10 Biggest Food Recalls in U.S. History

by Staff Writer

Food safety is one of the biggest issues affecting the U.S. agricultural and food industries today. The public has also grown increasingly aware of this problem every time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues a recall of contaminated or possibly contaminated foods. Even as the government tries to strengthen the nation's food safety through legislation, food recalls will only continue to happen until farms, factories and slaughterhouses improve their own sanitation and production methods. Here are the 10 biggest food recalls in U.S. history:

  1. Peanut Corporation of America peanut products

    In January 2009, the Peanut Corporation of America issued one of the largest food recalls for products that might contain salmonella from the company's contaminated factory in Blakely, Ga. There was a total of eight deaths and more than 500 illness reported in 43 states. The recall included 2,100 products from more than 200 companies that contained the Peanut Corporation of America's tainted peanut products.

  2. Nestlé Toll House cookie dough

    In June 2009, Nestlé USA issued a recall of 300,000 cases of refrigerated cookie-dough products, such as chocolate-chip bars and tubs of gingerbread cookie dough because of an E. coli risk. Consumers were warned to throw away packages of Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough after 65 E. Coli-related illnesses were reported in 29 states.

  3. Kraft chicken strips

    In February 2008, Kraft Foods recalled 52,650 pounds of Oscar Mayer/Louis Rich Chicken Breast Strips after listeria bacteria was detected in one package. The next month, an additional 2.8 million pounds of chicken were recalled and Kraft expanded the recall to all of its products that come from the same contaminated plant. No illnesses were reported, but the recall became one of the largest poultry recalls in America.

  4. Hallmark beef

    The February 2008 Hallmark recall of 143 million pounds of beef was the largest beef recall in U.S. history. The Class II recall came after a Humane Society video was released of a slaughterhouse mistreating cows and allowing unhealthy cattle to be slaughtered without an inspection. Although there were no reported illnesses or deaths from the contaminated meat, the beef was pulled from shelves because the slaughterhouse violated federal regulations.

  5. Cargill ground turkey

    In August 2011, food producer and marketer Cargill issued a recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey because it may have been contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of salmonella. This month, the company recalled another 185,000 pounds of meat for the same contamination risk. The FDA is currently investigating the matter, and has suggested that inadequate cleanups between recalls or a continued used of infected turkeys could be the source of the contamination.

  6. California bagged spinach

    In September 2006, a total of five people died and 205 people were sickened by E. Coli after eating contaminated spinach that was grown on a central California farm. The outbreak that contaminated fresh, ready-to-eat spinach cost the leafy green industry more than $350 million and greatly affected the sales of packaged spinach for years.

  7. Freshway Foods romaine lettuce

    In May 2010, Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, issued a recall of romaine lettuce products that were linked to an outbreak of a foodborne illness from E. Coli 0145 bacteria. The lettuce was shipped to 23 states, and the most cases of illness were reported in New York, Michigan and Ohio.


  8. Iowa farm eggs

    Two Iowa egg-production companies, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, issued a recall of 550 million eggs after 1,500 cases of salmonella poisoning were reported in August 2010. According to the FDA, the contaminated shell eggs may have been linked to unsanitary farm conditions and the size of the farms' chicken cages.

  9. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

    In March 2010, the FDA issued a recall of 178 products containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein because salmonella was found in the common flavor enhancer. HVP is used in thousands of processed foods such as soups, sauces, salad dressings, dips and hot dogs. Although there were no sicknesses reported, the FDA recalled more than 30 products and attention turned to the product's manufacturer, Basic Food Flavors, Inc. in Las Vegas.

  10. Menu Foods pet food

    In March 2007, pet food processor Menu Foods issued a recall of more than 60 million cans and pouches of pet food sold under various brand names. One month later, the same company recalled more than 20 dog biscuit brands sold by Wal-Mart because of contamination. The recall came as a result of thousands of consumer complaints that their pets were ill, lethargic and drinking or urinating more than normal.


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