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Food Manufacturers Group Publishes Proposals to Improve Defective Product Recalls


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5/15/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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In the wake of numerous defective product recalls, particularly regarding defective food products such as salmonella-tained peanut butter and pistachio nuts that were unprecedented in their scope or magnitude, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has published its proposals to improve the efficiency and efficacy of defective product recalls under the title Prevention, Partnership and Planning: Supply Chain Initiatives to Improve Food Safety.

This is not their first initiative; it is their third initiative since 1997, and their second this year. Unfortunately, that begs the question: does this new initiative mean that they are to be lauded for being responsive, or does it mean that their proposals and initiatives either have been, or are, inadequate, ineffective and untimely?

A brief review of the GMA's proposals indicates that they are focused in 3 primary areas:

  1. Bringing Product Recalls Into the 21st Century: The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and GS1US have jointly created  a centralized internet-based product recall database in order to help assure that defective product recall information is more easily shared across the chain of distribution for these recalled products, from the manufacturers and distributors, all the way down to retailers. In this fashion, it is hoped that hazardous or defective products can be taken off the store shelves, and removed from the marketplace more quickly and efficiently.
  2. Using Accredited Third Parties to Audit Food Safety: The report urges the adoption of universal food safety criteria that will be put together by a recognized entity, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), to reduce the occurrence and risk of tainted food reaching consumers.
  3. Updating the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for Food: The Food and Drug Administration is currently updating its regulations as to the proper handling, storage and preparation of food products.

While none of these proposals are particularly bad, my concern is that they share an important common denominator: each proposal passes the buck onto someone else, whether the FMI, third-party auditors or the FDA. Moreover, these proposals would not appear to have any real chance of success in assuring compliance by smaller downstream retailers who are neither memebers of the GMA, nor technologically adept. And I suspect that a significant amount, if not the majority, of retailers fall into this category. Unfortunately, I think these proposals are doomed to fail before they leave the starting gate, and fall far short of the hope I had expressed in New Report Finds Government Recalls of Defective Products Ineffective.


Category: Defective Products

Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer

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