Q&A: Recall Prevention & Monitoring The Food Supply Chain

The safety of the nation’s food system continues to be increasingly scrutinized by both regulatory agencies and consumers as more food products are recalled daily. Food Manufacturing spoke with Gale Prince of SAGE Food Safety Consultants, which released a new Comprehensive Recall Data Analysis Report that analyzes this growing number of recalls as well as how manufacturers can increase food safety by monitoring their supply chains.

Q: What were the most important findings of the Comprehensive Recall Data Analysis Report?

A: The most important finding was the dramatic increase in food recalls in 2009 and 2010 related to the use of Salmonella-contaminated ingredients. FDA food recalls in 2010 were up 261 percent over 2008. Three food ingredient suppliers triggered 48.8 percent of the total FDA food recalls in 2010. In 2009 three other ingredient suppliers triggered 63.9 percent of the total FDA food recalls (a record number). The trend of contaminated ingredients leading to recalls in 2009 and 2010 is one that has not been seen in recent decades.

Q: What food safety issues were highlighted in the historical recall analysis, and what should manufacturers to do deal with these issues?

A: The recall trends certainly point out the importance of food manufacturing operations knowing the food safety programs of their ingredient supply sources. As the food ingredient supply chain grows in global stature, so should the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) of the ingredients, and process controls should reflect global considerations as well. In addition, many of the recalls point to failure of the recalling firm to be in compliance with the current FDA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

Q: What food safety trends were indicated in the report?

A: The growing trend of food recalls due to microbiological contamination points out a need for food manufacturers to look at their process controls and the environmental controls in place after the process to prevent post-process contamination of the product.  The recalls of the past few years tend to demonstrate an increase in size when the process and environmental controls are not well documented as to effectiveness. Instead of one production lot being recalled, in recent years the number of recalled production lots has grown. Often these recalls encompass several days or weeks of production.

Q: What food safety services does SAGE Food Safety Consultants offer?

A: SAGE Food Safety Consultants can help a firm prevent a costly food safety problem through a comprehensive review of their food safety programs. We provide program review and development, training and guidance on specific food safety-related issues. In addition, our proprietary recall database can be used in reviewing information about products, suppliers and focus of preventive controls. We can evaluate and suggest enhancements to a firm’s recall program so when it is needed it will perform to the rapidly growing demands placed upon today’s recalling firm.

Q: What actions should food manufacturers take to help monitor the food supply chain?

A: Firms need to be aware of current food safety trends and recalls. Using this information, they can review their ingredient supply sources and ensure effective food safety programs are in place. Internally, food processors should have a solid HACCP program in place. We also suggest firms review the FDA Current Good Manufacturing Practices (21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 110) and then evaluate their food manufacturing facilities and processes against the GMPs. This makes for excellent subject matter for multiple training programs for food employees. It is also very important to maintain facilities and equipment in good repair to facilitate food safety programs. Management must demonstrate its commitment to food safety by its actions to promote a food safety culture among its employees in each and every food processing facility that will enhance food safety efforts in preventing food recalls.

Interview By Lindsey Coblentz, Associate Editor