According to US Foods’ Pallaske, “There are numerous tools, firms and technical resources available to help with recalls. The best approach is not to have a stand alone or isolated program.”
His advice for companies in the food industry is to integrate their plans into existing food safety and quality systems that are certified to an internationally recognized standard like IFS (International Featured Standards). “We are the first national foodservice distributor in the U.S. to be certified through IFS for safety and quality. Our first division was certified this summer and we expect to have four more certified by the end of the year with the rest to follow over the next year or so.”
This type of comprehensive planning that is supported by programs like IFS is “the best assurance that you are mitigating the risks efficiently and effectively. An additional benefit of this approach is that it is in line with the FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) requirements for a recall program. The very process of building and testing a recall program as part of a larger system will help a company understand their own role and potential roadblocks to successfully recalling product from the marketplace,” adds Pallaske.
In the meantime, Jeff Pepperworth, president, supply chain & healthcare networks for Inmar, explains his company’s expertise. “As a service provider, we help companies prepare for a recall by first identifying the gaps in the current business processes and developing new processes and protocols to implement best practices in recall management.”
For example, he says that, “Many companies choose to return their recalled product through their forward distribution centers. What they find is that these operations aren’t equipped to handle the individual items that are returned. Recalls, just like returns, are usually returned as eaches, not full cases. The reverse processes are very different from forward processes. Tools are needed to track notification, product retrieval and disposition. Inmar has tools to assist with all the components of a recall event.”
Aside from the tactical steps, it’s just as important to foster a corporate culture that is committed to dealing effectively with the prevention of recalls and respond in unison if they happen.
Magruder underscores the importance of “making sure senior management is paying attention, even at the board level.” She is seeing recalls increasingly discussed at the highest levels. The result is that “companies are finding it makes their internal processes more vigorous, people pay more attention and they’re more accountable.”
Pallaske explains that, “At US Foods, we have developed an exceptionally distinguished team of food safety experts under the leadership of Jorge Hernandez, senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance. He is one of the world’s most recognized experts in the field of food quality and safety. He is a sanitarian, a past FDA standardization officer and a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Environmental Health Committee,” among other roles.
Jon Goldberg, founder and CEO of Reputation Architects, talks about creating a “risk sensitive culture,” which he describes as “an environment where every employee instinctively looks for potential risks for the company and its reputation, and takes that into account in their daily decision making. There have been lots of examples in the food industry where all of the warning signs were present, but nobody sounded the alarm because they thought it wasn’t their area of expertise or concern. Employees need to be sensitive to risk as well as the potential cost to them, their colleagues, and to their company.”
Developing this kind of cultural doesn’t just happen overnight, admits Goldberg. “You can’t just declare ‘We will be risk sensitive.’ It’s about behavior—and it’s about the best protective net an organization can have in place.”