Most Grocery Stores Get an “F” When It Comes to Telling Customers About Food Recalls

updated Feb 20, 2020
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This time it’s your Trader Joe’s eggs, once it was your California lettuce, another time it was your Pillsbury flour: it sure seems like food recalls are getting more common these days. And they are, explains Modern Farmer, but not because our food is less safe. Rather, we simply hear more about food recalls even though the levels of foodborne illness aren’t really changing. Our food system is mostly getting safer, they say — except for at one very important part of the food system: the supermarket.

A study from the United States Public Interest Research Group found that the biggest gap in educating consumers is at the supermarket level. The study went into stores and looked to see if they could find descriptions of the recall policies, if the stores notified customers of recalls, or if they had info on where customers could find recall notices.

Despite the access to information about their customers — including both contact info and what they’ve purchased — supermarkets are not using that to educate customers or relay safety information, Modern Farmer points out. The PIRG study found only four of the 26 supermarkets they surveyed got a passing grade, and even then it was just a C. Most — including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi — got an F. 

Interestingly, Costco was not included in the survey, which is too bad because they happen to have an intricate and expansive system for just this type of thing. Costco’s recall alert system notifies members of product recalls and specifically emails members who have purchased the item at risk. They even go above and beyond with a safety team that shadows auditors inspecting vendors. So not only will you know immediately if something you bought at Costco has been recalled, it’s possibly even less likely you might end up buying something that gets recalled, because they’re addressing the problem at the source.