FDA To Start Naming Stores Affected By Food Recalls

In the past, when the U.S. Food And Drug Administration alerted the public to a food recall or a potential food-borne illness outbreak, it was in general terms. We're told to avoid romaine lettuce from a certain region, for example. But going forward, the FDA says the agency will be more forthcoming about naming the stores where these recalled products are sold.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the agency has issued new draft guidance that describes which situations might require the disclosure and naming of stores and retailers where recalled products are sold. Why hasn't this happened in the past? According to the FDA, "because certain supply chain information is confidential between the supplier and retailer." The agency now recognizes that certain products don't have labels (deli cheese, bulk nuts, fresh fruit, etc.); therefore it's important to provide not just a description of the items but also specific stores that sold them.

The FDA points to this summer's cut-melon recall, in which multiple states were affected. In that instance, the agency provided state-by-state retail distribution information to help consumers identify whether their produce might have been a part of the recall. Going forward, the FDA commissioner says it's "our intention to regularly use this approach in these and other scenarios."

The Center For Science In The Public Interest, a consumer group, lauded the change. "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," it said in a statement. "Last summer, FDA denied a request for retailer information on a specific outbreak as confidential commercial information. We hope this new guidance by the agency represents a significant change in policy moving forward."