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How do food recalls work?

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and the official start of grilling season. It’s an unfortunate time for sausages to face a recall over food safety, but that’s exactly what’s happening to Johnsonville Jalapeno Cheddar smoked sausages.

The Wisconsin-based sausage manufacturer is recalling nearly 100,000 pounds of sausages found to contain bits of hard green plastic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced. Though no one has reported an illness from the tainted sausages, it raises the question: How do food recalls work?

What is a food recall?

Manufacturers voluntary recall food when they find the products could cause harm to consumers’ health. The goal of a recall is to remove the products from store shelves and consumers' kitchens. Though all recalls are voluntary, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service has the right to seize any products they believe are harmful if the manufacturer refuses to issue the recall itself.

Types of food recalls

The FSIS, which oversees food recalls, categorizes recalls into three classes:

  • Class I: The food is hazardous and it is probable that the food will cause serious health problems or even death.
  • Class II: The food is hazardous and there is a remote chance it could cause adverse consequences to a consumer’s health.
  • Class III: The product will not cause adverse health consequences.

The recent recall of the Johnsonville sausages was a Class-I recall, indicating that there is a high risk it could damage consumers’ health.

Can I sue after a recall?

Suing for financial losses and harm if you get sick from a recalled food is tricky. Just because a manufacturer recalls a food, that does not automatically make the manufacturer liable – though it could provide circumstantial evidence. Conversely, issuing a recall does not absolve the manufacturer of liability either.

To successfully sue for injuries or illnesses sustained by a recalled food, you must typically prove that the food was defective, and the defectiveness caused your injuries. It may also help your case if you can show that you were unaware of the recall.

Get help

If you or a loved one became sick after eating a contaminated or defective recalled food, time is of the essence. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to prove which food product got you ill. Consider seeking help from an attorney who can further guide you in the process and fight for any damages you are owed.

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The Grubb Law Group

The Grubb Law Group
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Charleston, WV 25301

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