By Leah Roberts
Despite the implementation of FSMA and the more rigorous standards it represents, food safety in the United States continues to be an issue with major recalls still highlighting, in the public’s mind, that not all companies are able to protect consumer interest. The long-term implications of a recall can be detrimental to a food organization in terms of company reputation, economic outcome, lower share values, and civil litigation, which can all lead to bankruptcy.
“Learn from others’ failures in this arena,” advises Darin Detwiler, professor of food regulatory policy at Northeastern University. “Many models exist that highlight the economic and legal ramifications for failure to prevent or respond to recalls.”
While food producers, processors and manufacturers are following guidelines and completing food safety requirements to prevent a recall, the best in the industry are going above and beyond minimal government and auditor standards to share food safety solutions directly with the public. Detwiler notes that organizations that demand the best ingredients from suppliers, foster a food safety culture with employees, and use technology to be transparent, are restoring trust with their customers.
Learn from others’ failures in this arena
The contrast between how large food companies—like Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and Maple Leaf Foods (MLF)—handle recalls highlights different approaches to restoring consumer trust. In 2015 Stewart Parnell, former CEO of PCA, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for committing fraud by knowingly introducing contaminated peanut paste into the manufacturing supply chain. Parnell’s three infamous words, “Just ship it,” rang of negligence and eventually led to the liquidation of the company.
Maple Leaf Foods (MLF), meanwhile, experienced a massive recall in 2008 that had a strong effect on sales and led to a rebuilding of the company’s image. MLF invested heavily in customer relations and although not all products were contaminated, they recalled 100% of their products as a precautionary measure. With the promise of more stringent standards and improved best practices, they showed a commitment to change their sanitization procedures and regained customer trust.
Dr. Detwiler suggests other companies can learn from these and other recalls by following these five steps:
Most of all, Detwiler recommends businesses invest in and prioritize a food safety culture ripe with training programs of best practices for employees, and encourage transparency throughout your supply chain to prevent food recalls. Government legislation is an important part of the food safety equation, but industry’s response is key.
About the Author
Leah Roberts is an Ontario-based writer and digital marketing expert with a keen interest in food safety and sustainability practices.