Kraft Mac and Cheese Recall: What To Do If Something You Ate Was Recalled

·Editor
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Photo: Alejandro Moreno de Carlos/Stocksy

Kraft Foods is pulling back 6.5 million boxes of its macaroni and cheese product after it was found that some of those boxes contain small pieces of metal.

This recall comes just days after a recent listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell Creameries ice cream. This bacteria doesn’t merely cause run-of-the-mill food poisoning—it has the potential to be deadly. In fact, in this most recent case, it may have contributed to the deaths of three people.

What should you do, then, with the leftover carton of Blue Bell ice cream in the freeze or an empty blue box of mac and cheese in your trash bin? 

First off, don’t freak out. If you don’t believe us, believe Marianne Gravely, a technical information specialist with the USDA’s meat and poultry hotline. Gravely and her team field all sorts of questions from panicked consumers on the regular, so she knows a thing or two about calming people down. 

Although recalls for various foods are often handled by different agencies—for instance, the FDA might recall an ice cream product, whereas the USDA generally recalls raw chicken breasts — Gravely’s advice is applicable to any of them. Below, she puts our collective minds at ease with a practical guide to navigating a food recall.

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Check with your grocer if you’re unsure as to whether or not you’ve eaten a recalled product. Photo: Jill Chen/Stocksy

1. Make sure that what you purchased is exactly the product being recalled.

“Check the packaging to make sure you have it, because you may have something that’s made by the same company, but isn’t the recalled product,” Gravely explained. “It has to be exactly what’s in the recall: the brand name, the product, the establishment number, and it has to be part of the recalled batch.” That means if your chicken has a sell-by date of April 21, but recalled batch’s is April 22, you have no cause to be alarmed.

2. Figure out why the food is being recalled.

“There have been a number of recalls because a food contains a spice mix that may contain peanuts,” Gravely said. “Because the spice wasn’t labeled as containing peanuts, it was recalled.” That’s a potentially life-threatening issue for people with peanut allergies, but there’s no need to worry if you don’t have one.

Other common culprits behind recalls include foreign objects in food, such as chunks of plastic or metal. You should never knowingly eat a product that’s been recalled because of this issue, Gravely stressed, but if you accidentally do and don’t bite into a hunk of metal? You’re probably OK.

Improper processing is another major reason behind recalls. While this has the potential for disaster, it doesn’t always lead to it. “A long time ago, there was a canned product and it hadn’t been heated to the right temperature,” Gravely said. “The inspector doing the review found the problem and recalled the product, but we didn’t have any reports of illness.” The lesson? Don’t panic prematurely.

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Before you get concerned, make sure that what you ate identically matches the product being recalled. Photo: Alejandro Moreno de Carlos/Stocksy

3. Think: Did you cook the recalled product thoroughly?

This advice admittedly isn’t very useful when it comes to ice cream or deli meats, but it’s critical for things like raw beef or seafood. “If you cooked it through, probably you would have killed that bacteria,” Gravely explained. 

4. Toss it out.

All things considered, if you haven’t already eaten a recalled product, don’t — throw it out or return it to the store. Food poisoning isn’t a risk you want to take, nor is chomping down on a piece of glass.

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If you cooked a product thoroughly, it’s less likely you’ll get sick—even if it was recalled. Photo: Maximilian Guy McNair MacEwan/Stocksy

5. Talk to your grocer.

If you’re uncertain if you’ve eaten recalled food, ask the grocery store that sold it to you. You can also consult the official recall document at Foodsafety.gov, which, within a few days, usually details where a product was distributed.

6. If you begin to feel sick, see a doctor.

“Food poisoning isn’t like a cold, where you kind of start feeling worse and worse — you definitely have symptoms [right away],” Gravely said. “If you’re suddenly vomiting or you have diarrhea, you should go to a doctor. Food poisoning symptoms can be severe.”

More important intel on food poisoning (and how to avoid it):

The drink that could save you from salmonella and other bugs

In the future, our fridges might text us when food is about to go bad

Do you really have to wash your chicken before cooking it? We investigate

How do you handle a food recall? Tell us below!