When a recall is initiated, the company involved will need to submit its strategy for handling the process to the FDA or FSIS for review. The plan will need to cover things like the depth of the recall (for instance, if it will affect just wholesalers and/or retailers, or consumers too); what the proposed checks are to ensure effectiveness of the recall; and the type of press release that the company wishes to issue.
Businesses do not need to wait for strategies to be approved for them to be executed; plans can be followed out straight away, even if they’re under review. However, if the agency involved in the matter feels that corrections are required to the strategy, this can prompt the manufacturer or distributor to make necessary changes.
To terminate a recall, food manufacturers or distributors can request permission to do so in writing to the relevant regulatory body, or simply wait for the agency to determine when the appropriate time is. Products are typically classified as safe again once a decent amount of the offending product has been recovered or corrected.
Common Causes of Recalls
There is a wide variety of reasons why food recalls can be initiated. Some of the major contributing factors in recent years, though, have been contaminations, adulterations, and misbranding of food stuffs that have needed to be addressed.
For example, products can be contaminated with pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes; undeclared sulphites, or allergens like soy, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, milk, or shellfish; uneviscerated fish; or foreign objects such as metal, plastic, or glass fragments. A nutrient imbalance (generally found in pet food recalls) also occurs quite often.
Other reasons for recalls include a company’s non-compliance with their own Standard Operating Procedures; a failure to properly maintain processing facilities and equipment used for food; deficiencies in the monitoring and production processes for food (e.g., non-compliance with the current Good Manufacturing Practices or cGMPs, or incorrect food labeling); a firm’s inability to track products through their supply chain; and weaknesses identified in the producer’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).
If Food Recalls Are Initiated…
There are numerous consequences faced by businesses if food recalls are initiated. Apart from the obvious public health issue and brand damage, there is obviously a significant financial cost to be factored in. Companies can lose a lot of sales and market value, plus have to pay for costs associated with notifying regulatory bodies, the supply chain, and consumers; product retrieval, storage, and destruction; additional labor costs; and investigations of the root cause of the safety issue.
Another large financial burden that needs to be considered is the potential litigation cost. Consumers who are affected by a food recall, particularly those who are seriously injured or who have faced a death in their family, often hire specialists in the area of recalls to submit a legal claim for compensation.
To prevent recalls in the first place, firms need to ensure that the best business practices are put in place and carefully followed at all times. GMP and HACCP plans should be put in place to ensure optimum quality and safety levels during the manufacturing process; and regular audits, training, and testing should be carried out. Companies that achieve certifications in world-class standards, such as ISO 22000, BRC, and SQF, particularly show their commitment to food safety principles.
If a recall is deemed necessary, companies must alert government bodies as quickly as possible, coordinate closely with the relevant department, and remove all affected products from the market in a fast and efficient manner to limit the amount of harm caused. Businesses should have contingency plans and crisis-management strategies in place in advance too, so that if recalls are put in place, they can be quickly facilitated.