According to a statement issued by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the agency has issued new draft guidance that describes situations when disclosing retail information for products undergoing recalls is appropriate. Because “certain supply chain information is confidential between the supplier and retailer,” Gottlieb states that this practice is something that is not normally done.
When a food recall is initiated, the FDA typically works with companies to publicize labeling information, product descriptions, lot numbers, as well as photographs and geographic or retail-related distribution information. The aim is to enable consumers to identify whether they have the recalled product and take appropriate actions. That often includes discarding the product or returning it to the place of purchase.
Now, the FDA is recognizing that there are some food recall cases where additional information about the retailers selling potentially harmful product may be key to protecting consumers. For example, knowing the retailer would be helpful when the recalled food is not easily identified as being subject to a recall from its retail packaging and the food is likely to be available for consumption.
The draft guidance outlines the circumstances when the FDA intends to make public the retail locations that may have sold or distributed a recalled human or animal food. These circumstances will particularly apply in situations associated with the most serious recalls, where consumption of the food has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.
The new draft guidance also states that the FDA may disclose retail consignee lists in certain recall situations, including when a recalled food is related to a foodborne illness outbreak and where the information is most useful to consumers. For example, the FDA might release retailer information for a packaged food that was distributed in a 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.
Draft guidance (pdf)