For instance, last update to their database was on 01. of May. But on other pages I could find two reports that were published in May. So the newest report from their api that I could get is from April. They issue reports weekly. So in this case the reports are old 20 days even though it should not be more than a week old. One peculiar thing I noticed from their reports is that the date when the recall has started and the date when the report is issued are sometimes two months away.

So for apps trying to use the data to warn consumers about recalls, the user probably consumed whatever they bought over that two months lag.

  • For apps, it's worth speaking to FDA officials directly. – Anton Tarasenko May 22 '15 at 22:45
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    maybe, but the site heavily pushes questions here. i actually brought this up on meta a week or two ago...in regards to "app questions", isn't that the whole point of openfda existing? as well as being on github and directing their questions here? – albert May 23 '15 at 3:21
  • share some more info with me here....last update was may 01? or in january? can't you just use the recall rss feed? it has way more content than that – albert May 23 '15 at 3:26
  • May 01 2015 was the last update to the records in the Api. So it has reports from mid April. More recent reports are on the fda site. Will look into the RSS feed. Thx! – Dwayne Martin May 24 '15 at 16:14
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    @albert The RSS feed is useful but it has less info than the database.Specifically, it lacks UPC codes for the food items recalled. So it doesn't lend itself to the app I had in mind, which would offer accurate automated real time updates of food recals matched to the user purchase history we capture with our api. – Dwayne Martin May 25 '15 at 18:44

I don't disagree that the openFDA APIs should be updated more often however the site does specifically mention: (emphasis mine)

This API should not be used as a method to collect data to issue alerts to the public. FDA seeks publicity about a recall only when it believes the public needs to be alerted to a serious hazard. FDA works with industry and our state partners to publish press releases and other public notices about recalls that may potentially present a significant or serious risk to the consumer or user of the product. Subscribe to this Recall/Safety Alert feed here.

Source: https://open.fda.gov/food/enforcement/#about-food-recalls-and-enforcement-reports

  • relying on them at all is kind of m00t imo, as the fda has/will protect corporations over citizens most of the time. sure the recall api seems nice, but its all smoke and mirrors anyways. they say so themselves "FDA seeks publicity about a recall only when IT believes the public needs to be alerted..." – albert May 23 '15 at 3:25
  • @skram. You're right. Thx for highlighting.. It seems contrary to their 2014 press release where they said. "Developers can now call into the API to add recalls data to mobile apps or consumer websites." It seems some cautionary language to prevent people from issuing alerts about every item that has been mentioned in the enforcement report. My guess is that they would add the data in the RSS feed in a later iteration of the api. Disappointing in that prompt, accurate, automated alerts on items you already bought could save lives. – Dwayne Martin May 25 '15 at 19:27

From the commentators here and further research, it appears that the OpenFDA API allows access to the FDA's repository for enforcement reports, which they don't want apps to use for recall alert data. The reports are not specific to just recalls and don't show the most recent recalls. A stated intent of the API though is to allow app developers to use FDA recall data to alert consumers according to a 2014 press release. But for now the RSS feed is the best source for this data. However, it doesn't include UPC codes or the functionality of an API. Given that people die from food safety issues, it's a bit disappointing that this isn't prioritized. (In our case, with this available on the FDA's api, we could easily offer free real time recall text/e-mail alerts for 85% of the food purchased in the US and specific to the users who had purchased the recalled item.)


Most FDA alerts are not recalls. They can be anything from requests for comments, minor labelling changes, warnings about possible adverse events (if the event is of a serious, or potentially life threatening harm they will be sure to reach out the practitioners in other ways besides their website).

Mostly, in my experience, a lot of the FDA publications are concerning relatively minor things. On the other hand, I am not an American practitioner, but rather to drug safety research in an academic setting outside of your country.

  • In regards to developing apps, yes will check with the fda before. But right now just seeing if the data will be useful. They do promote stack exchange as their q&a and say they monitor duscussion here – Dwayne Martin May 24 '15 at 0:52

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