I often tell people that I am “in the business of recalls,” and after another week of steadily processing recall after recall I can unfortunately confirm: things aren’t getting better.
It’s clear to me that mistakes are always going to happen, no matter how much care is put into a food safety plan. The real problem lies in a poor recall process industry-wide. Recalls remain an ongoing issue, and it’s past time to address the gaps that continue to put the public in danger.
This past week, the FDA took a significant step by convening an listening session on recall modernization. While a range of recalls were discussed, it was clear that food recalls were a central concern. I was privileged to give comments at this event, and I want to share three critical points here with you.
First and foremost, it's time to view recalls as a supply chain activity. The individual company approach results in errors and confusion that delay action and prolongs public risk. Recalls must be prepared for and executed as a collaborative effort between trading partners.
Secondly, we need to use standardized data. In this age of advanced technology, it's surprising that we still struggle with inconsistent data formats during recalls. By establishing uniform data practices, we can streamline the recall process, reducing confusion and response times.
Lastly, instead of relying on typical mock recalls, we need to practice the recall process through full simulations that include trading partners in the process. These simulations replicate real-life scenarios, allowing firms to test preparedness, identify gaps, refine strategies, and ensure that recall plans are airtight.
Now, how do we translate these principles into action? The answer lies in a Recall Ready Community.
We need the new paradigm of a community approach that uses collaborative practices to ensure swift and effective recalls. The Recall Ready Community emphasizes the importance of thorough preparation, standard communication, and mutually beneficial cooperation to protect public health.
The FDA demonstrated a commitment to recall modernization with the recent meeting, and we applaud this effort. However, the responsibility doesn't solely rest on their shoulders. It's a collective effort that requires industry leaders, government agencies, and the supply chain community to work hand in hand.
It's time for all of us in the food industry to unite, lead by example, and pave the way for a safer and more secure future. Together, we must make our food system stronger and more resilient, protecting not only our businesses but the health and well-being of the public we serve.