Identifying Recalled Food Items

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Identifying Recalled Food Items

By Catherine Blinder

The weather has been getting warmer and summer is upon us!

As we begin to think about cookouts and family picnics and days at the beach, we might find ourselves at the supermarket buying some chicken for the family. That night on the news, you hear that there has been a national recall on a batch of poultry due to factory contamination!

How do we know what is safe and what is not? You don’t want to put your family and friends at risk. It most cases, it is a very localized problem, but you don’t want to take that risk! How do we know what is at risk and what is safe? There are ways to stay informed and keep you and your loved ones safe.

Why do products get recalled and how do consumers know if recalls affect them?

Whether or not a food item you purchased has been recalled can be very confusing at first. Most companies voluntarily notify and recall affected products. However, recalls can be mandated by the government if there is a serious risk to the consumer.

Where can you find out about the latest product recalls?

Both the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) post food recall notices from companies on their websites. Those notices can be found at The recall notices have important information that can help identify the recalled product. This information can help you figure out if your food product was recalled.

What can help you identify if your food product is recalled?

  1. Package Size/Format

This refers to the size of the product or product type. Look for a numerical size value like “20 oz.”, or format indicators like “family size” or “instant” versions of a product.

  1. Package UPC Code (Example Provided)

The UPC code includes the numbers below the barcode on a product label. This UPC code contains 10 numbers. The first five digits are the manufacturer number, while the last five digits are the product number.






  1. Expiration Date

This is the date printed on the package of the product. The package might read “sell by,” “best if used by/before” or “use by.” The expiration date combined with the UPC code can help identify if the product is part of a specific recall.

There are differences between “sell by,” “best if used by/before” or “use by.”

  • “Sell by” is an indicator for the store on how long an item should be displayed before the quality of the item worsens. This is not a safety date.
  • “Best by” is a suggestion for when the item will be at its best quality/flavor. This is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use by” is a date determined by a manufacturer and represents a suggestion of when the food is at its best quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula.

Package Lot Code

Products are made in groups called “lots” or “batches.” Each batch has unique numbers that help the manufacturer track products in case an issue occurs. Lot codes are different for each manufacturer, so it’s important to pay attention to these codes during a recall notice.

What if you have trouble determining if your product has been recalled?

If you are unsure or cannot determine if your product has been recalled, contact the manufacturer directly. If the manufacturer is unhelpful and you are still confused, contact the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Food and Standards at (860) 713-6160, or send them an email at

While most food products in the United States are safe to consume, there are times where the product may be recalled. If you learn about a food product that is unsafe, we encourage you to share this information and pass it on to your friends and family!

More information about recall and recall and recall alerts can be found at:

This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at




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June 20, 2018

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