What To Do If Product Is Recalled
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Hello and welcome back to another podcast on recalls. I’m Jeff White and with me again
is Dr. Kerri L. Harris from FSIS. In previous episodes, we talked about how to prevent
a recall from happening and the importance of developing a recall plan. Today, we’re going
to focus our discussion on what you need to do if your product is recalled.
Dr. Harris what is the first thing you would recommend an owner or operator of an establishment
do in case they are confronted with a recall situation?
Well, Jeff, FSIS recommends that owners and operators of establishments read FSIS Directive
8080.1, Revision 4, Attachment 1, which is the Product Recall Guidelines for Firms. The
guidelines include a step-by-step process that FSIS expects a firm to follow if a recall
occurs to ensure that the “maximum amount of product is recovered in the shortest amount
of time.” And it also provides sample communication materials, such as press releases
and recall notification letters that the plant would develop.
Let’s assume a plant owner determines that a products needs to be recalled. How would
he or she get started gathering information about the product and in essence begin the
Once FSIS or the firm learns that adulterated or misbranded product is in commerce, recall
activities become a priority. Getting the facts is an important step which allows you
to properly characterize the issue and to communicate that information to FSIS, consignees,
and the public in a timely manner. It’s easier when you maintain clear and concise product
documentation because you need to supply the information to the FSIS Inspector-in charge,
the district office for your area, and the FSIS recall management staff.
What type of information is supplied to these offices?
Well, you’ll need to supply:
You’ll also need to:
- Complete and accurate product identification, including product labels, such as
a digital image;
- The reason for the recall and details about when and how the defect or deficiency
- A risk assessment of the product consumption and how it was determined; and
- Volume and timespan of production of the product in question.
- Provide an estimate of how much of the product is in distribution and for how
- The geographical distribution of the product by state and, if the product is exported,
by country too; and
- Provide distributor and customer information;
The plant’s recall coordinators name, title and telephone number is also needed.
- Copies of any firm correspondence with the distributors, brokers or consignees
related to recall actions and a copy of a proposed press release;
Can this information be provided verbally to FSIS, or must it be in written form?
Initially the information can be provided verbally. However FSIS recommends that the information
be collected and confirmed and then submitted to the recall management staff. FSIS will
then typically send one of its employees to the plant to verify the distribution records
and confirm the facts.
What else can you tell us about the recall process?
Information about the product or products should be made available in a timely manner
– the sooner the better. Consignees, distributors or brokers need to be advised of the
recall situation. You can contact them by telephone, fax, email or special delivery of
the information. However, if you contact them by phone or in person FSIS expects you to
document it and follow up the communication in writing. Follow-up communication should
be sent to those who did not respond to the initial product removal within a specified
Can you describe the information that consignees, distributors or brokers would need?
Sure, they need to know the product subject to the recall, and that further distribution
or use of any remaining product should immediately cease. They also need to advise their
consignees, if they have any, of the recall. And, of course, they need to have all your
contact information, such as name, phone number, etc.
Alerting the public about a recall is also an important part of the process. Can you explain
It is important. FSIS develops press releases for Class I and Class II recalls and uses
the information the company provides. The company reviews the press release for accuracy,
which needs to be done in a 30 minute time period, and then FSIS posts the press release
on its Web site and distributes the release to the media based on the products’ distribution.
The plant may also put out a press release and this should be coordinated with FSIS.
We’ve talked about identifying the product being recalled and communicating the recall
to all affected parties. Dr. Harris, what are some of the other steps that need to be
taken during a recall?
Another important communication step is for the plant to report its efforts to retrieve
recalled product to FSIS. This communication should be frequent and ongoing. A recall
status report is used by the plant and covers the:
- The number of consignees notified;
- The dates and the methods used to notify consignees;
- The number of consignees responding to the recall communication as well as the
number and identify of consignees who did not respond;
- The quantity of product returned or held by each customer; and the
- Estimated time of the completion of the recall.
You mentioned completion of the recall.
Yes, FSIS conducts effectiveness checks by verifying the effectiveness of the establishment
in carrying out its recall. The effectiveness checks consist of FSIS employees contacting
a percentage of consignees to determine whether they were contacted by the recalling firm.
When the recalling firm is ready to close-out the recall, it should send the relevant
District manager a “closeout memo” containing a list of customers, the amount of product
retrieved, and the actions it has taken to retrieve the product. Once FSIS determines
that the company has made reasonable efforts to recall the product, the recall management
staff will notify the firm in writing.
Is there anything else the plant needs to do at this point?
Yes, actually there are two more things. One is that consignees should be contacted to
thank them for their assistance and assure them that the problem has been corrected. And
two, the plant’s recall team should evaluate the recall process to determine whether any
changes are needed to the recall plan. It’s always a good idea to test the recall plan
before you actually need it and assess it after you have had to carry it out.
Where can we learn more information about recalls and what to do if product needs to be
FSIS’ Web site contains lots of information on recalls. Just navigate to
www.fsis.usda.gov and click on the subject “FSIS
recalls.” Or, call the FSIS Recall Management Staff at 202-690-6389.
Thank you Dr. Harris for providing information on recalls and thank you for tuning in
today. Be sure to check out our other recall podcasts.
Well, that’s all for this episode. We’d like your feedback on our podcast. Or if you
have ideas for future podcasts, send us an e-mail at
email@example.com. To learn more about food safety, try our web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Thanks for tuning
Last Modified: June 2, 2008