- Soy nut butter recalled on March 4 for possible E. coli contamination continued to be available for purchase on Amazon.com until September 5, according to Food Safety News. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 32 people from 12 states were sickened in an illness outbreak linked to the product.
- The recalled I.M. Healthy brand of soy nut butter, plus some recalled granola products, were sold by SoyNut Butter Co. and manufactured by Dixie Dew Products of Erlanger, Kentucky. Following a processing plant inspection, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended Dixie Dew's Food Facility Registration on March 27. SoyNut Butter filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on May 27.
- Recall information is available online from government and affected company websites, reported by media outlets, sometimes posted in stores and also sent by retailers to customers via phone calls and text messages, but the news does not systematically get out to the public in a timely manner. Congress addressed the FDA part of the problem in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, but the sponsoring senator said more work remains to be done.
Adequately publicizing food recalls is challenging. Unless a product poses an imminent public health risk — thereby requiring a mandatory recall — FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service allow companies to issue one that is voluntary. In this kind of recall, information is posted on government and company websites and is available to be picked up by media outlets for broader distribution.
Typically, stores will post a recall notice on the shelf where the pulled item was previously displayed — although sell-by dates may be expanded through additional recalls and the affected products still remain available. Software packages to help track recalls have been launched. But sometimes, no notice is posted in the store and clerks and managers aren't aware of recalls.
Retailers who know the drill mark product containers in some way to indicate they have been recalled and should not be distributed to store shelves. Many will also block a recalled product’s UPC code so if the product is still out in circulation, it won’t scan at the register.
While it can be challenging for brick-and-mortar retail outlets to stay in the loop when it comes to effectively and efficiently handling food recalls, it's tougher to understand how Amazon — a technologically advanced e-commerce company — could keep stocking and distributing a recalled item despite easily accessible recall information that it presumably could quickly send out to affected customers through phone calls, email, texts, or social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
Amazon was not the only place customers could buy the nut butter after the recall, although it reportedly carried the product until just a few days ago. According to the online news site Cambridge Day in Massachusetts, the I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter was available about a week after the first product recall announcement at local Whole Foods stores and a local food cooperative and was also used in one local public school.
Amazon posts a recall policy on its site. It states, “Amazon monitors public recall alert websites and also learns of recalls directly from manufacturers and vendors. When we learn of a recall, we suspend all impacted product offerings from our website and quarantine any related inventory in our fulfillment centers. We also reach out to any customers that previously purchased impacted products (and any seller that may have offered such products) to inform them about the recall.”
Those procedures did not seem to be followed regarding the recalled I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, and FDA is said to be investigating.