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Federal agencies are trying to make understanding where potentially harmful foods are sold much easier for shoppers.

Zee Krstic
October 02, 2018

You may be used to quickly scanning your food's best-by date or a product's barcode and UPC code when you hear of a new national recall—but the Food and Drug Administration says it will now include information about exactly where recalled items are sold. This includes the name and location of each and every store, according to a statement released by the agency's top official.

"Moving forward, the FDA intends to publicize retail consignee lists for food recalls when the food is not easily identified as being subject to a recall from its retail packaging, or lack thereof, and if the food is likely to be available for consumption," writes Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA's commissioner, in the statement. In the past, shoppers often didn't find out which stores were included in the recall until after initial announcements.

Gottlieb explains that previously, the FDA chose not to name grocery stores and supermarkets to avoid confusion between the product's manufacturer or supplier and the store itself. While the information included in national recalls often allows shoppers to correctly identify the food that needs to be tossed out, sometimes a recalled item doesn't have a name brand or a label, which can easily lead to confusion

"This might include deli cheese, nuts, rawhide chews, or pet treats sold in bulk and fresh fruits and vegetables sold individually," Dr. Gottlieb continued.

In the past, the FDA has selectively included information about where recalled foods were sold to help shoppers avoid imminent risk of a widespread foodborne illness—including this past summer, when pre-cut melon was recalled for salmonella contamination. But the FDA says that including a list of where foods are sold could help shoppers avoid getting sick—or, more importantly, help them understand if they should seek medical treatment sooner rather than later.

Learn more about foodborne illnesses and how to protect your family:

"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. 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," Dr. Gottlieb said.

It's unclear as to how exactly the FDA will prioritize and share this information moving forward, but the agency's statement makes it clear that any recall associated with serious health issues—or death—will now advertise the stores involved. You'll still need to check your product's printed barcode in the future, but this information could be crucial for anyone who has already consumed a potentially harmful product.

The FDA has opened up its internal "draft guidance," which aids the organization in determining when they should include information about grocery stores and supermarkets, to public comment and suggestions. For many who have previously criticized the national food safety agency for an uprise in deadly outbreaks recently, this could be the first step towards helping more Americans stay safe from foodborne illness.