During 2009 alone, a Salmonella outbreak which sickened 700 people and is attributed to nine deaths has brought with it an ongoing recall of pistachios contaminated with the bacteria.
This survey, done at Rutgers University in New Jersey showed that many Americans believe they are less likely than others to have bought recalled products.
“Getting consumers to pay attention to news about recalls isn’t the hard part. It’s getting them to take the step of actually looking for recalled food products in their homes,” said William Hallman, a professor of human ecology who led the study.
The team at Rutgers surveyed 1100 Americans in August and September of last year.
In 2006, there were 34 recalls of meat and poultry products and 65 recalls of other foods.
The Rutgers survey also found that 60 percent correctly said that recalls of food were more frequent lately than in past years, and that 40 percent of people who paid attention to recalls said they believed that the foods they bought were less likely to be recalled than those purchased by others, while half said recalls have had no impact on their lives.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million people become ill from food each year, with 325,000 sick enough to go to the hospital and 5,000 dying from food poisoning.
“While this suggests that nearly every American has experienced some symptoms of foodborne infection, only 18 percent of the respondents reported they had ever been personally made sick as the result of eating contaminated food,” said the report.
About 75 percent of the participants in the survey said they would like to receive personalized information about recalls on store receipts, while more than 60 percent said they would also like to receive information by letter or e-mail.
A mere 12 percent of those surveyed reported eating a food they thought had been recalled, while more than 25 percent said they threw out food after hearing about a recall.
“Our research also points out that instructions to consumers must be clear and comprehensible if you want them to act appropriately after a food recall,” Hallman said in a statement.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the study suggested that instructions from regulators such as the FDA and the USDA must be very clear and simple.
The Rutgers study may be found online at www.foodpolicy.rutgers.edu.