Find Out About Food Recalls

When we hear that a food product has been recalled, we know it means that product has been ordered off the store shelves. But who makes the decision that such a move should be made? And how did they arrive at that decision?

Within the U.S. Department of Agriculture there is the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which controls meat, poultry, and processed egg products produced in federally inspected facilities. It is the job of the FSIS to make sure all products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled.

All other food products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some questions and answers about food regulation and recalls from the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service:

What is a food recall?
A food recall is a voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to protect the public from products that may cause health problems or possible death. A recall is intended to remove food products from commerce when there is reason to believe the products may be adulterated or misbranded.

Who decides when a recall is necessary?
Recalls are initiated by the manufacturer or distributor of the meat or poultry, sometimes at the request of FSIS. All recalls are voluntary. However, if a company refuses to recall its products, then FSIS has the legal authority to detain and seize those products in commerce.

How are unsafe products discovered?
There are four, primary means by which unsafe or improperly labeled meat and poultry products come to the attention of FSIS:

As soon as FSIS learns that a potentially unsafe or mislabeled meat or poultry product is in commerce, the Agency conducts a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is a need for a recall.

What occurs during a preliminary investigation?
The preliminary investigation may include some or all of the following steps:

How does FSIS notify the public when a product is recalled?
FSIS notifies the public through a press release for Class I and Class II recalls, and a Recall Notification Report (RNR) for Class III recalls. (The RNR provides substantially the same information as the press release; however, the format is different.) The press release is issued to media outlets in the areas where the product was distributed, and is also distributed through an email listserv.

For complete information on FSIS Production and Inspection, visit

For the latest information on recalls, to report a dangerous product, or to learn important safety tips visit

For information about recalls and public health alerts involving meat, poultry, or processed egg products, visit


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