Wrestling with the FDA recall e-mail avalanche

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

NPR’s April Fulton recently blogged about a phenomenon familiar to anyone with a subscription to the FDA’s recall e-mail list, or their RSS feed, or their Twitter account: a late rush of random recall messages that would require a prohibitive amount of time to sort and research. fda-recallsFor example, in a two-minute span on June 15, @FDArecalls on Twitter buzzed with messages about multivitamin labels, fish, organic chocolate peanuts, white peppers and soy sprouts. Fulton also notes that many of the notices come out late in the day.

She proposes some sort of flagging or rating system to make it easier to figure out which stories are big deals and which aren’t. She may be on to something. The FDA could make these releases more accessible and useful for journalists and consumers. At the very least, it should be possible to explain the location and magnitude of the public health danger in a way that could be understood at a glance.

What other tips or tricks help you figure out which recalls are relevant to your readers? Do you have suggestions as to how the FDA could makes its releases more accessible or useful? Let us know.

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