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What to Do If You Think You’ve Purchased a Recalled Food

Grumpy-looking chef holding a tomato.Food Recall! You hear about the latest recall on the news, and you realize that it’s a product you have in your pantry. Or maybe it’s a product that you’ve already purchased and eaten? What to do? USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline has helped consumers with this question for almost 30 years. Here are some tips from the Hotline.

First Things First: Identify the Product

Food recalls are very specific. Only a specific product produced during a specific time period is recalled. It’s possible that you may have a different product by the same manufacturer, or you might have the exact product, but in a different size or with a different sell-by date. Check the Recall Announcement posted on .  If you don’t have the exact product in the announcement your product is not part of the recall.

Identify the Reason for the Recall

There are a variety of reasons a product can be recalled, such as foreign objects, bacterial contamination, or improper labeling. If you have already consumed a food that was recalled check the reason for the recall.

If the products’ label did not indicate that it contained an allergen, your family is not at risk if no one is allergic to that allergen. Likewise, if a product is being recalled because it may contain a foreign object you should return it. But if you’ve already eaten the product and didn’t find the foreign object you don’t need to worry.

If a product is being recalled because it may contain bacteria, you should return it. If you have consumed the product within the last few days you probably are not at risk if you cooked it thoroughly (check the Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart), but be alert for symptoms of food poisoning (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea). Contact your physician if you feel you may have gotten sick.

What to do with a Recalled Product

If you still have the recalled product you should return it to the store. They will return it to the manufacturer or destroy it.

How to Clean Your Kitchen

Whether or not you’ve prepared a product recalled due to a food pathogen, it’s good to know how to properly clean your kitchen.  Wash all cookware and utensils (including cutting boards) with hot soapy water. Clear off your counters and wash them with hot soapy water, then wipe down the counters with a dilute beach solution (1 TBSP unscented, liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water) and let them air dry. You can also use this sanitizing solution to rinse dishes, cookware, and cutting boards.

Still Have Questions?

Call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Hotline Food Safety Specialists are available Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm EST. Food safety information is also available 24/7, by going to “Ask Karen,” our automated virtual representative at You may type your food safety question directly into the automated virtual representative feature.

Learn more about the most common foodborne illness-causing organisms in the U.S. [PDF]

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Posted in: Food Safety | Reports and RecallsTagged: Food Safety | Product Recalls