WASHINGTON – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sept. 26 issued draft guidance detailing when the agency will make public the retail locations that may have sold or distributed human or pet food that is subject to a recall.

Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner of the FDA, said the new guidance would improve transparency and protect consumers and animals from products that may be harmful.

“We believe that providing retailer information for certain recalls will also improve the efficiency of recalls by helping the public to identify and focus on the foods that are recalled,” Gottlieb said. “It’s important to note that in sharing this information, the FDA may also not be able to fully verify the accuracy or completeness of the information it receives from recalling companies or distributors, and information may change over time.”

Retail consignee lists also will be publicized when a recalled food is related to a foodborne illness outbreak.

“For example, the FDA might release retailer information for a packaged food that was distributed in a particular geographic region or through a particular online retailer if providing that information could help consumers protect their health and wellbeing from a recalled food potentially purchased at one of these establishments,” Gottlieb said.

He added that 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.”

Examples under this scenario include foods sold directly to consumers with no universal product code (UPC) or bar code. Deli cheese, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables sold individually, and rawhide chews or pet treats sold in bulk might fit this scenario.

Gottlieb said identifying retail locations that might be involved in a recall can be a complex process that requires obtaining information from multiple parties in a supply chain, including the recalling company and intermediate distributors. But he emphasized that the information is important to the health and safety of consumers.

“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,” he said. “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.”

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