Data from the recalls of meat and poultry products from 2000 through 2012 due to Salmonella contamination were used to assess the factors associated with the recovery of the recalled product and to develop quantitative models to estimate the number of illnesses prevented by recalls. The percentage of product recovered following a recall action was not dependent on establishment size, recall expansions, complexity of the distribution chain, type of distribution, amount of time between the production and recall dates, or number of pounds of product recalled. However, illness-related recalls were associated with larger amounts of recalled product, smaller percentages of recalled product recovered, a greater number of days between the production date and recall date, and nationwide distribution than were recalls that were not illness related. In addition, the detection of recall-associated illnesses appeared to be enhanced in states with strong foodborne illness investigation systems. The number of Salmonella illnesses prevented by recalls was based on the number of illnesses occurring relative to the number of pounds consumed, which was then extrapolated to the number of pounds of recalled product recovered. A simulation using a program evaluation and review technique probability distribution with illness-related recalls from 2003 through 2012 estimated that there were 19,000 prevented Salmonella illnesses, after adjusting for underdiagnosis. Recalls not associated with illnesses from 2000 through 2012 prevented an estimated additional 8,300 Salmonella illnesses, after adjusting for underdiagnosis. Although further improvements to ensure accurate and complete reporting should be undertaken, our study demonstrates that recalls are an important tool for preventing additional Salmonella illnesses. Moreover, additional training resources dedicated to public health agencies for enhancing foodborne illness detection, investigations, and rapid response and reporting would further prevent illnesses.

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