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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Don’t let Trader Joe’s recalls stress out your snacking

Amanda Riha

At the end of a long, hard week, who doesn’t love sitting down with a bowl of your favorite snacks or a warm comfort meal? Well, a recent uptick in the number of food recalls is making many think differently.

Trader Joe’s, popular for its many private-label products, regularly attracts media attention from food bloggers and food lovers alike for its seasonal releases and classic staples. It is one of the best grocery options for college students in particular, for its convenient, affordable non-GMO products that are both healthy and delicious.

But more recently, the store has gained traction for recalling several products. Over the second half of last year, Trader Joe’s made a total of six recalls involving issues that range far and wide: foreign plastic material found in steamed chicken soup dumplings, multigrain crackers containing metal and even insects found in frozen broccoli cheddar soup. Since the new year, the recalls have only continued.

In at least half of the cases, the retailer held the manufacturing processing factories at fault. Shoppers were encouraged to either bring any purchased products back to a store for a full refund or discard the product altogether.

You would think that after the six recalls in six months that some kind of manufacturing changes would take place. But, here we are three months into the new year, and Trader Joe’s has seen at least three more cases, including the most recent and perhaps the most unexpected — salmonella- contaminated roasted cashews.

Part of the reason for the increase in recalls is the Food and Drug Administration tightening its safety regulations and monitoring over the past couple of years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even for those who don’t regularly shop at Trader Joe’s, this reality is still alarming. No injuries or illnesses have been reported from any of these products thus far, but that’s not to say all incidents were reported. Unsafe, contaminated food accounts for an estimated 76 million illnesses each year, according to the FDA.

Not to mention food recalls often take months to identify and carry out, and by the time they come out, many people have usually already gotten sick.

So besides staying up-to-date on recent recalls and paying attention to the dates of the foods you buy, is there any way to prevent getting sick, or worse?

It is too much to ask all Trader Joe’s regulars and meal-prepping college students to avoid the store entirely because in reality, food recalls happen every day, and have been occurring since 1920.

Physical contaminants, undeclared allergens, bacteria, misbranding and defective packaging are some of the most common causes, to name a few. Because of both recent improvements in available detection technology, as well as updated FDA regulation standards, the cases have been on a steady incline since the 2010s, and will just continue.

We are in an age where we must be hyper vigilant about everything we consume: media, products and now, food. A deemed “safe” product like packaged roasted cashews or frozen soup dumplings wouldn’t usually come to mind as the culprit when one becomes sick, but based on recent cases, many now worry they should.

So if you feel worried about the recent uptick in cases or feel they are getting in the way of your usual Sunday night meal prep routine, try your best not to fret. As a bit of a hypochondriac myself, I know firsthand how difficult that can be. But rather than waiting for technologies to one day be able to magically catch all the cases before they are packaged, it is better just to accept the reality and do what is recommended by the FDA to avoid getting sick.

Pay special attention to your food’s lot and expiration dates and subscribe to the FDA’s recall subscription service, so you can get alerts and know immediately which foods have been recalled and you can get your money back.

Recalls can be alarming but don’t necessarily have to mean the end of your snack time, so allow the FDA to do its job and just keep on snacking.

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Amanda Riha, Design Editor

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