Food and beverage manufacturers must be able to respond quickly and effectively to the recall of products deemed unsafe for the market, as the consequences for not doing so can have effects both legally and financially.

The responsiveness of social media is also a factor, which can make or break a company’s reputation in an instant, creating an environment in which the stakes of a product recall are even higher.

Consumers with rising expectations are driving companies to expand their food safety initiatives and adopt comprehensive preventative measures to mitigate monetary expense, threatened reputations and the negative press associated with product safety and recall issues.

In an effort to meet these standards, focusing on quality best practices and adoption of industry-specific ERP solutions has enabled companies to be better equipped to prepare for, prevent and minimize recalls and lessen the potential negative effects.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) governs product recalls, and ERP functionality helps to comply with its requirements with a written food safety plan (FSP) and preventative controls to preclude recalls from occurring in the first place.

In order to reduce contamination risk, manufacturers should maintain a supplier/ingredient approval management program, conduct quality control testing, implement sanitary practices/process controls to avoid allergen or cross-contamination and document quarantine procedures all within an ERP solution.

Preventative controls and automated procedures managed within the system further promote best practices and repeatable processes. These measures allow for the handling of potential issues before they become a critical recall situation in the future.

Implementation of an industry-specific ERP solution can greatly assist a company with recall preparation and execution with an ultimate goal overall of prevention.

Data integrity

As the first principle of recall preparedness, data integrity demonstrates concrete documentation and proof that companies have followed all of the FDA’s recall procedures.

An ERP solution is able to manage large amounts of data from multiple sources and provides an accessible and real-time repository of information, a reality not achieved by disparate software systems and/or paper methods of documentation.

With one version of truth, ERP software manages data in a secure, controlled and auditable format—increasing accuracy and accountability. Per FSMA guidelines, the ERP solution assists with the strict data management procedures required, including what type of data it is, how it must be recorded, the timing, and which employee is responsible.

This detailed and comprehensive recordkeeping includes purchase orders, key inventory movements, bills of lading, certificates of analysis, product lot locations, sales records and shipping documents. From a centralized and integrated system, information is immediately accessible enabling potentially contaminated items to be located quickly in the event of an ingredient or product recall.

Good manufacturing processes

As the next principle, maintaining sound manufacturing processes provides further assistance with recall preparedness. ERP solutions maintain product safety and visibility, with forward and backward lot tracking and traceability in the supply chain from raw ingredients to finished goods—tracking an ingredient or product from farm to fork through barcode scanning.

The integrated system supports current good manufacturing practices (cGMP), FDA and other industry regulations to provide a documented audit trail with the capability to adapt as regulations change. Accurate product labeling, including ingredient and allergen statements, nutrient analysis, expiration dates and lot/batch numbers, is efficiently handled by the software to allow items to be identified and located quickly in the event of a recall.

Having effective processes in place, and challenging their viability and efficiency periodically, helps to ensure that the proper procedures are being utilized to meet the company’s needs when a recall takes place. 

Mock recall 

As an extremely important principle of recall preparedness, mock recalls are a practice performed to show the reliability of the recall plan and to ensure processes are working correctly. Utilizing the recall functionality in the ERP solution makes executing a practice mock recall efficient and easy.

While there is not a regulatory requirement for conducting these simulated exercises, it is unwise for an actual recall situation to be the first execution of the company’s implemented plan. For many manufacturers, these simulated activities can be eye-opening, as they may discover they are not as prepared as they initially thought—finding that their written plan does not translate well into practice.

By introducing mock recalls into their overall preparedness strategy, companies can instill a “practice makes perfect” mentality to implant familiarity of internal recall processes to all company stakeholders.

Conducted regularly, the purpose of a mock recall is to identify and locate 100% of contaminated ingredients/products and notify clients, vendors and governmental agencies in a simulated exercise of a contamination event in a timely manner. A successful exercise will identify all contaminated products and necessary parties quickly and efficiently.

An evaluation of the exercise should identify any glaring deficiencies or process gaps in order to modify the prepared recall plan as needed. Follow-up simulations can test any plan adjustments. Being recall ready provides companies with a way to minimize consumer exposure to potentially dangerous contaminants.

Since companies never know when a product recall will actually happen, the preventative and preparative advantages that an ERP solution provides is essential to help lessen the negative effects that recalls can have on their operation.

An integrated ERP system with its preventative controls, coupled with the data integrity, good manufacturing processes and mock recall, helps to mitigate the negative consequences caused by unsafe products entering the marketplace. Food and beverage manufacturers utilizing industry-specific ERP solutions during unwanted recall situations will have a competitive edge in a complex and fast-paced marketplace.