Last month, another large-scale recall reminded food manufacturers of the potentially disastrous consequences of these events. Food Engineering discussed trends in recall events, preparedness tips and more with Kevin Pollack, VP of recalls at ExpertRECALL.
Q. What does the Rancho Feeding Corp. recall tell us about how large recalls affect stakeholders across industries and geography?
A. According to the USDA, the nearly 9 million pounds of recalled meat impacts retailers in approximately 30 states. This is just one example of how the implications of a single event extend far beyond the manufacturer alone, underscoring the increased complexity of recall events. We examined this complexity theme in detail in our fourth quarter 2013 ExpertRECALL Index released last month.
Q. Have any other recalls involved willfully processing foods without the benefit of USDA or FDA inspection? How can their lessons be applied to Rancho Feeding Corp.?
A. In the past, there have been several recalls that involved willfully processing foods without the benefit of USDA or FDA inspection. Although their lessons are not unique to the cause of those recalls, they do highlight the importance for companies to be prepared prior to a recall event. They further reveal the need for companies to be ready to take action right away and ensure public safety.
Q. Is the large increase in poundage between Q1 and Q4 recalls by USDA indicative of any industry or inspection trends? Or is it really just due to three large-scale recalls that could have happened any time?
A. Our ExpertRECALL Index found that more than 860,000 pounds of meat, poultry or processed egg products were recalled in the fourth quarter as a result of the 19 events initiated by the USDA. By comparison, the USDA recalled approximately 450,000 pounds in the first quarter of 2013.
The fourth quarter figure represents a 91 percent increase in poundage from the first months of the year and was mainly driven by three large-scale recall events. While it’s hard to speculate on the cause of this increase, consumer demand for more products at cheaper prices puts high demands on our regulatory bodies. More and more, it is up to manufacturers to ensure their products are up to standards and free of contaminants.
Q. Obviously, no one wants to issue a recall, but it’s important to be prepared. How can food manufacturers prepare most effectively for a potential recall?
A. As the Rancho beef recall illustrates, complex events tend to impact multiple stakeholders across geographies and often call for outside expertise. Partnering with a recall expert is one way food manufacturers can address these challenges and substantially mitigate risk during a recall event.
Q. How can food manufacturers minimize the risk of a recall?
A. As with other industries, the key to minimizing the risks associated with a recall is to prepare. Beyond implementing the highest food safety standards, food manufacturers should create a product recall plan to streamline the recall response and keep records to allow for proper identification of the recall scope.
When creating a product recall plan, consider the volume of products that need to be recalled; whether all products or just a specific batch needs to be recalled; how the company will identify affected parties; what notification channels are currently in place; and who will communicate with the relevant agencies.
If a recall does occur, it’s in a company’s best interest to ensure an effective and timely recall process. While some companies attempt to handle recalls in-house, this can lead to slow and incomplete recalls. By partnering with a recall expert, organizations gain valuable expertise as well as a team to staff call centers, interact with regulatory bodies and carry out the reverse logistics needed to get product off the shelves quickly.