Research – The 7 Worst Food Recalls of All Time

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Food safety issues occur more frequently than you might think, especially in recent times, with an increase of 125% in grocery recalls in recent years. And while the risks may be fairly benign (think: a gluten-free product that may have come into contact with wheat during manufacturing) some contaminants can have devastating—even deadly—consequences for consumers. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne illness from infectious pathogens or harmful chemicals causes 48 million people to get sick each year, with 148,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths on average.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes product recalls based on the potential severity of effects. The least serious is a Class III recall, with minimal risk for adverse health consequences. Class II means that the effects of exposure or use can lead to temporary or reversible health consequences. Class I is the most severe, marked when “there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.”

The upside is that these incidents have called companies to higher scrutiny of their production processes, has led to stricter rules and regulations, such as granting the FDA the ability to authorize mandatory recalls in 2018, and fueled a larger effort to educate the public on how to practice safer food preparation.

But tragically, there have been dozens of Class I product recalls in the past decades that caused hundreds of illnesses and some deaths to consumers. These are seven of the most catastrophic food recalls in grocery history.

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