Trader Joe's has had multiple food recalls recently. Do I need to worry?

A photo illustration shows a shopping cart with a Trader Joe’s grocery bag in it. Floating above are a cracker, a rock, a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, a fly and bacteria.
Trader Joe’s has had several food recalls in recent weeks. How concerned should consumers be? (Photo illustration by Aisha Yousaf for Yahoo; photos: Getty Images) (Photo illustration by Aisha Yousaf; Photos by Getty Images)

If you’re a fan of Trader Joe’s, you may have noticed that there have been several food recalls recently — six, in fact, in only a few weeks.

It started on July 25 with Trader Joe’s Almond Windmill Cookies and Dark Chocolate Chunk and Almond Cookies, along with its Fully Cooked Falafel three days later — all of which were recalled because they potentially contained rocks. That was accompanied by Trader Joe’s Unexpected Broccoli Cheddar Soup, which was recalled over potentially containing insects. More recently, on Aug. 17, the retailer announced a recall of its Multigrain Crackers With Sunflower and Flax Seeds because they may contain metal. Then, on Aug. 22, the brand announced a recall of tamales because Texas Tamale Company Gourmet Black Bean Tamales may contain undeclared milk. Check here if your product is on this list.

The news is concerning, but how worried should consumers be? Here’s what experts say.

What’s happening

“It is unusual for a retailer to have multiple recalls on private-label items successively,” Mitzi Baum, the chief executive officer of Stop Foodborne Illness, tells Yahoo Life.

In some cases, recalls can be connected. “Physical hazards, such as rocks in multiple products, can be from one ingredient from the same supplier that is used in both products,” Baum explains.

However, in Trader Joe’s case, the recalls probably weren’t connected, according to food safety expert Trevor Craig, director of technical training and consulting at Microbac Laboratories. “It’s unlikely that these are related as they are all different products, issues and most likely manufacturers,” he tells Yahoo Life.

He thinks it could be more of a string of bad luck for Trader Joe’s, or an example of increased surveillance after one recall. “For example, they may have had a single recall and went through many products to determine they didn’t have similar issues, and determined that they did, in fact,” Craig says. “Or it can be some consumers flagging something through complaints and Trader Joe’s is just playing it safe.”

Do I need to worry?

Recalls are serious but not automatically dangerous, according to registered dietitian Jamie Lee McIntyre. “They’re most often a precautionary measure taken to prevent potential harm to consumers,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Companies often work closely with regulatory agencies to identify and address the root causes of recalls and implement corrective actions to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

Baum agrees. “Although the thought of eating a bug is unappealing, they won’t harm you,” she says. “The presence of bugs can occur due to one of the ingredients — such as broccoli that is grown in the ground — having unidentified bugs in it.”

Craig also isn’t super-concerned with the Trader Joe’s recalls. “It looks like none of these recalls are life-threatening, and I don’t see anyone reporting being sick or hospitalized,” he notes. He says that bigger concerns in general involve recalls due to bacterial and chemical contamination, which are harder to see and control.

What can I do about it?

Experts recommend keeping an eye out for recall notifications and staying educated on what they mean.

The good news: Food recall alerts are fairly easy to receive thanks to technology. “Many companies offer memberships that alert customers when a product they purchased is recalled,” Craig says.

McIntyre says that consumers can also stay informed by registering with the Food and Drug Administration to receive email notifications, subscribing to consumer advocacy organizations’ newsletters and checking recall sections of databases on the FDA’s website.

If you’ve purchased recalled products, Craig advises watching for any developing symptoms. McIntyre agrees, saying: “If you do experience illness, be sure to contact your local health department and report your symptoms. This helps authorities track the impact of the recall and take necessary measures.”

Baum says that medical attention is particularly important after experiencing signs of food poisoning, such as diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and a fever. “Specifically request that tests be run for the bacteria identified in the recall, and if there is any product left in your home, save it for additional testing,” she says.

If food you’ve bought has been recalled, McIntyre recommends the following: “Follow the instructions provided in the recall notice regarding the specific product, lot numbers and expiration dates affected. You can then dispose of the product safely or return it to the store where it was purchased for store credit” or, in some cases, a refund.

The main takeaway

“Food recalls happen,” Craig says. But consumers can protect themselves by paying attention to these recalls and throwing out those items. As Baum puts it: “Be an informed consumer.”

If a recalled product is consumed, experts recommend reaching out to your doctor and alerting your local health department.