Side View Portrait of Female Worker at Food Factory
Side view portrait of female worker wearing mask and holding digital tablet during quality control inspection at food factory, copy space

By Roger Hancock, CEO of Recall InfoLink

If you feel like there’s a new food being recalled nearly every day, you’re not imagining things. Recently, foods have been recalled because of listeria, Salmonella, lead, insects, foreign objects, and non-food grade ingredients. Labeling errors – such as mislabeling of allergens – have also contributed to numerous recalls. 

Recalls from the FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission increased 115% since 2018, with food and beverage recalls recently reaching a five-year high. In 2024 alone, the FDA has issued more than 50 food recalls, including chicken soup dumplings, salad kits, kielbasa, charcuterie meats, and more. While food recalls are nothing new, there are growing concerns about how they’re being managed.

There’s no one specific reason for the rise in recalls, but stricter safety regulations from the Food Safety Modernization Act is likely a major contributing factor.

While improved quality assurance programs have helped reduce risks, recalls are still happening frequently. No matter how carefully food businesses follow proper food safety protocols, mistakes inevitably occur. Therefore, food businesses – including processors, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers – must be well-prepared to manage them. 

While many food businesses think they’re prepared for potential recalls – with plans in place, awareness of changing regulations, mock recall drills, etc. – their current standards aren’t necessarily equipping them for effective recalls. They must modify their protocols to become truly recall-ready.

Our industry lacks a recall-ready approach

Over the years – despite proactive efforts from industry and regulatory agencies – recall responses have not kept pace with technological advances. In fact, many food businesses still use manual, disjointed, or antiquated systems that aren’t conducive to effective recalls. 

Currently, our industry faces the following challenges:

  • Organizations act in isolation. Recalls (and mock drills) are being conducted by individual companies, and this siloed approach often causes delays and confusion during time-sensitive recalls. We must shift from an individual company process to a supply chain process to improve communication, transparency, and speed during recalls.
  • There’s no standardized data or recall processes. When businesses use disparate data and processes, it complicates and hinders recalls. Our industry lacks a recall-ready community approach, where everyone across the supply chain collaborates with shared plans and standardized data. Standardized data and processes will better protect foods, people, and businesses.
  • Organizations practice in a vacuum. Mock recalls – conducted by individual organizations – don’t properly prepare employees for collaborative recalls with supply partners, who must work together to quickly remove contaminated products. Therefore, when actual recalls happen, businesses are unprepared, leading to confusion, inaccuracies, delays, and miscommunication.
  • Supply chain visibility is limited. The food industry is still highly manual, which is problematic in a recall. Manual systems – and the incomplete or inaccurate data that comes with them – limit supply chain visibility and impede smooth recalls.

The industry needs a paradigm shift 

Unfortunately, the industry’s fragmented approach to recalls is ineffective in today’s interconnected world. Food businesses should, instead, embrace a new recall-ready paradigm, relying on better collaboration and information-sharing for faster, more complete recalls. 

Moving forward, food businesses should:

  • Leverage tech solutions. Modern tech tools dramatically enhance supply chain visibility and transparency, making recalls more accurate, efficient, and thorough. When food brands use innovative tools to track data from the point of origin to the point of sale, they can better identify which products were contaminated, the cause of the issue, and the tainted products’ journeys. Rely on comprehensive, integrated tech solutions to elevate the recall process, manage recalls more efficiently, minimize damage, and restore brand confidence.
  • Conduct collaborative recall simulations. Many companies conduct mock recalls in isolation, which won’t properly prepare them for the real thing. Instead, organizations should pivot to recall simulations, working collaboratively with companies across the supply chain. Without simulations, brand leaders can’t identify and address process gaps – or feel confident that their employees would know what to do during a recall.
  • Improve communication. During a recall, organizations must develop compelling, succinct messages that inspire specific actions. Messages should be tailored to specific audiences – e.g., employees, supply chain partners, regulators, media, consumers, etc. – with clear calls-to-action for each. Be honest about what happened – and how you’re resolving the issue. Transparency is key to regaining consumer confidence and trust.
  • Share standardized data. To ensure effective recalls, all supply chain partners must use standardized terms and data formats. During a recall, provide clear instructions for proper removal of affected products, along with consumer-friendly product descriptions that help identify impacted items.
  • Vet suppliers. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Even if your organization prioritizes food safety, if your suppliers don’t, your products, customers, and business are vulnerable. Only align with like-minded companies.
  • Apply lessons learned. After a recall, review your process to determine how you could improve future incidents. Use data to measure responses and action-taken rates to enable continuous improvement.

Food businesses must shift their way of thinking about, preparing for, and conducting recalls. It’s critical to embrace the new recall-ready paradigm, using standardized data and processes, clear and proactive communication, and a collaborative approach with supply chain partners and regulatory bodies. Our industry must abandon the old, fragmented approach to recalls and embrace a more streamlined, interconnected approach to ensure that recalls are being conducted swiftly, accurately, and completely.

Roger Hancock, CEO of Recall InfoLink, is one of the world’s foremost experts on recalls, with experience that spans the retail, tech, data, regulatory, and supply chain. Recall InfoLink, makes recalls faster, easier, and more accurate across the supply chain to protect consumers and brands. 


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