Product recalls are inevitable reality of working in food industry which can be frightening for both food processers as well as for consumers due to the harm and fear they cause among them. People generally focus on its negative side only, but they are very essential and must happen regularly as they can prevent serious damages to the consumer’s health. Product Recall is action of removing food products from the market at any stage of the food chain which may pose a safety risk to consumers. A food recall may be initiated because of a report or complaint from a variety of sources − manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, government agencies and consumers. It may also occur because of a food business’s internal testing and/or auditing.
Product Recall Program
A recall program is a written action plan that is carefully constructed, tested, and evaluated to ensure efficiency. It is the safety net that can prevent consumers from buying or eating a potentially harmful food product. Having an efficient recall program may reduce a company’s liability, while a non-existent or poor recall program can have serious economic and legal consequences.
Components of Product Recall Program
Identifying recall team members and assigning recall duties enables the recall procedures to be conducted quickly and smoothly. The recall program should also identify the person who will coordinate the recall. The recall coordinator should have the authority to call upon other recall team members as needed to address the issues at hand. Recall team should include people responsible for decision making, quality assurance, technical advisory, media communication, complaint investigation, contacting customers, contact person from specified regulatory authority (FDA, FSIS or CFIA) and legal counsel. The list of people that make up your team should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
When a complaint is received, it is important to record the details and start an investigation either at your plant or your distribution facility. Early action on your part may enable you to identify potentially unsafe products and correct problems or enable you to stop selling the product until it is determined that it is safe.
Recall Contact List
If you suspect that you have sold or distributed an unsafe or violative food product, it is your duty to contact your regulatory agency immediately, as they can assist with the investigation and the collection of information to help make the right decision. A recall program should contain a contact list with the names, phone and fax numbers of the appropriate regulatory agencies.
Being able to determine which products need to be recalled allows you to limit the scope of a recall. If the specific affected products cannot be identified, you will need to broaden the scope of the recall, often recalling more products than necessary, which results in more financial losses. If the products are incorrectly identified, another recall may be necessary. As a Distributor, traceability of products involves record-keeping procedures that provide you with the information of products that have been received and distributed. If you are a Manufacturer, additional traceability procedures that show the route a raw material took from the supplier through production to the final product, and then on to customer/distributor are necessary.
Production amounts (Manufacturers)
In case of a recall, a company must ensure most of the affected product is removed from the marketplace. Having an accurate record of how much product has been sold, and how much is still on the premises, helps to ensure that all customers are notified of the recall. This means documenting the amount of each lot of each product manufactured.
Shipping and sales records
Maintaining accurate shipping and/or sales records is crucial because they can enable a company to limit the recall to only the customers who received the affected products.
Recalled product Records
It is beneficial to develop recall product records to ensure that recalled products are controlled and do not get into the hands of customers. Such records should include the name of the product being recalled, the amount, the date the product has been recalled and the corrective action taken for each product.
Every recall plan should contain a step-by-step explanation of what to do when a product needs to be recalled. Following this plan will help food manufacturers and distributors ensure that important steps are not overlooked during this time of crisis. Recall procedures should be readily available and should explain product coding, product traceability, and production and distribution records. Develop all necessary forms to be used in case of a recall, as well as a media release form if necessary.
The steps in any recall are similar for all products. For each recall, the processor should:
A company recalling a product is responsible for notifying all customers who bought the affected products. They should also verify that all customers have stopped the distribution of the affected products, and that all recalled products have been returned to the processors or distributors’ control or other designated area as instructed in the recall notification.
Testing the recall program
Mock recalls test a company’s ability to recall products without actually recalling them. Mock recalls are strongly suggested and should be tested on a regular basis. The goal is to be able to identify every affected lot, know exactly where it is at any point in the process, and know who to contact to bring it back. Many a times mock recall can be an eye-opener for the food processors who thinks that their recall program is full proof. Mock recalls should test both product-tracking and ingredient-tracking systems. Results of the practice must show that a manufacturer/distributor is able to handle a 95-100 % of recall situation.
At first instance food recalls are seen as a public health issue only, but they are also responsible for significant economic loses also. According to findings of one reputed survey, the average cost of a recall to a food company is around $10M for direct costs, in addition to brand damage and lost sales. However, the costs for larger brands may be significantly higher based on the preliminary recall costs reported by firms of some recent recalls. Thus, it can be concluded that it can be one of the biggest threats to profitability, if not managed properly.