6 Steps to Prevent Another Food Recall from Happening
It happened: Your company experienced a food recall that impacted your business, your brand and your bottom line. You were faced with the costly consequences of manufacturing a product that had to be pulled from the market, including the backlash of negative press and the expense of recall implementation.
Whether you’ve fully recovered or are still in the process of recouping your losses, the fact remains that your organization is on high alert to ensure you don’t suffer a reoccurence. Do you know what steps are required to prevent another food recall from happening?
In the course of recovering your company from any damaging repercussions, it’s vital to take every precaution to avoid repeating a brand-jeopardizing recall. Focus on these six best practices to help overcome the food safety challenges that can lead to harmful recalls.
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1. Implement an FSMA- or USDA-Compliant Food Safety Plan
As FSMA completes its rollout to companies large and small, these new compliance mandates bring greater responsibility to food processors and manufacturers to protect consumers’ health. Implementing the requisite plans and procedures to meet the evolving demands of compliant, proactive food safety should be the first step in preventing a recall.
Because of the greater focus FSMA places on prevention and its higher standards for evaluation, food recalls will continue to increase in frequency. As you enhance your contamination identification efforts, you’re likely to find more actual contamination in testing samples. Though this seems counterintuitive, finding more contamination is actually a good thing. In fact, it allows you to respond more quickly to food safety issues and get in front of a recall before it damages your brand.
The same is to be said for those complying with the USDA.
Developing and executing an effective and compliant food safety plan involves some of the following components:
- Initiating comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of problems occurring
- Instituting a verification process to ensure that foreign and domestic suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place
- Designing a well-communicated voluntary recall response plan for your organization
- Maintaining organized, accessible and up-to-date documentation on everything from FSMA and HACCP/HARPC to SOPs, testing results and corrective actions
- Adopting visibility and communication tools to meet unfolding regulations and enable a strong food safety culture
2. Properly Train All Employees
Preparing your facility to prevent food safety issues that lead to recalls requires a strong plan for education and training. Designate a team or individual to oversee this function. Food safety and compliance doesn’t happen in a silo. Every member of your organization -- from the top down and across every department -- has a role in keeping food safe. Depending on their position and function, each should be trained on their part of an effective implementation. With the proper education and training, proactively preventing the threat of a recall is a shared responsibility with more successful outcomes.
To support a strong culture of food safety and minimize recall effects, make ongoing awareness and education a significant aspect of your efforts. Preparing your entire team to take on the major shift in mindset that’s required to meet evolving food safety risks hinges on having a strong plan for education and training across the entire company.
3. Utilize Food Safety Software for Organization-Wide Transparency
The complexity of your organization and its food safety needs makes it essential to foster powerful communication throughout the company, as well as robust visibility for all members of the team. True, widespread transparency requires a software solution that facilitates a high level of visibility, communication and data tracking.
If you’re relying on manual processes to keep contamination prevention efforts on track, you’ve probably found that there’s a limit to how much and how well your team can track to prevent recall reocurrences. Leveraging food safety software will increase your team’s capability by enabling them to:
- Visualize your critical control points and any other preventive control points on an intuitive floor plan
- Quickly identify locations and patterns within your food safety plan
- Communicate quickly and effectively
- Leverage automated notifications and alerts
- Systematize the scheduling of preventative controls and testing
- Easily access all sampling data, testing results and corrective action records
- Verify performance
4. Update Your HARPC
An up-to-date Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) is an essential component of preventing recalls. If your facility is following an inadequate one, you’re not in a good position to proactively address the food safety hazards that could lead to a devastating recall.
Unfortunately, most companies aren’t aware that they need to update this critical plan EVERY time something changes. Make sure that yours is consistently revised to reflect issues such as:
- Emergent employee and equipment sanitation hazards
- New ingredients that may pose allergen risks
- Ineffective control measures and preventive controls
- Actual versus documented production flow processes
- Changes to compliance requirements or industry standards
It’s wise to have an HARPC and food safety team that meets on a regular basis to assess problems, implement updates and protect your brand from future recalls.
5. Document Your Efforts
When it comes to contamination prevention and recall risk protection, documentation is everything. From the history and results of test points to the corrective actions applied to remediate problems, it is mandatory to have a dynamic documentation process in place.
Food safety cannot truly be achieved without standardized, documented, shareable and automated processes to safeguard against contamination and the onset of foodborne illness. Within your operations, there should be a formal process for collecting and utilizing detailed, efficient, accessible documentation.
6. Automate Reporting
In reams of testing data are hidden insights waiting to be found to help you identify trends and improve your plants. A software solution that keeps all of your records digitally stored and available in one centralized database can be easily accessed to compile automated reports that provide valuable insight to various teams. Manual reporting systems are labor-intensive webs of manual spreadsheets and paper trails, which inevitably lead to gaps in communication. They bring major challenges and increase risks to your operation.
In order to implement the appropriate and necessary steps for continuous improvement through monitoring, corrective action and verification, you must be able to access and evaluate collected data. Leverage automated reporting to stay on the pulse of your operation, enabling early detection and action based on the tracking and trending of some of the following data components:
- Quantitative and qualitative testing data
- Pathogenic and hygienic testing data
- Indicator organisms, allergens, toxins, residue, etc.
Fully harnessing this data means making reporting and assessment a routine practice. This is the best way to improve your processes, rectify inefficiencies and minimize the risks and costs associated with blind, outdated methods. It’s the right way to make informed decisions, take required actions and be truly proactive rather than reactive. It gives you the control and insight needed to protect your brand and your bottom line.
For more information about preventing future recalls and safeguarding your brand, access your free, comprehensive Food Recall Recovery Kit.