When we buy food and prepare and eat meals, we’re trusting that processes and regulators have done all they can to ensure the products are safe. It’s scary to think about the fact that massive recalls of millions of pounds of food due to illness and death still happen in the U.S. But there were over 700 food recalls in 2016.
Products may be recalled due to pathogens, improper labeling, inspection issues, debris, and undeclared allergens. Salmonella, E. coli, and listeria are often the culprits. Outbreaks are often the result of poor sanitation and production methods at slaughterhouses, farms, and factories.
The effects of outbreaks and recalls extend beyond the victims and the perpetrators. The reputation and profits of entire industries have been damaged by the actions of one company. Agencies like the FDA and USDA enforce safety regulations and conduct inspections, but outbreaks of food borne illnesses still occur. Here are some of the worst food recalls in the U.S.
- Beef: In 2008, 143 million pounds of Hallmark beef were recalled, the largest recall in U.S. history. The slaughterhouse violated federal regulations, mistreated animals, and failed to inspect unhealthy cows before slaughter. This massive recall was sparked not by a large outbreak, but by an undercover Humane Society video of the horrible, unsafe conditions at a meat processing plant.
- Deli Products: In 1998, Sara Lee recalled 35 million pounds of products in the wake of a listeria outbreak. That was equivalent to about 16,000 tons of food. Over 100 people fell ill and 21 died.
- Poultry: In 2002, Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest chicken processing company in the world, recalled over 27 million pounds of cooked chicken and turkey due to listeria. The outbreak caused 46 illnesses, three stillbirths and miscarriages, and seven deaths.
- Eggs: Half a billion eggs were recalled in 2010 by Wright County/Hillandale Farms after 1,900 people were infected and one person died. The outbreak was linked to salmonella and sparked scrutiny of factory farms.
- Cookie Dough: Nestlé recalled 300,000 cases of refrigerated cookie dough due to 65 reported cases of E. Coli-related illnesses in 29 states.
- Peanut Products: In 2009, the Peanut Corporation of America recalled 2,100 contaminated peanut products after 8 deaths and 500 illnesses.
- Bagged Spinach: A spinach recall in 2006 cost the industry more than $350 million after 5 people died and 205 people fell ill with E. Coli.
As you can see, a variety of food has been recalled, from eggs and bagged salads, to peanuts and meat. Large recalls can have serious, wide-ranging consequences. Some of the worst food recalls have led to plant closings, lawsuits, hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, destroyed reputations, and damage to entire industries.
These food recalls are a reminder of the steep cost of unsafe food practices. On a smaller scale, lax food handling procedures in restaurants can cause complaints, damaging publicity, inspections, closures, and illness and death. It’s never worth it to cut corners or skip steps; you never know when it could lead to illnesses, deaths, and business closings.
Providing safe, delicious food to the public is a big responsibility. That’s why food handlers are required to complete food safety training. And the best way to do that when you’re working full time is convenient online courses from Learn2Serve. Enroll today and complete your required safety training in no time at all.