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Do food recalls mean declining food safety? Experts weigh in

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 19:16:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lately, it seems a lot of name-brand products are being pulled from the shelves.  Ritz crackers, Goldfish crackers, Swiss Rolls and Honey Smacks are just a few. 

The crackers could be contaminated with Salmonella, prompting Pepperidge Farms and Mondelez to issue a voluntary recall. 

"I don't know how to tell if it's like, safe or not," one grocery shopper, Monty Lyddon, said. 

Another consumer said, "Since they are brand names, it makes me a little nervous. Kind of makes me want to shop at places like Aldi more." 

The fears stem from possibly contaminated whey powder used to flavor the snacks.

Crystal Futrell, Health and Food Safety Extension Agent for Johnson County, said if you've got one plant making an ingredient distributed to multiple companies, one problem can affect everyone. 

"It's that one ingredient that was manufactured at that one plant. One thing to keep in mind for consumers, none of the products have been tested positive for salmonella, so it's more of an advisory rather than actual outbreak," Futrell said. 

The CDC said Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal made 100 people sick due to a Salmonella outbreak. 

Hy-Vee pulled its spring pasta salad after two dozen people got sick in early July. 

Futrell and the FDA said all this doesn't mean food safety is declining, but it means the opposite.

The 2011 passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act gave the FDA power to issue a recall when a company doesn't voluntarily do it on its own. 

"That coupled with being able to better detect issues, that's going to lead us to have more recalls," Futrell said. 

FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell said the American food supply is safer than it has ever been.

"We are not seeing an increase in the number or scope of recalls. Our tools for detecting them are much better, and our policies for how and when we alert the public lean in the direction of more and earlier communication," said Cassell. 

A CNBC report said U.S. food safety regulators are pulling food products twice as much as 10 years ago.

The most common bacteria to appear in a recall or outbreak are Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and Norovirus, which thrive in warmer months, said Futrell.