This week, the FDA has announced five separate food recalls, (recall announcements in real-time here). Whether voluntary or mandatory, recalls can have significant impacts and implications on brands. Not only do recalls have the potential to cost millions of dollars, but sometimes brands never fully recover when there is a loss of life. In addition to lost profits and labor costs, some brands and their owners can face litigation or even jail time.
The now infamous cantaloupe outbreak from Jensen Brothers Farms in 2012 is an example of the worst-case scenario.
The multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) stemming from Jensen Brothers Farms sickened 147 Americans and caused 33 deaths. The farm owners, Eric and Ryan Jensen, pleaded guilty to six counts of federal misdemeanors and were both sentenced to five years’ probation and six months of home detention. The company later filed for bankruptcy.
Don’t Be the Next Recall
Before a recall even has the chance to happen, your organization should already have an established and tested plan. And while a written recall plan is a requirement, companies need to treat recall prevention as a critical business and customer retention strategy.
A commitment and adherence to meeting one of the highest certifications with GFSI can help. All the major schemes (BRC, SQF, IFS, FSSC, etc.) have solid food safety management practices at their cores. Companies that achieve these certifications demonstrate they have implemented and audited strict food safety principles. But what do you do when you’ve taken all the right steps, but something still slips through the cracks, and you face a recall?
Navigating Through a Food Recall
Notify the FDA
When a recall is apparent, it’s essential to notify the FDA as soon as possible. The FDA requires notice within 24 hours after a company detects possible contamination that could potentially cause serious health issues or death to human or animal consumers.
Inform Employees and Supply Chain Partners
Before notifying the public, it’s crucial to tell your employees and supply chain partners. Be open and honest. Notifying your stakeholders will give them time to prepare for questions and make any necessary changes. The next step will be to inform the public and the consumers, often with a press release. This release should include the product identification (description and codes), a detailed report of the issue and any health implications that could arise, the depth of the recall, and the instructions customers need to take.
Determine the Origin of Contaminated Ingredients
After notifying the appropriate parties, this is probably the most critical step in a food recall. Knowing where and when the source of contamination affected the supply chain is extremely important to resolve the issue.
Ensure Future Contamination Does Not Happen Again
Regaining trust with your customers and the public might be difficult after a nationwide recall, but finding ways to let them know that this will not happen again is necessary. Go back to the drawing board to determine how something like this could slip through the cracks. Once you’ve determined the origin of the contamination, it’s easier to put preventative measures in place. Prevention plans should be regularly optimized, tested, and improved.
Automated software can help companies avoid recalls and better respond when they do happen. TraceGains allows you to automate supplier, quality, and regulatory compliance, scorecard your suppliers for cost and risk control, and dashboards enable you to quickly search, sort, filter and analyze relevant information quickly.
Find out how TraceGains can help your company mitigate risk by reading our eBook, "Food Safety Audit Handbook." Download it here.