FDA Makes Food Recall Search Consumer-Friendly
by Hal Gordon*, 4/12/2011
Last week, the FDA announced the release of a new Web search tool that will allow quicker and easier product recall searches. A new, consumer-friendly search tool covering food, drug, animal product, and medical device recalls, was mandated by the recently enacted FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The new tool allows for searches by date, brand name, food type, or by defect (i.e., undeclared allergens), and presents the search results in an easy-to-read, sortable table. Search results also link to a detailed report and pictures of packaging. Prior to this change, FDA recall search results were a series of links in scroll-down format which were impossible to sort by date. The only list of recalls were large excel files that were difficult to sort and did not provide much background information.
The rollout is yet another example of the Obama administration’s efforts to make the executive branch more transparent and responsive to citizens needs. Agencies across the federal government should take note of the improvements as they work to comply with a recent executive order that seeks to make regulatory compliance information more accessible to the public.
In addition, the creation of the website is one of the first major actions called for under the FSMA, the most important food safety law since the 1930s. While most recalls are completely voluntary, the FSMA finally gave the FDA the power to mandate recalls independently of the manufacturer.
The FDA consulted with numerous stakeholder groups while building the new search tool, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union, Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Pew Health Group, and Safe Tables Our Priority.