Based on its recent study of supermarket recall protocols, US PIRG says grocery stores need to be doing more to protect consumers. The U.S. PIRG Education Fund surveyed 26 supermarket chains and found that all of them need to improve recall policies and practices. US PIRG gave failing grades to all but four grocery chains. Target, Kroger, Smith’s and Harris Teeter were all given the letter grade C.

US PIRG, an independent, non-partisan group, said most stores declined to respond to the surveys they were mailed, so instead the group analyzed publicly available information about each company’s recall efforts.

Why This Matters

Each year, one-sixth of all Americans get food poisoning. At least 128,000 people are hospitalized and roughly 3,000 die. But, as Food Safety Attorney Fred Pritzker recently told the Star Tribune, those numbers don’t really tell the whole story. Our clients from just the 2019 romaine E. coli outbreaks include:

  • A 25-year old woman who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) a form of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections, who underwent multiple rounds of dialysis during her month-long hospital stay. Her invasive infection ended up in her brain, leading to cognitive impairment, memory loss and balance problems that may be permanent.
  •  A 14-year old girl with HUS and has undergone seven rounds of dialysis, with more likely to come.
  • A 4-year boy who was hospitalized for five days.
  • A family with four children, all under the age of 10, three of whom developed HUS and underwent dialysis. In addition to kidney failure, the family’s 8-year old daughter also suffered a brain infection and has since been unable to speak and must re-learn how to walk.

Giving consumers the most information possible to help them make informed choices will prevent illness and save lives, Pritzker said.

Recommended Changes

Based on its findings, US PIRG Recommends that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the two agencies charged with safeguarding the nation’s food supply, require stores to:

  • Make recall notification policies available to the public on websites and upon request;
  • Post recall signage at the cash register and on the store shelf where the product would normally appear for at least two weeks for perishable foods and at least one month for frozen foods.
  • Require recall signage to include the product name, image, reason for recall, the UPC, and instructions for how consumers should handle the product.
  • Require stores to create direct customer notification programs that alert consumers of recalled products within 48 hours of a recall.

Food Safety Lawyer - Recalled sign