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The New Paradigm in Food Recalls

2024-04-16 Food Safety News

Tag: recall management


Recently, kielbasa, frozen dumplings, queso fresco, charcuterie meats, and other foods have been recalled. In fact, the FDA issued 46 food and drink recalls in January 2024 alone, a 31 percent increase from 2023’s fourth-quarter monthly average. While food recalls are nothing new, there are growing concerns about their frequency and how they’re being managed.

So far this year, foods have been contaminated by listeria, Salmonella, lead, foreign objects, and non-food grade oil. Labeling errors – such as mislabeling of allergens – are contributing to frequent recalls.

Compounding the problems:

  • Individual companies act in isolation. Our industry must shift from an individual company process to a supply chain processtohelp spread information wider and faster, track contaminated products’ paths, and recall them more efficiently.
  • There’s no standardization of data or recall processes. Disparate data and processes cause confusion and delays during time-sensitive recalls. Standardizing data and processes will better protect foods, people, and businesses.
  • Companies aren’t practicing in ways that actually prepare them. Companies need to shift from mock recalls to recall simulations. Many companies do practice recalls, but not necessarily in ways that will actually prepare them properly.Without simulations that mirror a real recall scenario, companies can’t identify and address process gaps – or feel confident that their employees and supply chain know what to do during a recall.
  • Supply chain connectivity can be limited. This industry is still highly manual, and many food businesses are not yet leveraging technology. Manual systems (and incomplete or inaccurate data) continue to be the primary issues limiting supply chain connectivity and impeding smooth recalls. When companies avoid adopting tech tools, it keeps them caught in outdated systems instead of using more effective, tech-enabled processes.

The Industry Needs a Paradigm Shift 

We need a new paradigm for the recall process that unites supply chains into Recall Ready Communities that use standard data and shared simulation exercises. Over the last 30 years, despite efforts from industry and regulatory agencies, effective recall response has not kept pace with huge advances in technology and distribution. Our industry lacks a Recall Ready Community approach, wher everyone in the supply chain works collaboratively with a shared approach.

Currently, recalls are conducted by individual companies, with practice and execution being done individually. For example, mock recalls are generally static tabletop exercises that don’t strengthen the collaboration between supply chain partners towards the common goal of quickly removing contaminated products.  

Then, when actual recalls happen, businesses are unprepared to act collaboratively to take action. Instead, crisis mode kicks in, leading to inaccuracies, communication challenges, delays, and confusion. Without proper coordination, companies are unable to effectively, efficiently protect consumers and food businesses as quickly as possible. When food companies lack experience conducting recalls collaboratively with supply chain partners – and lack proper standards for sharing information – it translates into unnecessary risks to consumers, compliance challenges for the industry, and added costs (potentially upwards of billions of dollars). 

Additionally, the way consumers receive information has changed dramatically in recent years. They’re using new technologies and trying to manage an enormous amount of information coming at them constantly. Therefore, food businesses must develop compelling, succinct, action-oriented recall information and disseminate it in ways that people will receive, notice, and act on it. 

Shifting to a Recall Ready Community approach will take companies, food associations, regulators, etc. all joining together to modernize food recalls. 

The Path Forward

Change needs to happen on a national and global scale, with the industry implementing high-level conceptual changes. The most pressing problems – like a lack of standardized data used across the industry and the fact that tech solutions aren’t ubiquitous – must be resolved before we’ll see impact down to the consumer.

In a world wher Recall Ready Communities exist, recalls will be a supply chain activity that enables best practices. Companies will use proper standards, collaborative processes, powerful tech solutions, and recall simulations to quickly execute effective recalls. Without these critical changes, gaps will remain, companies will stay stuck in antiquated and disjointed processes, and there will continue to be major flaws in the way recalls are handled.

Moving forward, the industry must shift its way of thinking – and acting – around recalls. A group of industry representatives is working together, along with the FDA and regulatory bodies, to transform and standardize the recall process.

For now, we must understand that the existing fragmented approach to recalls is no longer effective in today’s interconnected world. By embracing a new Recall Ready Community paradigm, the supply chain can collaborate to ensure accurate information flow, timely actions, and enhanced protection for consumers and food businesses alike. The industry must galvanize, collaborate, train, and practice, ensuring a future wher recalls are conducted swiftly, thoroughly, and accurately.  

While improved quality assurance and control programs have helped reduce food safety risks, recalls are still happening frequently, and the industry must be better equipped to manage them. The steps that the industry – and individual companies – should follow aren’t new, but they must be improved to improve speed, accuracy, and thoroughness of recalls and to better protect foods, consumers, and brands.


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