Product recall system offers greater protection

Press Release 18/7/2012

The introduction of an industry-designed product recall and withdrawal system will ensure even greater protection for consumers in the rare event that a food product is found to be unsafe, NZ Food & Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said today.

She is commenting on the launch at Parliament last night of ProductRecallnz, an online system that provides companies with a faster and more efficient tool to notify customers when a product must be recalled or withdrawn. It will replace largely manual processes that rely on paper-based communication, emails, and phone calls, by exchanging “real time” information between trading partners. It comes into operation next Monday.

ProductRecallnz has been developed by supply-chain standards organisation GS1 NZ in conjunction with the Food & Grocery Council (FGC), Foodstuffs, and Progressive  Enterprises. FGC members Nestle, Cadbury, DB Breweries, Fonterra Brands, Goodman Fielder, and Kimberly-Clark helped to trial it.

Mrs Rich says ProductRecallnz enhances an existing food recall system that works well.

“In any supermarket there will be 20,000 to 40,000 different products to choose from, but sometimes, even with the best production systems in place, products need to be recalled. According to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), in the 12 months to July 2011 there were 40 food recalls for a range of reasons.

“Food companies have their own plans for recalls and withdrawals, and deal with most of them themselves. Where it’s an issue of safety, there is an effective recall process which is overseen by MPI, and which can involve total product recall and advertising in the media if the product has reached the shop shelves.

“ProductRecallnz is a system which enables member companies to notify their trading partners faster and more accurately in the event of a recall. The more companies that join it, the more efficient and effective the system will be.

“I’m very confident that ProductRecallnz, with the backing of FGC members and the major
supermarket chains, will further ensure consumers are protected from unsafe or unsavoury food. It also gives business the best chance of ensuring safety and brands are not compromised.

“Where food is involved, safety is paramount, so it’s vital the process is fast and accurate.

“Issues can arise within even the best-managed business, which is why the food and grocery sector regards an efficient recall system as an essential part of doing business. FGC encourages all food companies to register. The low cost of participation is an inexpensive way to ensure peace of mind, particularly for small to medium-size companies.

Mrs Rich said ProductRecallnz would far surpass the duplication of systems proposed in the Consumer Law Reform Bill, which is due to be reported back to Parliament on August 9.

“The problem is that this bill wants to treat food the same way it treats all other products.

“Provisions for recall may be necessary for goods where there are no other arrangements in law, but that is not the case with food, as evidenced by the MPI notification system. The bill proposes that all recalls and withdrawals, including food, be publicly notified, where at present they are not. They don’t need to be because they are not safety related.

“MPI already oversees one of the most efficient product recall systems in the world so it’s not clear what the Ministry of Consumer Affairs hopes to achieve by adding itself to the regulatory mix. In our view, all it will add is unnecessary duplication. FGC believes adding another layer of compliance is a backward step, and we have told the select committee that.”