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How to Handle a Product Recall

So, the worst thing that could possibly happen to your business has happened and your product needs to be recalled. What do you do? Panic and abandon ship? Run around screaming in circles, hoping the business gods will hear you and make your recall disappear? No, you handle it with caution and care and get your business running again. Here is a broad overview on what to do in order for your business stay on track in the event of a recall.

1. Take Preventative measures

First of all, although recalls are eventually inevitable because of all that goes into production, you need to put all necessary measures in place to prevent a recall from happening in the first place. How you ask? By understanding your product and its production process.

A. Know Your Product

You may again question, “Why would I need to know that? I get my orders in and assemble/distribute them, what more is there to it?” Well, you need to understand where each and every part of your product comes from. For example, do you grow your own food products? What fields were they grown in? What machinery was used? If you receive parts for your products, do you know exactly which supplier supplies each piece? Answers to all these questions are crucial because you must be able to apply actions to the answers of those questions in the event of a recall. If a certain machine was handling the recalled food, it needs to be removed from your production line and properly sanitized. If you received parts from a supplier that initiated your recall, you need to inform your supplier and ensure there are no other products being assembled with those same parts. This is the kind of information you should have on-hand if there were ever a recall issued by your company, which brings us to our next point of having test recalls on a yearly basis.

B. Test Recall Protocol

Just like anything, having a test recall will prepare you and your business for a worst-case scenario situation. By practicing what to do and knowing what is to be expected, a recall will not be as detrimental as it would be if you were completely unprepared. You can start your test by being able to find all information on a certain product in an orderly fashion. Make sure you are updating all records accordingly to not only keep your business organized, but to be able to pinpoint every transaction and location your product has gone through. You should also have files put aside for those who are to be contacted in the case of a recall (i.e. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Food & Drug Administration, lawyers, CEO/VP’s, etc.). These are just the basics when running a test recall, but remember to try to simulate an actual recall. You should run your test as an actual, probable event and take all necessary steps you would take in real life. This way you understand what needs to be corrected and implement necessary changes to prepare for a real recall.

2. Come Clean

A. Get Facts Straight

Okay, so you prepped and prepared, but a recall still came through. When faced with a recall, the most important thing to remember is to be honest and issue your recall as soon as you have gathered all the necessary information on your recalled product. So, what information should you be looking for before announcing your recall? First, you should determine the scope of your product recall. For example, was it just one part piece that was faulty on a specific product, or was the lead-infused paint you just used for every single one of your products in your production line affected? Once you determine how much product needs to be recalled, you can begin reaching out to organizations like CPSD and the FDA, who will help you organize press releases to your customers.

B. Reassure Employees

Although your customers are very important, you also must not forget your workforce. During this time many of your employees may be worried about their job stability or whether the recall was in fault of someone on the force. You need to make sure to address your employees during this stressed period and ensure them that you are resolving the issue.

3. Get it off the Market

A. Remove & Accommodate Incoming Recalled Products

By now, you have gathered all the information on your recall and can now issue your recall to the public to begin purging the market of your defective product. You also need to contact all retailers and distributors that carry your product (all information which should be stored away in that recall file you are supposed to have) and instruct them to remove your recalled product from their shelves. In addition, you need to have a specific source on your website that consumers can turn to to confirm or deny products they purchased through your company are recalls or not (i.e. a place they can type in serial numbers or product numbers to identify recalled products). As a precaution, you should have a plan B set up for your customers to be redirected to in case of a site crash due to increased traffic. As products begin to return to you, you should note that, “the average recall recovers 37% of products sold.” (BBC News). Therefore, not all products will come back to you, but it is your job to get as much of it off the market as you can and decrease your liability

4. Recover

A. Promote & Proceed with Business

After a lot of press releases and attention from social media, it is time to get back on your feet and move forward with your business. As Maya Angelou once said, “nothing will work unless you do,” so, pick up the pace and get your business running again. It is only the end of the world if you let it be. If your company is greatly affected by the recall, this may be a time for promotional offers to gain your clientele and their trust back. As I’m sure you know about Chipotle’s food poisoning mishap in 2015, the company began offering coupons in an effort to gain back its customer base (which coupons were unheard of at Chipotle). It is optional, though, whether you decide to give back to your customers. After all, recalls can be quite expensive, but if you begin to see your sales drop, a promotional approach may be the best way to go.

Now that you have read a broad overview on how to prepare for and handle a product recall, look over this link to see specific details on the subjects discussed in this blog article

For more information on food traceability in the event of a recall, contact us! We have developed software that incorporates field traceability in food products and even lot/pallet tracking for manufacturing and distributing companies. You may contact us by phone at (562) 981-0125 or send us an email at You can also visit us online at

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