Receiving complaints from consumers and from major retailers about glass shards in one of your top-selling food products is a horror scenario for a manufacturer. Especially when it is becoming increasingly clear that the packs in question all come from the same batch, meaning you either have to initiate a product recall, or the retailers will issue an even more costly emergency product withdrawal (EPW). But what is the best way to deal with such a situation?
1. Be proactive
If a product recall has to take place, it is best both for the consumers and for your brand if you are proactive about it, and not for the retailer to order an EPW. Recalling the faulty batch as soon as you receive complaints, rather than waiting for pressure from retailers or the media, can help to demonstrate to your stakeholders that you care above all about consumer safety, helping to maintain their confidence in your brand.
2. Alert the authorities
Above all, as soon as you receive the complaints of contamination from consumers, it is vital that you alert the authorities to the issue. In the UK, for example, as the manufacturer you are legally obliged to inform the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of any quality or safety problem, so they can advise you on the best course of action. This could lead to a product recall, allowing the authorities into your facility to inspect your safety procedures. By informing the authorities, you can show them that you are diligent and proactive in terms of food safety and quality.
3. Communicate the recall to cconsumers
After informing the authorities, you must then communicate the recall to consumers. Authorities, such as the FSA, will normally post notices of recalls on their websites, but it is unlikely that these will be read by the majority of consumers. Therefore, it is important for you to spread the news as broadly as possible to ensure it is effective. Today, the most common ways of spreading the news of a product recall to consumers is by advertising in the national press, by displaying point of sale notices at the retailers’ premises to alert customers to issue with previous batches, or by posting a notice on your website. In all cases, it is important to advise consumers on how to proceed if they have a suspect pack, directing them to your customer services where their details will be collected and refunds arranged.
4. Co-operate with authorities
When undertaking a product recall, there is always the chance of damaging publicity, from the press and from affected consumers expressing their dissatisfaction to their friends and family. By being proactive and by using a number of communication channels, you can mitigate this negative coverage, as you are demonstrating that you are putting your consumers first and working to solve the problem. If you are approached by the media for a comment on the issue, it is important that you explain that you are co-operating fully with the investigating authorities to get to the bottom of the incident, as this will help put your stakeholders mind at rest.
Do you know who is in charge when food is contaminated?