U.S. food safety regulators are recalling about twice as many products as a decade ago, pulling Ritz crackers, Goldfish and Swiss rolls off grocery shelves just last week, McDonald's salads about two weeks ago and Kellogg's Honey Smacks last month.
Approximately one in six Americans get sick every year from eating contaminated foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And as the number of recalls rises, so do questions about U.S. food safety.
Flower Foods, Mondelez and Pepperidge Farm — owned by Campbell Soup — recalled their crackers and other products last week after public health officials flagged a whey powder ingredient from a supplier that might be contaminated with salmonella.
The CDC blamed Kellogg's Honey Smacks for a salmonella outbreak that caused more than 100 people to become ill in 33 states in June. McDonald's was forced to pull salads from 3,000 restaurants in the Midwest after public health officials in Illinois and Iowa linked the restaurant chain to an outbreak of cyclosporiasis, which causes diarrhea and fever and has infected at least 286 people in 15 states so far, according to U.S. health officials.
While the rise in high-profile food recalls in recent years may be worrisome, it doesn't necessarily mean that U.S. food safety is declining, according to federal safety and foodborne illness specialists.
Companies have been getting more aggressive in issuing voluntary recalls while physicians and public health officials are getting better at reporting and tracing the origins of contamination, they said.
"We're better at figuring these outbreaks out," said Bill Marler, an attorney specializing in food safety issues. "Public health has been cut back but not so much that it can't do good surveillance."