Find the recalled foods hiding in your kitchen
It can be difficult to avoid recalled foods, since so many alerts are put out each year.
But, not to worry: Only about one in ten of those recalls is due to reports of illness. Most recalls are simply precautionary.
Plus, many recalls aren't on foods made, manufactured or processed in Alaska.
"Most of the time, recalls that we put out are not for products that were made here in Alaska," said Kim Stryker, who is with the Food Safety and Sanitation section of the Dept. of Environmental Conservation. "But we do work with manufacturers and on occasion, we have had recalled products for any number of reasons.
"But it is pretty occasional - maybe a couple of them a year," she said.
According to Stryker, eight or nine of every 10 times there's a recall associated with a product, there is no illness that's been reported. Reasons for recalls include unlisted allergens, physical defects, or, of course, those reports of illness.
"It's pretty important," Stryker said of paying attention to recalls. "Most Americans watch the news, they pay attention, they know when a product is being recalled.
"But research found that less than 60 percent actually check their pantries or fridges for those recalled products," she said.
Particularly in the Last Frontier, even though many recalled foods aren't specifically out of Alaska, products with a long shelf life can be the most troublesome.
That's a big problem when so many in Alaska are camping, hunting, hiking and otherwise spending extensive time out of doors, where non-perishable foods are imperative.
"There was a chili sauce recall several years ago, and the hazard was Botulism," Stryker said. Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a nerve toxin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chili sauce was a canned product with a long shelf life.
"We have a lot of campers, a lot of fishermen and that kind of thing," Stryker said, "so we really reached wide and far to make sure we got a hold of those products."
Along with shelf-stable foods, spices, frozen foods and items used in a lot of other dishes - flour, for example - tend to be some of the most concerning items. Thus, Stryker said, it's important to be on the lookout, but it's also important not to panic.
"People shouldn't worry," she said. "We all eat, and you can't be 100 percent safe all the time. What you can do is you can be aware, and pay attention."
Grocery stores often post displays or signs alerting shoppers to a recall. Sometimes info is also printed on receipts. In addition, people can sign up for notifications so that they're alerted when a recalled product has come through Alaska.
"Just pay attention to what's being recalled," Stryker said. "Be aware and take a few minutes to go through your pantry or fridge or freezer to check for items."
The most recent recalled foods listed on the Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation Div. of Environmental Health Food Safety and Sanitation Program webpage include types of McCormick Club Size Original Taco Seasoning, Nestle Drumsticks, Fred Meyer Deli Superfood Wraps, Wattie's Canned Spaghetti with Sausage products, Black Forest Ham Products, Field Day Organic Ranch Dressing products, and others.
To figure out if you have a recall, first look at food names and brands to find out if you have the product, then check location (some products are only distributed to certain states or countries). If you're in the recall alert area, the next step is to check expiration dates and lot numbers. Chuck the item if it's too risky. You can also look for exchanges, as companies will often replace a recalled product at no cost to you.
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