Contaminated ground beef continues to cause illnesses, three weeks after it was first recalled. Products should be eaten within a couple days if refrigerated, but although the taste may be affected after a few months, it can be frozen indefinitely. That means that, unlike certain products such as the recent romaine lettuce outbreak, illnesses could continue indefinitely too.
Of course, the primary concern is protecting the public, and no company wants to see its customers fall ill. It is also a concern from a business perspective. These continued illnesses are bound to make headlines, which could result in lawsuits and cause retailers to think twice about stocking the company’s products in the future.
Whenever a food recall is announced, the company in question shouldn’t be complacent even if there are little to no reports of illnesses associated with the products during the early stages of the recall. Not only are new illnesses likely to occur, the symptoms may not begin until days after consumption, and it can take weeks for the illness to be tested and then reported to the authorities.
It is also important to keep in mind that when it comes to food recalls, many brands are well known, especially pantry staples such as canned soups or cereals. Fresh produce and meats, on the other hand, may not come with a label that is instantly recognisable to the average person. Making sure consumers hear about all the new recalls that are issued nearly every day is challenging enough. But in these situations, even if they do hear about it, they won’t necessarily recognise they are affected.
The right recall strategy can minimise these risks. Here are a few tips:
– Ensure you have a plan in place to notify retailers immediately. This will help keep additional products from entering consumers’ homes in the first place. In addition, many retailers have membership, rewards, and loyalty programs that allow them to contact only affected consumers directly. This can greatly increase the number of consumers who check their freezers and, therefore, reduce the risk of additional illnesses. However, it also comes with other risks. When tens of thousands are notified at one time, it can overwhelm internal contact centres, so having the right resources on hand is crucial.
– Recall it right – the first time around. Many food companies have to update the recall multiple times because they didn’t realise until after the first announcement just how many lot codes were affected. This is common with products such as ground beef that may include meat from many different cattle, or any product where tractability is challenging. Conducting mock recalls can help identify and correct issues that could make it difficult to understand the scope.
– Perform effectiveness checks early and often. Waiting too long can make it difficult to right the ship if necessary. Regulators may have certain minimum requirements that must be met, but there are also steps that companies may want to take that go above and beyond those mandates to increase the likelihood that consumers will respond to the recall. An experienced recall service provider can walk companies through both the requirements and additional options – documenting everything along the way.
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