We often heard of food recalls from the news. Whether it is a contaminant, an allergen or a foreign material, food recalls is one of the news that disappoints me. Often, the first thing that came into my mind is how did that happened (and maybe why does it happen again ?) -that is the consumer side of me.
Thinking about it again, here is the good news: It shows that the system in-place can work to prevent further harm to consumers. Food recall component is one of the built-in modules that is a part of food safety management system. It is important to understand that food safety management system is designed to minimize harm to the consumers although we do see recalls all around the year. Typically, the modules require a biannual mock recall covering ingredients, packaging materials, work-in-progress and finished products traceability exercise. The traceability exercise is to trace and ensure that the faulty items are recovered 100% without causing further harm to the consumer. In short, the mock recall exercise helps food manufacturer to prepare for “rainy days” (actual recall) to keep our food system safe.
That is not just it. Food recalls involves communication to the broader group of consumers because it is important to inform the consumer so that they are aware of the risk for the consumption of the product -the transparency factors. Failing to communicate the facts of the recall and the actions that the consumer (and the company) should take can often delay the recall process and consequently, the health of the consumers. Trust me, it is not easy tasks to decide on initiating a food recall based on voluntary initiatives, given the consideration of the branding damage to the food producers or distributors. However, we do see so many voluntary food recalls from the manufacturers so kudos for doing that!
The next question is why can’t we prevent food recall ? There are many reasons that can cause food recalls. While food safety management system is based on minimizing the risk, at times, there are unpredictable risks that the manufacturers may not aware when they sell the product to the consumers and only discover it at the later stage, and result in a food recall. In short, when the core food safety management system fail, the second backup system (food recall) kicks on to help protect consumer’s health.
Here is what you can do if you have a product that is being recalled:
Identify if it is the affected batch or lot. If it is, don’t panic. Go to step 2.
Identify reason for the recall and pay attention to the recall instruction. If there is no instruction, general guidelines are to: