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Better recalls through communication

Better recalls through communication

GS1 Australia has released the 2022 Recall: Year in Review report. Key findings inform the reader of the continuing risks to product safety and the necessity to plan for the occurrence of product recalls in Australia and how to better prepare for, and even avoid food safety incidents. Food & Beverage Industry News reports.

Mark Blitenthall, manager of service engagement at GS1 Australia, speaks about the challenges still being faced by supply chain disruptions that continue to bring into focus the need for traceability and transparency, especially around product recalls.

“As careful as organisations are to prevent and avoid adverse events, there will, on occasion, be risks that ultimately require management through a product recall,” he said.

“Because of globalisation and the growing complexity of supply chains, it is becoming increasingly necessary for organisations to be prepared so they can manage a product recall as a routine process.”

GS1 Australia’s Recall platform is an online system that is used by hundreds of companies across the country to enable the fast and efficient removal of unsafe products from the supply chain.

As with other services provided by GS1 Australia, the Recall system was developed after close consultation with key stakeholders.

“It’s something we have developed in consultation with industry, like a lot of services we create and provide,” said Blitenthall.

“GS1 Australia Recall is a standardised industry driven communication tool that enables organisations of any size to efficiently share product recall and withdrawal notifications with regulators and their trading partners, enabling the fast and efficient removal of products throughout the supply chain to minimise the impact of these events.

“The platform supports them through the entire process from identifying a problem, alerting the relevant regulator, such as FSANZ, through to the notification of trading partners and reporting the withdrawal of product from the market.”

The platform integrates to other GS1 platforms like the National Product Catalogue product registry and the Smart Media digital asset management solution, to make the process of managing recalls as efficiently as possible.

“If the user has their product information in the registry, Recall will pull the product data from there and automatically populate the product information, ensuring there are less keystrokes and fewer errors,” said Blitenthall.

“If they have images in Smart Media, Recall will pull them down to provide further, visual information about the product that is being recalled or withdrawn.

“Having a solid and well-rehearsed recall process and system is foundational for managing risk. GS1 Australia Recall supports and encourages that.”

The platform provides critical information from details about the product, why it was recalled, along with images of the product.

“This is so that the trading partner can easily identify the product to remove it from their shelves,” said Blitenthall.

“And then there is a status reporting capability that displays the progress of all actions taken by receivers of the recall notice in real time, allowing the issuer of the notification to receive instant updates and monitor progress in the Recall system.

“Whilst the platform supports the management of the recall process, it’s also important that the user has a plan and process in place to manage product recalls.

“The platform provides a tool for enhancing this process through its communication and reporting workflow. It is also well supported,” said Blitenthall.

“We have a support team that provides assistance in the form of training and help with using the platform to conduct recalls and mock recalls, guiding users step-by- step through a recall, withdrawal or alert, from notice creation to communication and follow up.

“We also encourage users to maintain a current Recall Ready status in the system to assure their trading partners that they are ‘ready’ to submit a detailed recall notification, should the need arise. Initiators can maintain their Recall Ready status by issuing a mock or live notification every 12 months.

“A recall is a high-pressure situation, you want to be confident you can manage it internally, or have the option to reach out to someone who can support you in that,” said Blitenthall.

The Year in Review report is an extension of the Recall Bootcamps that have been run over the past couple of years. The Bootcamps aim to leverage the expertise of leading industry experts to share best practice with a community of like-minded individuals and organisations.”

Participants are educated through a series of workshops to help users better understand the recall process.

“We did four boot camps in 2021 and two in 2022,” said Blitenthall. “It’s about creating a forum where people who are involved in the recall space can come and benefit from the knowledge and experience of industry experts who provide thought leadership and advice through a webinar.

“It’s about sharing insights with people in the recall space who are looking for advice and support.

“The boot camps facilitate this, and then we make information available – from recordings of the sessions to other take away points to implement within your own operations.”

The boot camps provide an important resource for users of the Recall platform. They also give rise to enhancements to the platform from feedback captured during discussions.

“It’s about creating the community to support anyone in the recall space to have access to training and informal learning in addition to a platform that supports their recall process,” said Blitenthall.

“We get a lot of insight from those sessions and that is where we came up with the idea for a Recall Year in Review report.

“We’ve collected a lot of useful information and being able to compile it into a report to share helps learning occur as widely as we can get the information out.”

One new feature to come from the extensive consultation and feedback gathering is the introduction of an Action Centre, designed to consolidate outstanding actions. Another is the Recall Ready tab, which allows users to quickly view recall status. There is also a Feedback Button for users to share comments and findings along the way.

The community is the foundation for a lot of the work and development GS1 Australia does, seeing the benefits of collaboration around key areas such as recalls.

“It’s a foundation to everything we do as a not-for-profit organisation, and we see it as our role to help facilitate collaboration within industry and create forums to facilitate this,” said Blitenthall.

“We also provide advisory groups around the use of our standards and services, which allow us to develop and evolve tools in conjunction with industry.

“It’s critical we do everything we can to engage industry stakeholders and get feedback and facilitate information sharing between members of the user community.”

Blitenthall said recalls are an area which benefits greatly from the collaboration provided by a platform such as GS1 Australia’s.

“In support of knowledge-sharing and upskilling of all stakeholders in the quality management space, GS1 Australia continues to create a space where conversations about recall best practice can occur and be accessed by everyone,” he added.

Feedback from users also helps inform the continued evolution and development of the recall platform.

“We take feedback through the platform, suggestions of improvement for example. We are always collecting that and making changes where they are needed. This gives rise to new features which strengthens the platform even further,” said Blitenthall.

“It makes sense to collect this feedback and implement those changes that have the potential to improve the user experience for significant sections of the user community.

This point highlights the value of the community and collaboration created through GS1 platforms and services.

“Training is one of the primary ways in which we support the user community,” Blitenthall added.

“We talk users through the platform and encourage users to reflect on their usage of the platform in the context of their own recall process to ensure that they understand what the steps are for a recall process.

“It’s a broader thing than just using the platform, which is where we try to use the boot camps to educate users around the broader considerations regarding preparing for and managing product recalls and withdrawals

GS1 Australia’s Recall platform is also HACCP certified as effective and suitable for businesses that operate a HACCP based food safety program, which adds yet another element to the benefits the service provides users.

GS1 Recall was first evaluated for HACCP International certification in 2016. The evaluation determined that GS1 Recall system meets the requirements and expectations of the food industry.

HACCP International certification of GS1 Recall gives their customers assurance they will meet the requirements of a recall system.

GS1 Australia Recall platform will continue to incorporate industry feedback to ensure it can meet the needs of its users and evolve with the technology. And 2023 is expected to be another great year for the service.

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