Food recalls can be unnerving. Products you’ve been buying weekly on your grocery run have the potential to make you sick, and you only find out after the fact. When you buy packaged food, you expect it to be safe — though perhaps not all that healthy — and the thought that there might be potential illness, metal, or even glass shards inside is horrifying at best. Not every recall is deadly, however. Many recalls are issued simply as a precaution.
Perhaps a single package was suspected of contamination, for instance, and the company recalled the entire batch just to be sure. Or perhaps an ingredient was omitted on the label, causing concern for people with allergies or intolerances to certain foods.
You can glean the severity of a recall by looking at what class it’s called — the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives each official recall a classification based on how dangerous it really is for consumers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, one in six Americans gets sick from their food, though — and when recalls involve foodborne pathogens like listeria or salmonella, things can be deadly. Some foods are more likely to give you salmonella than others, which is why things like chicken and other forms of meat are recalled more often.
While products are recalled all the time for relatively benign reasons, this year revealed some glaring oversights in the food industry. Here are 2017’s biggest food recalls and why they happened.