Over the past few weeks, General Mills has recalled flour products for E. coli, SunOpta has recalled sunflower seeds for listeria, and Hostess has recalled 710,00 cases of snack foods for undisclosed peanut residue. These are only a few of the many recent recalls listed on the FDA recall page.
With so many recalls, it's easy to miss a notice about something in your own refrigerator or pantry. In fact, I did just that — and only found out about it because I was looking into recent recalls to write this story.
I'd seen many mentions of the flour recall on Facebook, but I didn't click on any of the links. When I was looking over the FDA recall page and realized Gold Medal unbleached flour was on the list, I checked my pantry. There it was: the potential E. coli lurking in my kitchen, waiting to possibly taint the cupcakes I was planning to make for my son's eighth-grade graduation party.
General Mills has recalled the flour out of "an abundance of caution" saying "E. coli O121 has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility and the company has not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products." Still, that flour should not be used.
As I was going down the list, I realized that the recalled sunflower seeds might be in my kitchen, too. I didn't pay much attention to that recall because I hadn't bought sunflower seeds lately. But Clif Trail Mix bars were on the list because they contain the same seeds, and I had bought those recently. Fortunately, the bars I bought weren't the recalled ones.
Now I'm wondering if information fatigue is becoming a danger to my family.
What is information fatigue?
Information fatigue is when so much information is coming at you that you grow weary and don't pay attention. As Eater explains, there's a concern that with so many recalls happening, consumers may suffer from this problem when it comes to food recalls.
I'll admit that information fatigue is the reason I didn't check when I heard about the flour recall. Information comes at me so fast and furiously that it's common for me to read something and think, "I should check that out," and 15 seconds later, I've moved on to the next piece of information, never to return to the first.
Are there really that many food recalls?
It's difficult to know just how many recalls there are. The Food and Drug Administration posts information gathered from "press releases and other public notices about certain recalls of FDA-regulated products," but not all recalls have press releases or public notices.
In 2015, Food Safety Magazine tabulated 626 food recalls in the United States and Canada. The magazine goes beyond recalls listed on the FDA website. If you look at the FDA's most recent recalls in May of this year, there are 75 items listed. As of mid-June, the page already list 41 recalls. That's a lot of items for the average consumer to track.
What can you do to be more aware?
The FDA allows consumers to sign up to receive Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts. This free email service sends you an email each time there's an update on the pages you selected.
When you discover that you have a product that has been recalled, the FDA's page will direct you to information that will usually tell you to throw out the product or to return it to the place of purchase along with information on how to receive a refund or a replacement product.