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WASHINGTON -- Consumers and the food industry will be able to better search for product recalls under a new web tool released April 4 by the Food & Drug Administration.

“Recalls, mandatory or otherwise, are serious and we must do everything possible to make it easier for people to know about these recalls so they can take all appropriate steps to protect themselves and their families,” Mike Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, said while publicizing the new database.  

“We encourage people to check out our new recalls search page for themselves, and use it whenever they have a question about a recall,” Mr. Taylor added.

He said that regulators consulted with consumer groups and industry on best ways to package recall information before launching the new web tool.

This action comes as the three-month-old FDA Food Safety Modernization Act called for a more consumer-friendly recall search engine.

The FDA’s web site, which provides data from news releases and other recall announcements since 2009, organizes information by product brand name, product description, reason for the recall and the recalling firm. The table will also spell out whether the recall is voluntary or conducted under a mandatory order, a new tool FDA received in the latest food safety reform law.

Looking to better handle recalls

At an April 5 meeting, Dara Corrigan, head of the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, said that the agency is exploring an option of hiring an outside, third-party firm to make sure food companies close out recalls and remove products from store shelves.

By this summer, the agency also is staffing up a new coordinated outbreak response team that will better coordinate outbreaks, said Michael Landa, acting director of the FDA’s food center.

The produce industry has long criticized the lack of communication and coordination among government agencies during outbreak investigations.

The new team will be charged with overseeing surveillance efforts, response and spend time after outbreaks to look back at the root cause of the contamination.