After all the hard work of making, selling and/or distributing food and beverages, the last thing you want to think about is having to deal with a situation involving unsafe or poor quality products.
But it happens, so it is essential that all food businesses have documented and tested contingency plans in place. Recall procedures are part of an overall business continuity plan (BCP), to ensure that you can manage food safety or suitability/quality issues effectively and in a timely manner.
A food recall involves taking proportionate actions to remove unsafe or unsuitable food from distribution, sale and/or consumption. There are two levels of food recalls, a consumer level recall and a trade level recall.
A consumer level recall involves communication with consumers (e.g. using media services) requesting consumers return products to your company (or the place of purchase).
A trade level recall (also referred to as withdrawal) removes unsafe or unsuitable food from the distribution chain but does not extend to consumers.
Not only is it important to have a plan, it is also essential to make sure it works. This is achieved by conducting regular mock recall exercises, and may include use of recall communication tools such as Product Recall NZ (insert link). It is a valuable process for testing the traceability systems you have in place too, so that if a real recall situation should arise you can be confident that you will be able to rapidly reconcile all stock of an affected batch of food or beverage product.
Note: New Zealand Food Safety (MPI) have confirmed that soon it will be mandatory for manufacturers, producers, importers, and exporters to carry out an annual mock or simulated food recall.
To conduct a mock recall you need to develop a mock recall scenario (e.g. contamination due to a physical, chemical or microbiological hazard), then carry it out in a similar way to a real recall. You will also need to keep records of what you did to show your regulatory verifier or customer auditor.
You should aim to involve everyone in a mock recall who would be involved in a real recall. This means senior staff responsible for making decisions, marketing and communication staff, and sales and distribution staff involved with traceability.
The team at Assured Food Safety have practical knowledge and experience in working with food businesses to conduct both mock and real recalls, and have good relationships with major food retailers, and MPI. We can assist your team and even help to take some of the stress out of a challenging situation.
Some businesses arrange recall insurance to assist with costs associated with recalls, for example:
You may like to consider recall insurance for your business. Discuss options with your business insurer.