Because GFSI-certified facilities adhere to rigorous prevention programs, you might expect these facilities to experience fewer food recalls than facilities that are not certified. Accordingly, a review of public reports of food recalls shows how well the certified facilities support GFSI goals to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food. Our work for this article tallied food recalls in the United States during a 12-month period, offering an early view of the impact of GFSI certification.
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Retail Gaint Walmart became the first nationwide U.S. grocer to adopt GFSI. Food Suppliers who were not certified in GFSI scheme by the end of 2009 faced losing Walmart as a customer.
We extracted information from FDA recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts, its weekly enforcement reports for human food, and from the USDA’s food safety and inspection service list of recalls and alerts for the period between May 1, 2011 and April 30, 2012. This provided information about the following:
- Number of recalls;
- Recalling firms;
- Dates of recall;
- Reasons for recall; and
- Amount of product recalled.
Some reports indicated that the facility making the recall differed from the facility where the recalled product was manufactured.
For each recall, we queried the public databases of GFSI scheme owners to determine whether the recalling facility or manufacturing facility was certified on the date(s) of the recall and, if so, the scope and date range of the certification.
Of the nine GFSI-benchmarked audit schemes, we found six in use for certification in the United States during the period studied. The schemes are British Retail Consortium, London; Safe Quality Food Institute, Arlington, Va.; Food Safety System Certification 22000, Gorinchem, The Netherlands; PrimusGFS, Santa Maria, Calif.; International Featured Standards, Berlin; and Global Aquaculture Alliance, St. Louis, Mo.
Some of the facilities issuing recalls were also certified by alternate schemes not benchmarked by GFSI, such as the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, which sets safety standards for agricultural practices used in the production of leafy greens.
We located 342 recalls logged by the USDA and FDA between May 1, 2011 and April 30, 2012, with 265 recalls from the FDA and 77 recalls from the USDA. These included finished product recalls as well as those at the ingredient level in which more than one finished product and/or manufacturer was affected by the same safety event(s).
The most common reason for recall, which included 118—or 35%—of all recalls, was mislabeling or non-labeling of allergenic ingredients. This number increased to 37% (127) if recalls for undeclared sulfites were included. Allergen recalls were followed in frequency by recalls for Listeria monocytogenes (64 or 19%), Salmonella (48 or 14%), and foreign material (21 or 6%). Recalls caused by foreign material were mostly due to metal or plastic found in the product (Table 1).
Facilities certified in one of the GFSI benchmarked-audit schemes were associated with 73 recalls, or 21.3% of the total. In 12 other recalls, (3.5%), the recalling facility or retailer was not GFSI certified, but the supplier of the recalled product was. In all, GFSI-benchmarked facilities were involved in about one-quarter of recalls, either as the recalling firm or the manufacturing firm. In four of the recalls, both the recalling facility and the manufacturer of recalled goods were certified in one of the GFSI-benchmarked schemes. There were 18 recalls in which the notice and/or enforcement report listed a non-U.S. facility as the site where the recalled goods were produced. None of the affected foreign sites was found to be GFSI certified.