearly 900 people. As a result, the standards of our food safety system has been called into question.
An additional concern is the amount of time it took to get this information to the public. As the Columbus Dispatch reports, the lapse in time between the first outbreak of E.coli and the recall issued was significant. Several U.S. Senators noted that the system is either inefficient or regulators are too closely tied to the industry.
A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule aims to get information to consumers faster. According to a July 11 news release by USDA, a significant improvement in the reporting process is expected to now be included in recall notices. Previously, the identity of the retail stores with recalled meat and poultry was not communicated to consumers.
According to new standards to be adopted by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), its website will post a list of retail stores that receive Class I recalls (the highest risk category) within three to ten business days of issuing the recall release. "Recall announcements from FSIS always include the name of the establishment recalling the meat or poultry, the reason for the recall, a description of the recalled product, any identifying product codes, the recall classification and contact information at FSIS and the company involved. The additional information releasing the names of retail stores receiving recalled meat and poultry will improve the consumers’ ability to identify and discard or return the products they may have purchased and may still have in their home by checking the list of stores and locations."