Over the last year, Australia’s major supermarket chains have been required to recall products such as fish, chicken, cheese and chocolate products for reasons ranging from undeclared allergens to foreign matter contamination.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) co-ordinates and monitors between 50 to 70 food recalls a year and as of June 2014, has coordinated 29 recalls in 2014. Statistics show that the main reason for food recalls in Australia is microbial contamination such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli.
The Australian Government has recently taken steps to create a more effective approach to food recalls. On 22 May 2014, the FSANZ issued a revised Food Recall Protocol to ensure that organisations are well-prepared to conduct a quick and well-organised food recall.
The Food Recall Protocol is not a legally binding document but it does set out the relevant regulatory requirements throughout Australian States and Territories and was developed in consultation with them.
The Food Recall Protocol now provides for new recall templates for organisations to use and affords greater information about traceability. New templates include a notice to inform customers of the recall, a recall distribution list and a food recall checklist. It also assists organisations by outlining:
- the roles and accountabilities of Government bodies and food organisations during a recall;
- the major steps and key elements in the recall process; and
- the legal obligations for organisations.
In any recall scenario, adequate and rapid notification to the public is critical. Whilst a press advertisement is generally circulated, the FSANZ recommends using other forms of communication to reach a wider audience. With the use of social media increasing at a phenomenal rate, the FSANZ suggests notifying users of product recalls via Facebook or Twitter.