Food product recalls that take place without informing the public are putting the consumer at risk. According to Ronél Burger, head of the Food Safety Initiative at the Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGCSA), it’s consumers in rural areas that are most affected and at risk, because these silent recalls don’t reach small shop owners in time to prevent customers from buying harmful goods.
DESTINY had a chat with Burger to shed some light on food product recalls.
What are the reasons for some products to be recalled?
Food products are recalled when they pose a risk to consumer health or safety. Some reasons are:
• The shelf life was printed incorrectly, indicating a longer shelf life than validated, which might pose a risk
• Allergens – which are not declared
• Foreign matter/ objects, like a piece of glass or metal, may be present that can harm the consumer
These reasons are not the only examples and recall reasons are not limited to them.
If the products that are meant to be recalled are consumed, what are the risks?
It depends on the following:
• The reason of the recall
• The consumer’s health status
• The type of product i.e. ready-to-eat products
What is being done currently in rural areas to make sure that consumers are stopped from consuming damaged goods?
Consumers should not purchase food of which the packaging is damaged or bloated. Consumers must report it immediately and insist that the product is removed. The product would be removed from the shelves or fridges, if adequate and clear communication reaches the store owner/ manager. The opposite is a reality. If the recall communication does not reach the responsible person, the product would not be removed. The informal market remains a challenge.
Please tell us more about the centralised database that food wholesalers, suppliers and retailers will use when recalling food. How will it work?
The CGCSA is currently busy with a project to implement a product recall software programme, which will assist the industry with getting the recall communication to all outlets to which the product was distributed quickly. We would be able to draw data from this system to maintain a recall database but it would require permission from the food industry. It would be a good start to build up SA history, but unfortunately the entire industry may not want to make use of this system. SA will be the 5th country globally to implement this system.
Why are some manufactures scared of recalling their products and letting the public know and give the reason of the recall?
They are scared that it would ruin their reputation and the brand integrity, which may result in financial losses. A product recall with clear communication that is managed transparently actually demonstrates responsibility for consumer health and normally increases consumer trust.