It’s your worst nightmare as a food producer – you get the call, whether it be from a consumer or a regulatory agency, and find out your company is in a situation where products need to be recalled. Are you prepared? How do you know? What can you do to ensure you are ready should an event arise that requires you to recall.
First, don’t panic. Preparation for a recall requires focus on four main areas:
- Team Preparation
We are going to focus on the first area – assessment.
This is an area companies sometimes forget to consider when creating a recall plan or running a mock recall. The assessment area includes the initial notification that triggers the recall team to get together, data gathering and the decision whether or not to recall. Questions to ask to help prepare include:
- What are the ways we might learn about a recall? Do we have processes in place to ensure that information gets to the right people?
- Have we trained our employees how to respond and gather information from customers and others when a food safety situation is reported?
- Do we have a simple way to objectively look at the data and information to decide if we are in a recall situation?
So what should your company have in place to address these questions? A good starting place is to create a customer complaint record or log that walks through the common questions that should be asked when a customer calls in with a comment or complaint. You may want to create a similar record for notifications that come from other sources, too, like regulatory agencies, suppliers or a media notification.
Once you have created the record or log, sit down with the employees in your company who typically handle customer calls and walk through some examples of how to gather information using the log, and when to escalate a complaint to the next level. Having a process in place to quickly identify if a complaint requires further action, and knowing what information to gather from the customer will save time in the event of an actual recall, and help your team make a better decision.
Finally, using an evaluation template to lay out all the information you have gathered is a great way to help the recall team decide whether or not a recall is warranted. A good evaluation template lays out the information in a way that makes the decision apparent. We use a form with our clients, that includes sections to identify the category of issue, the type of hazard and the severity and likelihood of the hazard.
When we run mock recalls with our clients, we like to start with a mock customer complaint. That way, the team handling consumer calls gets practice as well as the recall team. And the assessment portion of the recall plan gets a good workout, too. Next time you run your regular scheduled mock recall, try testing your notification and assessment processes, and see what you find.
If you would like to get a copy of our recall assessment form, drop us a note here.