This is continuation of our earlier post on Food Traceability
Part 2 – The Five Steps
1. Don’t Panic – you need to act quickly to demonstrate that you care about your customers, but there’s no point taking action before you know the facts. Call your team together for a crisis meeting. Include the technical and operations people who will know the details. Get all the facts out into the open in at atmosphere of ‘no blame’. Keep records of the meeting to demonstrate that you took immediate and effective action.
2. Quantify the Risk – use your traceability system to identify the defective batches and the geographical spread. How far down the supply chain has the product gone? The risk assessment needs to be quick - minutes not days.
3. Take prompt action to control the risks – any delay now will send a clear message to your customers that you do not care about their health. If appropriate, take immediate action to stop production. Quarantine products from the defective batch in your stores and goods-out bays. Inform the businesses you have supplied to and ask them to hold all products pending collection.
4. Consider a Public Recall – if the effected products have reached the retail outlets and have been sold to customers, then you need to do a public recall. There are currently very few recalls in India, but this will change as more major food brands develop. Prepare a Press Release that states the key facts and is written in a factual way that does not create alarm. Most recall press releases start with a phrase along the following lines; ‘We strive to ensure that all our products are perfectly safe and the health of our customers is our primary concern, however .... ‘. Provide clear details of product description, code numbers and dates. Provide a phone number so people can call for more details.
Inform the FSSAI. Send the press release to the local papers in the relevant areas and also to your retail outlets. Ask retail outlets to display the release in a prominent place.
5. Carry out a Review - have you taken action to prevent a recurrence? Did your traceability system and communication plan work? What was the response of your customers? Use the results of the review to develop your plans and improve your systems.
The first time a company does a public recall there may be a hit on reputation, but this is nothing compared to the damage caused by not doing a recall until you are found out. In time, the public will realise that it is the responsible companies who do recalls and that they are part of an effective process to protect their health.