How to find out about food recalls

You probably won't see every food recall that appears in the news. Here's how to stay updated on recall alerts.

Consumer alerts

Tips & Guides


Shoppers in produce section
Public Domain |

We see hundreds of food recalls every year. Many lead to illnesses. Some are quite serious. Some lead to people being hospitalized or even dying.

Yes, the notification system for food recalls needs to get better. Until improvements are made, and maybe even after that happens, consumers should consider what they can do to help protect themselves and their families.

Helpful tips to find out about food recalls

Stop by the customer service desk of the grocery stores where you shop and ask how they notify customers about recalls

Do they put out automated calls, texts or emails based on your shopping history, if you have a loyalty card and provide contact information? … Do they just put signs in stores, which you may never see?

If your grocery stores do send out recall alerts, sign up

Chances are high the store will find out about a recall before government regulators issue an announcement or it hits the news.

Consider shopping only at stores with good recall notification policies

This is especially important if you buy products that are frequently recalled such as produce, or if there are people in your home with severe allergies, or children, pregnant women, elderly people or anyone who is immunocompromised. These folks are most likely to get really sick from foodborne contamination.

Get a good phone app

The free Food Recalls & Alerts phone app (Apple and Android) will allow you to get recall notifications all in one place on your phone. (See image below.) It includes FDA, USDA and pet food recalls. It’s by SmartAddress, Inc.

You can request real-time push alerts to your phone, or just check the app recall list as often as you’d like if you don’t like notifications. You can choose just serious microbe recalls such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli or Norovirus, or just ones for pets, or all of them. (We wish you could just choose allergens.)

Another free app is FoodKeeper, through the USDA. But it’s not good at notifications. When you open the app, go to the little “i” in the circle on the bottom right side. The “recalls” tab lists all of the food recalls for the last year from the FDA and USDA.

Sign up for recall alerts through Twitter (X) from the FDA and USDA

The agencies’ Twitter (X) accounts are @FDArecalls and @USDAFoodSafety.

If you don’t want to get ALL food recall notifications from the FDA and USDA ...

Maybe you want only those involving Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria, or certain undeclared allergens such as wheat or eggs. If so, set up news alerts with those keywords through a search engine to be delivered to your email daily or in real time.

If you don’t want ANY phone or email alerts ...

Recalls are also listed on the government’s Food Safety website.

If you find an issue with a food in your home, help others by reporting it

For meat, poultry, fish and egg products, regulated by the USDA, file a complaint online here. Or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)
All other food and beverage items, including pet food, regulated by the FDA, file a complaint online here. Or call the FDA’s Main Emergency Number at 1-866-300-4374
For issues with restaurant food, call the health department in your city, county or state. You can find contact information for your state here.


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Two bonus tips

Remember that if a food is recalled for Salmonella or another harmful bacteria ...

If a product contains a harmful bacteria, it often can be killed by cooking it thoroughly. But you still should NOT use recalled food just because you’re cooking it.

Also, rinsing produce can help remove pesticide residue and some germs, but it won’t kill bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria or E. coli.

Keep your food packaging or take a photo ...

If you empty bags of onions or apples or flour or anything else into another container, keep the package or a photo of it, so you can identify later whether you’re affected by any recall.


Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.