From Contaminated Eggs to Maltesers ‒ Protecting Your Business from the Contagion of Food Recalls
Here we take a look at a number of recent food scares that have hit the headlines, the reasons why food recalls become necessary, and the steps food businesses should take to prevent or manage them.
A food safety scare, and ensuing food recalls, can cause incalculable damage in terms of corporate reputation and loss of consumer trust. No matter what the size of the manufacturing operation or the complexity of the supply chain, immediate action must be taken to safeguard consumers and restore faith in the brand.
Food recalls on the grounds of contamination can be traced back to a number of surprisingly different causes.
An epidemic of food recalls?
Harmful bacteria introduced through ingredients is one common concern. In fact, 14% of the cases investigated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in England and Wales last year (2016/17) related to suspected or actual pathogenic micro-organisms.
This was a major issue for confectionery giant Mars earlier this year, when it was thrown into the spotlight over fears a number of chocolate products that originated from its plant in Slough were affected by Salmonella. Interestingly, while brand perception undoubtedly suffered a blow ‒ tracking data recorded a drop of 4 points immediately following the food recall ‒ its score did recover to previous level within weeks (according to market research firm, YouGov). The speed of response, extent of action taken and open communication were major contributory factors in the damage limitation strategy.
Tesco recently found itself under pressure to resolve a potential food poisoning incident. This involved the urgent recall of two Tesco Chicken Salad products due to the possible presence of Campylobacter – a bacteria often traced to contaminated poultry. With the chicken reportedly coming from Thailand, the retailer’s global supply chain came under scrutiny in a bid to retain consumer confidence.
One of the most serious health scares of recent months demonstrates the scale of response that can be required when contaminated products have a more complex footprint. This was the case when millions of eggs had to be pulled from retail shelves and blocked from sale across Europe due to the presence of the toxic insecticide Fipronil. As a banned substance in the production of food for human consumption, the finding prompted the closure of farms linked to the contamination and the launch of a criminal inquiry in affected regions.
And although the contaminated eggs are thought unlikely to be harmful to health in processed goods, some manufacturers affected by the revelation have taken action in order to reassure consumers. Lotus Bakeries, for example, announced the withdrawal of its madeleine cakes and frangipane waffles from Belgium supermarkets as a precautionary measure.
Unfortunately, cases such as these are not unusual ‒ there was a total of 2,265 foods, feed and environmental contamination incidents recorded by the FSA in England and Wales last year.
And there is a steady stream of food recall notifications citing a raft of different reasons - from inaccurate allergen labelling and product tampering, to possible pest contamination and even potentially explosive soft drinks. The latter being due to yeast fermentation in AG Barr’s 2-litre bottle of Rubicon Sparkling Mango.
How to control your food recall
This makes it imperative that food and drink producers put exceptionally tight controls in place to ensure that both they and their suppliers are doing everything possible to reduce risks and maintain product safety.
Compliance with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety should be a fundamental part of this strategy. This is where an investment in ERP software will really bear fruit. With traceability capabilities developed to meet the specific challenges of food safety and compliance, a good ERP system will deliver two-way traceability across production and delivery stages, extending throughout the supply chain.
Food safety, integrity, legality and quality are all part of the rigorous framework and demand close control of every aspect of your business – including developing systems to reduce exposure to food fraud, as well as promoting greater resilience, transparency and traceability in the supply chain.
The events of the last year demonstrate the need for food and drinks manufacturers to remain ever more vigilant. It is essential to find new ways of removing threats to public health and improve integration of food manufacturing software, not only within the business but across the entire supply chain. Only then can the risks be reduced ‒ both in terms of the consumer and the brand.
Topics: Food & Drink