Food Recall – Managing crisis without losing credibility?

Food recalls are a series of corrective actions that remove potentially unsafe products from the distribution channel, store shelves and consumers’ kitchen to prevent public health.

The priority of food manufacturers and processors is to produce food economically and efficiently, they do have strong reasons to produce safe food. Losses due to lost revenue in the case of food recall may far exceed than the cost of maintaining safety. Lost revenues includes a missed opportunity to sell the products, cost of discarded products, business interruption, customer reimbursement and the biggest one is loss of credibility among the consumers.

In the year 2015, there were more than 600 incidents of food recalls in USA and Canada alone. A small list of product recalls are shown in table 1 during a span of two months (Aug to Oct, 2016) in USA (reported by FDA).

Table 1: Recent incidents of FDA-regulated product recalls in USA

This is quite clear from the analysis done in table 1, that the main causes of Food Recalls are:
1. Allergens – Milk, peanuts, eggs, wheat (gluten) constitutes the majority. Others include soy, sulphites and nuts.
2. Microbiological contamination – E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Staphylococcus are pre-dominant. In some rare cases, there is a possibility of Clostridium botulinum

There are different classes of Food Recalls:
1. Class I – There is reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.
2. Class II – There is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from eating the food.
3. Class III – Eating the food will not cause adverse health consequences

Key information to communicate with regulatory authorities in case of a food recall:
1. Name of the company and contact details
2. Name of the product
3. Batch identification codes
4. Product details including packaging size, type
5. Date marks
6. Amount of product in the market
7. Distribution details
8. Nature and level of food safety risk
9. Consumer Advice

A food recall example (press release):

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