Sen. Gillibrand Pushes FDA to Implement Additional Food Recall Measures

Dec 11, 2018

The CDC reports five fatalities in connection with the e-coli contamination in romaine lettuce. The outbreak has been reported across 36 states.
Credit www.fda.gov

The Romaine lettuce recall from three weeks ago, right before Thanksgiving, is probably still fresh in the minds of many Central New Yorkers.  The shelves were bare at just about every supermarket and salads weren’t available at restaurants for at least a week due to e-coli contamination. 


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says in that case, the Food and Drug Administration recall worked. However, there is still a concern about items with a longer shelf life

“You might have something stored in your freezer or pantry for weeks, or even months, and have no idea that it was recalled after you bought it, at no fault of your own. This could be extremely dangerous for a family if they don’t know that the food in the house is no longer safe to eat,” Gillibrand said.

According to Gillibrand, there’s still a lot of food that remains in kitchens across the country, because people are unaware of the recalls. Many of these items are meant for children.

“Goldfish crackers were recalled. How many moms buy Goldfish for their kids, and how long do those Goldfish sit in their cupboards? It could be months and months. That has salmonella,” Gillibrand said. “Kellogg’s honey snack cereal, again a kid food, [has] salmonella, Panera Bread cream cheese, you might put that in your fridge and keep it for a month.”

Gillibrand says there’s a law already on the books that she authored eight years ago that would require supermarkets to do a better job of notifying customers about food recalls.  But the Food and Drug Administration has failed to put it into place.  Gillibrand says stores could use information gathered from rewards and discount programs.

“When you use one of those cards, the Supermarket knows what you bought from them and when you bought it. That means they also know if you bought food and took it home before it was recalled,” Gillibrand said. “Supermarkets and grocery stores should use that information to directly contact anyone who bought food from them that was recalled. That is what the law says.”

The romaine lettuce recall left Wegmans' salad shelves empty in Camillus.
Credit Kathy O'Connell

Wegmans, ShopRite, Price Chopper, and Costco already meet the law’s requirements.  They would notify customers via phone call, email, or text.  But Gillibrand says the new regulation would bring other stores up to the same standards.  The CDC estimates three million New Yorkers suffer foodborne illness each year.  Nationally, 48 million become ill, and three thousand die.