Recalls: An Alarming Issue For The Food Industry And Consumers

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The most extensive food recall in U.S. history in 2009 is only the latest in a series of recalls that have become progressively wider in scope as food processors increase their presence on retail shelves and expand distribution. With large-scale food production growing, a single contamination at one processing facility or distribution center could result in a recall spanning several states and retail channels. With such great dissemination of product and the numerous stages and routes a raw material takes before reaching store shelves, the possibilities for adulteration are increased, and a proper recall procedure needs to be adapted to address any contingency.

The most extensive food recall in U.S. history in 2009 is only the latest in a series of recalls that have become progressively wider in scope as food processors increase their presence on retail shelves and expand distribution. With large-scale food production growing, a single contamination at one processing facility or distribution center could result in a recall spanning several states and retail channels. With such great dissemination of product and the numerous stages and routes a raw material takes before reaching store shelves, the possibilities for adulteration are increased, and a proper recall procedure needs to be adapted to address any contingency.

The Food Institute, together with Washington law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz P.C. just published the Food Products Recall Manual: Third Edition (http://www.foodinstitute.com/recall.cfm) to provide a comprehensive recall guide, filled with information on the recall process, federal authority and samples of legal documents that will allow any food processor to tailor a recall policy appropriate to their operation. The Food Products Recall Manual contains guidance for legal definitions and recall-specific terms, preparation for establishing a cohesive and thorough recall plan, and step-by-step instructions for a recall procedure that addresses the various circumstances of a food recall with minimal retail exposure, loss of product and consumer confidence.

It is possible that the decline of consumer confidence proves most costly to food manufacturers, and its effects can remain long after the recall itself is completed. In a particularly unforgiving climate, consumers now demand more responsibility from food manufacturers and have zero tolerance for neglect or safety violations. While negative public response to a product recall is inevitable, media relations are key to allaying consumer anger, addressing any misconceptions about the product or manufacturer and establishing trust in the company to make a prompt and total recall.

Quite simply, there is no longer any room for error when food safety or recalls are concerned. The Obama administration has emphasized a high priority on food safety, and any infraction is sure to result in severe legal consequences for violations or mismanaged recalls. The regulations governing food legislation will change, and any food processor would be wise to begin implementing new recall plans before struggling to meet deadlines imposed by a more demanding FDA.

Even the most well-maintained production facilities and food safety programs are susceptible to contamination or error. Manufacturers must recognize the high likelihood of a recall, and respond with appropriate measures accounting for every scenario. An immediate and organized reaction and a broad, protracted recall could be the difference between a minor distribution suspension or a massive production disruption and possible bankruptcy.

The Food Institute is the foremost resource for information relative to the food industry and produces e-newsletters, printed analytical reports, guides and statistical reviews of food industry developments.
Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz P.C. is a prominent Washington-based law firm that specializes in food legislation and regulation, including food safety, labeling and food importation.

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Henry Mollman
The Food Institute
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