Report urges grocery stores to better warn customers about recalls

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NEW YORK (CBS) The CDC estimates 48 million Americans get a food borne illness every year. Some cases come from food bought at the supermarket. Now a new report is urging grocery stores to do more to warn customers about recalled products.

In 2018 more than six million pounds of ground beef were recalled over fears it could be contaminated with salmonella. But months later, people were still getting sick. They apparently had frozen the meat and later ate it, never knowing about the recall.

"Twenty-five percent of people who got sick from the contaminated beef got sick after the recall occured," said Adam Garber with consumer watchdog group U.S. PIRG.

The FDA and USDA post recalls and depend on the media to get the word out, but it doesn't reach everyone. Now U.S. PIRG is calling on grocery stores to help. "Using supermarkets to warn the public about these dangerous food borne illnesses would help seriously protect public health and make sure people don't end up in the hospital or worse," Garber said.

He worked on a report that graded 26 major grocery stores on how the public is alerted of potentially dangerous food that was previously sold.
Only four -- Harris Teeter, Kroger, Smith's and Target -- received a passing grade while 22 others failed.

The report urges more stores to use contact info from their loyalty programs to warn customers by email or phone about recalls. Currently about 58 percent of supermarkets do. It also says stores should prominently display signs.

"They could be at the cash register or the shelving units or on the front door as you enter or exit the door," Garber said.

In a statement the National Grocers Association says, "Over the past decade companies have improved upon the recall response time..."
adding "... in many instances the product is stopped in the supply chain and never even makes it onto the shelves."

U.S. PIRG is also calling on the FDA to enact new rules to make the recall process more effective at warning customers before they get sick.