Increasing the Pace of Food Recalls

August 20, 2018
Increasing the Pace of Food Recalls

Over the past two months, more contaminated products like Ritz crackers, Swiss rolls, and McDonald’s salads, have been recalled than in the ten years prior.

This dramatic change, however, does not necessarily mean the safety of our nation’s food supply has rapidly declined; rather, the use of rapid, carefully tracked recalls as a preventive measure has increased.

Video Spotlight:FDA food recall delays could put people at risk

Check out related OM in the News posts about food recalls for lettuce, pre-cut melons and veggie trays, and the cost of recalls in the food supply chain.

This post is based on the Becker’s Hospital Review article, FDA, CDC food recalls climb, by Harrison Cook, July 30, 2018; and a YouTube video, FDA food recall delays could put people at risk, by CBS Evening News, December 26, 2017. Image source: karandaev ©

Discussion Questions:

1.  What accounts for the sudden increase in the number of recalls?

Guidance: This sudden uptick in the number of recalls may in part be in response to previous reports claiming that the government agencies had been far too slow in initiating recalls for food products that put American consumers at risk.  The spotlighted video provides details some of the issues faced by U.S. food safety regulators in recent years.

In addition to improvements in the reporting and tracking of food safety issues by government agencies, companies are much quicker to proactively issue voluntary recalls if a suspicious situation arises.

2. What is the role of manufacturers in this process?

Guidance: Performing rigorous testing to monitor quality of conformance can help manufacturers minimize the number of potential incidents involving product recalls.  Testing can be done of incoming raw materials from suppliers, as well as during the production process. However, partnering with trusted suppliers who can reliably monitor the quality of their own products is considered more progressive than having to conduct extensive quality tests to weed out materials that do not meet a manufacturer’s standards for health and safety.

Manufacturers are adhering to more and more rigorous rules within the food industry as well as adopting “best practices” to ensure safe and clean environments in their facilities.  Having special rooms in which employees transition from outside to inside, with special washing facilities and procedures for clothing and footwear is just one example of how companies are trying to make sure that no contaminants enter their facilities.

Finally, while recalling products voluntarily can mitigate damage from potentially dangerous products, doing so can tarnish a company’s name and reputation and make consumers wary of the product or brand.  Thus, although proactive recalls can be beneficial for consumer safety, the public may react negatively to the company overall as a result.


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