New food safety recall system launched

By Ben Chapman-Smith

A new web-based system has been designed to improve the product recall process. Photo / Dean Purcell
A new web-based system has been designed to improve the product recall process. Photo / Dean Purcell

A new website is being launched to improve the product recall process and cut down the risk of consumers eating unsafe food or using unsafe products.

ProductRecallnz has been designed to give registered companies a faster, more efficient way of notifying trading partners and customers when a product has to be pulled back.

When it goes live next Monday, it will offer consumers greater protection in the event that a food product is found to be unsafe, said NZ Food & Grocery Council (FGC) chief executive Katherine Rich.

"In any supermarket there will be 20,000 to 40,000 different products to choose from, but sometimes, even with the best production systems in place, products need to be recalled."

Although the current system works well, trading partners are limited to largely manual processes that rely on paper-based communication, emails, and phone calls, Rich said.

"Issues can arise within even the best-managed business, which is why the food and grocery sector regards an efficient recall system as an essential part of doing business.

"Where food is involved, safety is paramount, so it's vital the process is fast and accurate."

According to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), there were 40 food recalls in the 12 months to July 2011.

The new tool has been developed by standards organisation GS1 NZ, alongside the FGC, Foodstuffs, and Progressive Enterprises. It has been trialled by FGC members such as Nestle, Cadbury and DB Breweries.

Rich said the more companies that join the new system, the more efficient and effective it will be, and she encouraged all food companies to register.

The "low cost of participation" was an inexpensive way to ensure peace of mind, she said.

Fees vary depending on a company's annual turnover, starting at $95 a year for a company turning over less than $1 million. Companies turning over more than $1 billion annually will pay $2200 year.

The MPI oversees the current recall process, involving total product recall and advertising in the media if the product has reached shop shelves.

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