By: Nathan Ballard
To most consumers and those in the food industry, the big R word is something bad or to be avoided. While this can be the case, recalls aren’t always a bad thing.
While it may appear bad at first from a consumer’s point of view and, in their eyes, may damage the image of the company issuing the recall, this response can be unfounded. To many consumers, what they see or hear is that the recalling company offers dangerous or poor quality product(s) and this damages the reputation of the company, even if the recall was small and/or nobody was harmed. Perhaps if a company repeatedly has recalls, this image may be valid; but in the cases where recalls seldomly occur and the company does so responsibly, then this image is unfounded.
From a producer’s point of view, every day working with food is working with measured risk based around cost. The riskier the behavior (usually due to reduced cost on the company’s behalf) increases the risk to the consumer and the possibility of a recall. In this case, the producer is weighing the money saved of cutting corners to the potential cost of a recall (loss of image, cost of product loss, cost of reimbursement, and potential legal fees among other things). In general, it’s in the company’s best interests to cut as few corners as possible and recall early as the cost of a recall can increase greatly if left to progress (especially if consumers become ill or injured).
One other point to make about the benefits of recalls: they can be learned from. While it may not look the greatest for the company with the recall, the reasons behind the recall can help them and others learn from the mistake made.
An example of this might be the Cantaloupe recall of 2011 from Jensen’s Farms in Colorado. While a terribly damaging event, the causes of the cantaloupe contamination was not terribly unique and could possibly happen in many other similar farm growing outfits. For those unfamiliar with the case, the FDA put together a report describing potential vectors of contamination, which can be read at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodborneIllness/ucm276247.htm#factors. The scenario described there would not likely be hard to find in other similar operations. That said, these other similar operations can take this information and safeguard themselves against a similar recall.
Stay Up-to-Date on Recalls
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website:
As a consumer, remember that it’s in your best interest to stay educated on the topic and in the supplier company’s best interest not to cause illness/harm. Next time you see a recall, consider how much damage (economic, physical, or otherwise) was prevented by having it.