USDA tries Twitter to bring consumers state-specific food recalls

Meat picLast month I wrote about how consumers can get “recall fatigue” when bombarded with food recall notices, which happened in late 2011 when the US had a record number of recalls.

A new targeted approach by the US Department of Agriculture may help improve the signal-to-noise ratio for recalls. Effective immediately, Twitter users can follow a USDA Twitter feed that sends out recall information on meat, poultry, and processed egg products specific to their state. Users type in their state’s two-letter abbreviation and then FSISAlert; for example, for Texas residents, the handle is TX_FSISAlert. The move should help consumers better hone in on the recalls that will affect them.

Food safety has been in the public eye as cases of foodborne illness increase. The Washington Post had an interesting story this week on how the USDA and the FDA are rethinking their approach to food inspections and which foods are considered the biggest health risks. The deadliest outbreak in 2011, for example, came from contaminated cantaloupes.

Many food companies are joining traceability efforts designed to get vital information to consumers faster, according to First Research‘s Fresh Prepared Foods profile. Chiquita‘s Fresh Express, for example, allows consumers to see where salads were harvested by entering a “Leaf Locator” code online. Another company, HarvestMark, provides consumers the option to track their foods through a mobile phone application or online.

The meat product processing industry is also under pressure to develop better tracking systems. The USDA is reviewing a proposal that could require cattle to be identified with a radio-frequency identification tag, instead of traditional branding, according to First Research’s Meat Product Manufacturing profile. Proponents say the RFID tags can trace an animal back to its ranch of origin, which could help contain disease outbreaks.

Linnea Kirgan

Linnea Kirgan is an industry editor for First Research/Hoover's, covering retail and consumer topics. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles by Linnea Kirgan.

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