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The new paradigm in food memories



The new paradigm in food memories


By Roger Hancock, CEO of Recall InfoLink

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

So far this year, foods have been contaminated with listeria, Salmonella, lead, foreign objects and non-food oils. Labeling errors – such as mislabeling allergens – contribute to frequent recalls.

Summarizing the problems:

  • Individual companies act in isolation. Our industry must move from an individual business process to a supply chain process to distribute information more widely and faster, track the journey of contaminated products and recall them more efficiently.
  • There is no standardization of data or recall processes. Different data and processes cause confusion and delays during time-sensitive recalls. Standardizing data and processes will better protect foods, people and companies.
  • Companies don’t practice in a way that actually prepares them. Companies need to move from mock recalls to recall simulations. Many companies do recalls, but not necessarily in a way that actually prepares them properly. Without simulations that reflect a real recall scenario, companies cannot identify and address gaps in the process – or ensure their employees and supply chain know what to do. during a recall.
  • Supply chain connectivity may be limited. This sector is still largely manual and many food companies are not yet using technology. Manual systems (and incomplete or inaccurate data) remain the key issues limiting supply chain connectivity and hindering smooth recalls. When companies avoid using tech tools, they remain trapped in outdated systems instead of using more effective technology-based processes.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 past thirty years, despite industry and regulatory efforts, effective recall has not kept pace with tremendous advances in technology and distribution. Our sector lacks a Recall Ready Community approach, where everyone in the supply chain works together with a shared approach.

Currently, recalls are conducted by individual companies, with practice and execution done individually. For example, mock recalls are generally static tabletop exercises that do not strengthen collaboration among supply chain partners toward the common goal of quickly removing contaminated products.

When actual recalls occur, companies are unprepared to take joint action. Instead, crisis mode kicks in, leading to inaccuracies, communication issues, delays and confusion. Without good coordination, companies will not be able to effectively and efficiently protect consumers and food businesses as quickly as possible. When food companies lack experience in jointly recalling products with supply chain partners – and do not have good standards for information sharing – this translates into unnecessary risks for consumers, compliance challenges for the industry and additional costs (possibly in the order of billions of dollars).

Furthermore, the way consumers receive information has changed dramatically in recent years. They use new technologies and try to manage a huge amount of information that is constantly coming their way. Therefore, food companies must develop compelling, concise, actionable recall information and distribute it in a way that people receive, notice and act on it.

To move to a Recall Ready Community approach, companies, food associations, regulators, etc. will all need to come together to modernize food recalls.

The path forward

Change must occur on a national and global scale, with industry implementing high-level conceptual changes. The most pressing issues – such as a lack of standardized data used across the industry and the fact that tech solutions are not ubiquitous – need to be resolved before we see the impact on consumers.

In a world where Recall Ready Communities exist, recalls will be a supply chain activity that enables best practices. Companies will use the right standards, collaborative processes, strong technical solutions and recall simulations to quickly implement effective recalls. Without these critical changes, gaps will remain, companies will remain stuck in outdated and disjointed processes, and major shortcomings will remain in the way recalls are handled.

Going forward, the industry must change the way it thinks – and acts – around recalls. A group of industry representatives are working with the FDA and regulators to transform and standardize the recall process.

For now, we must understand that the existing piecemeal approach to recalls is no longer effective in today’s interconnected world. By embracing a new Recall Ready Community paradigm, the supply chain can work together to ensure accurate information flow, timely actions and enhanced protection for both consumers and food companies. The industry must galvanize, collaborate, train and practice, to ensure a future where recalls are carried out quickly, thoroughly and accurately.

Although improved quality assurance and control programs have helped reduce food safety risks, recalls still occur regularly and the industry needs to be better equipped to manage them. The steps the industry – and individual companies – should follow are not new, but they need to be improved to improve the speed, accuracy and thoroughness of recalls and to better protect foods, consumers and brands.

About the author: Roger Hancock, CEO of Call InfoLink is one of the world’s leading recall experts, with experience spanning retail, technology, data, regulatory and supply chain. Recall InfoLink makes recalls faster, easier and more accurate across the supply chain to protect consumers and brands. As the only company focused solely on recalls, Recall InfoLink solutions ensure immediate action, streamline the recall process and simplify compliance. Recall InfoLink helps brands become Recall Ready by standardizing data, collaborating with their supply chains and practicing recall simulations.

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