Food Safety Magazine

News | May 31, 2016

Regulators Ponder Recall Procedures for Online Food Sellers

By Staff

Regulators Ponder Recall Procedures for Online Food Sellers

After more than 30 individuals have contracted Salmonella Virchow, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into whether or not they need to develop specific food recall and notification methods for online retailers.

The outbreak that has garnered unprecedented attention is associated with Palm Beach Gardens-based Garden of Life LLC’s Raw Meal--an organic shake and meal replacement powder--a product that was originally recalled in January, then expanded in February. The case dates back to early December 2015, but over the course of nearly 5 months, 33 people in 23 states had been affected. Six were hospitalized. A 34th victim has just been confirmed.

Garden of Life has stated that they requested retailers to stop selling the possibly contaminated Raw Meal and offered refunds to consumers. Because these products are sold online, FDA and health officials in Wisconsin--where the latest victim resides--must go the extra mile to ensure that the products are no longer listed online for sale. Despite these efforts, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says that the implicated products were still sold on Amazon, eBay, and other online stores after the recall had already been issued.

On April 21, the outbreak was declared “over” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency has no plans to reopen the investigation.

According to CDC spokeswoman Brittany Behm, “As stated on our website, these products have a long shelf life. It is not unexpected to see additional illnesses reported after our investigation closes for outbreaks involving shelf-stable products. The ill person in Wisconsin reported eating a product that has already been recalled.”

It is unknown whether or not the latest victim was aware of the recalled product, nor is it known if the retailer had contacted the consumer about the recall.

The FDA says that recall standards for products sold online are the same as for those sold in traditional stores. However, the agency does recognize that the steps to make sure all recalled product is accounted for does differ.

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