If the FDA issues a recall, you should really pay attention – especially if you have food allergies.
Credit: Photo: Getty Images / Joos Mind

With the power of social media and news apps at your fingertips, it’s common to come across food recalls. But if you happen to come across a national recall that involves the Food and Drug Administration or another government-backed agency, you should stop scrolling through your newsfeed and pay attention.

New research shows that while the overall number of food recalls have decreased, the severity behind the recalls has exponentially increased. Industry specialists at Stericycle Expert Solutions report that in the latter half of this year, recalls issued by the FDA fell to just 158, an 11 percent decrease overall – but 95 percent of these recalls are known as “Class 1” threats, the most severe warning the FDA can issue. The same alarming trend is true for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nearly 97 percent of all recalled food items by the FDA were due to undeclared allergens, including milk, nuts, soy, and wheat. For those with food allergies, an undetected source of any of these ingredients could spell disaster.

Before the FDA issues a recall, they give manufacturers the chance to first correct any issues on their own recognizance. The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act gives the federal group the power to force a recall, but only if the manufacturer or producer doesn’t voluntarily offer to issue one first. The method in which the FDA works to address recalls is complicated – the agency works to collect scientific proof that a product has been contaminated or otherwise compromised, but first offers the proof of danger to companies and relies on their discretion to start a voluntary recall. It’s not unheard of for producers to simply ignore or fail to act on FDA recommendations – in one instance in 2014, months had passed after the FDA recommendations had been made and no recall had been initiated by either party.

Credit: Photo: Getty Images

While the FDA says it works with manufacturers to issue recalls in less than a week, there’s a chance that the recall notice you’ve received could have been the result of enforcement action and is extremely serious. Given that allergens are one of the most common causes of a food recall, it’s super important for you to remain vigilant of recalls that could affect you or your loved ones.

Even if you are not affected by any food allergies, the Centers for Disease Control put out literature that says more than 30,000 emergency room visits and 150 deaths each year occur in response to an allergic reaction to food – something that you can prevent by being aware of major recalls.