Forty Percent of Consumers Ignore Food Recall Advice

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Food Recall

A study from Rutgers University shows that forty percent of Americans ignore food recall advice. The study also showed that only half of Americans felt food recalls affected them. Many consumers think food recalls apply to someone else.

Interviews were conducted from Aug. 4 to Sept. 24, 2008, and included 1,101 Americans, interviewed by telephone. Many Americans admitted they never check their home for food recalls. The study also found that food recall advice is not followed by many consumers.

Lead author, William K. Hallman, a professor of human ecology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences says, “Getting consumers to pay attention to news about recalls isn't the hard part. It's getting them to take the step of actually looking for recalled food products in their homes."


Most of those surveyed said they would prefer personalized information via e-mails or from the grocery store. Hallman agrees it would be more difficult for consumers to ignore personally delivered food recall messages.

Approximately twelve percent of consumers admitted to eating food they thought may have been recalled. Conversely, many consumers admitted to throwing away food rather than taking a chance that it had been recalled, wasting nutrition and money. Some food sales fail because they are the same type of food as those recalled; again showing that many consumers are not paying attention to food recalls.

Hallman says consumers must receive concise instructions about food recalls. "We found that clear, direct messages such as 'throw the food in the garbage' or 'return the food to the store for a refund’ should motivate action”. Hallman cites the recent pistachio recall, which includes advice from the FDA to hold onto pistachios while investigations continue, as a source of confusion for consumers regarding food recalls.

The researchers hope to facilitate messages to consumers about food recalls that are clear, and difficult to ignore. Improved communication with the public should help consumers follow advice about food recalls.