Take the Anxiety out of Recall Management Part 1: Why is Traceability Important?

Recall management can be a nightmare. According to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service there were over 125 food recalls in the United States in 2018. That is more than double the number of U.S. recalls (54) FSIS reported in 2008. With recalls on the rise in all sectors of the food industry, recall management has become increasingly more important. A recall can costs a food company millions of dollars. Is your company prepared for a recall? How confident are you that your team can effectively manage a recall?

There are many reasons why a product can be recalled. Effective and timely management of recalls is the key to build consumer confidence, strengthen supplier relationships, manage market risks and avoid legal issues. Food companies can be prepared for a potential recall with the help of an effective traceability system.

This five-part series will discuss: Why is traceability important? Who needs traceability? How to implement a traceability system into your recall plan, and how you can enhance your company’s profitability with traceability.

Part 1: Why is traceability important?

Traceability is important because it’s the mechanism that makes recall management effective. Recall management should be one of the top priorities in any food plant. Unfortunately, most food plants are fast paced and extremely busy (sometimes chaotic) environments. Under those conditions it can be easy for a food plant to adopt a reactionary mentality to try and cope with the realities of high employee turnover, production demands, and ever decreasing margins. This reactionary mentality can cause traceability to take a back seat instead of receiving the attention it requires. Take a step back and look at the reasons why recall management is important.

It’s required! Adhering to Government Standards

Arguably the most common reason food plants invest in traceability is to adhere to government regulation. A food processing company is responsible for being able to track one step forward and one step backward. Everything production related that is received into the plant, from live animals to finished goods packaging material, must have a record of where it came from. Every production batch must have a record of what products were added to it and where they came from. Every product shipped out the door must have a record of where it was sent and when it was sent. Moving away from the old paper-based tracking method, and adopting an electronic system, that is more automated, will enable a plant to quickly and accurately preform a recall or a mock recall with a couple of button clicks instead of taking days or weeks to dig through old manual records.

Protecting your brand

A food safety incident such as a recall can be expensive and can permanently damage a company’s brand. One of the costliest parts of a food safety incident is the amount of time and money that must go into rebuilding the company’s brand. Since the stakes are so high with food safety, almost all food plants participate in mock recalls. Mock recalls test and confirm the plant’s ability to quickly recall product in the case of an emergency. Most food companies know the value and importance of their brand and want to establish consumer confidence through their strong recall management capabilities.

Expanding market opportunities

As food plants gain momentum and begin to expand their operations, they start looking for larger opportunities. With an effective traceability system in place food processing companies can grow their market by gaining access to larger food retailers and distributors who have stricter recall requirements. Almost all large food retailers like Walmart, Costco, and Kroger require their vendors to have an automated traceability system. Large food retailers and distributors want to reduce their food safety risks by requiring their suppliers to prove the effectiveness of their traceability system. They typically require their vendors to participate in mock recalls to demonstrate they have a firm grasp on recall management.  

Tell me again, why is traceability important?

Traceability helps a food company adhere to government standards which in turn protects the consumer. Traceability protects the food processing company by protecting its brand. Finally, traceability is important because it opens the doors to new opportunities!

In short, traceability helps take the anxiety our of recall management. Check out next month as we continue this series with Who Needs Traceability.

Checkout our mini-blog: What is Food Traceability?

 

Written by: Andy Cumpton, Sales and Marketing – Carlisle Technology

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