Contaminated Food Recalls: The Remedy For A Mistake

Well, it has been a rough month for processed foods.  Several weeks ago, Kraft recalled 6.5 million boxes of macaroni and cheese after the discovery of metal shards in 8 of those boxes.  Last week, frozen-food manufacturer Amy’s Kitchen announced a recall of 73,000 cases of products over listeria concerns.  The recall affects those Amy’s Kitchen products which contain spinach, including vegetable lasagna, pizza, brown rice bowls, and breakfast wraps.  No illnesses have been reported, but the world’s finest chefs are sure to feel the effects of the recall.

It is hard to say whether it is worse to eat metal-laced macaroni or to suffer nausea and severe headaches arising from listeria laden pizza.  As consumers, we would all like to believe that the food we purchase from the grocery store is 100 percent safe.  In reality, mistakes can happen anywhere to anybody.  This is not just an inexpensive, processed food problem.  Even Whole Foods announced a recall of ready-to-eat products earlier in the year due to misbranding and an undeclared allergen.

With that said, product manufacturers clearly want to prevent negative effects as evidenced by Kraft and Amy’s Kitchen having ordered such massive recalls.  In addition to the desire for customer safety, litigation concerns almost certainly played a factor in these decisions.  While recalling 6.5 million boxes of macaroni when metal shards were found in only 8 of them may seem overly broad to some, the costs of litigation for a potentially widespread food contamination case is potentially far less than the cost of the recall itself.  Furthermore, a preemptive recall goes much further in promoting consumer confidence.

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