Food recalls on the rise in 2009

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 30th June 2009

Food product recalls in Australia are on the rise this year, according to a study by crisis management consultancy Luttrell & Associates. The research is on the back of an improvement last year – when the number of food recalls fell to their lowest level in eight years.

There were 26 food safety recalls in the first half of 2009, up by a third compared to the preceding six months (19). Food and grocery items accounted for 15 per cent of the total safety product recalls for the period (161), compared to just 11 per cent in 2008 (371).

The main reasons were microbial contamination (eg listeria and salmonella), incorrect labelling (eg undeclared allergens) and foreign matter (eg pieces of plastic or rubber).

The companies involved ranged from small businesses to household brands like Heinz and Cadbury’s, as well as major retailers such as Woolworths.

“Product recall can affect any business, large or small, and the costs can run into millions of dollars,” Robert Luttrell, MD of Luttrell & Associates, noted.

“Companies should do everything within their power to minimise the risk of recall by improving quality controls, training staff and conducting regular audits,” he advised. “It is also a good idea to take out product recall insurance, to review recall procedures and to run regular drills to ensure that in the event of a problem they can react swiftly and in the best interests of consumers.”

The Debilitating Impact of Recalls

The devastating impact a food recall can have on a brand was highlighted by recent IBM research in the US, which discovered 83 per cent of consumers were able to name a food product that was recalled in the past two years due to contamination or other safety concerns.

Consumers also prove extra cautious in purchasing food products after a recall. Forty-nine per cent would be less likely to purchase a food product again of it was recalled due to contamination and 63 per cent of respondents confirmed they would not buy the food until the source of contamination had been found and addressed. Meanwhile, eight per cent of respondents said they would never purchase the food again, even after the source of contamination was found and addressed.

Earlier this year FSANZ released a new protocol urging companies to update their food safety plans. More information can be found here.