Food manufacturers must commit to new recall system: AFCG chief

Online systems for recalls will forever improve the safety of food and beverages in Australia, but only if all of industry commits to it. Kate Carnell, chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council writes below.

Product recalls and withdrawals pose a significant challenge and risk to Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers.

However this complex process has become faster and safer for Australian manufacturers and retailers following the launch of the new world-class GS1 Recallnet™ product recall system on August 11.

Using the innovative GS1 Recallnet, launched by Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King, GS1 Australia and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) the recall process is now more efficient and automated through an industry-driven, web-based portal.

The standardised communication tool enables manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and importers to easily and more securely share “real-time” product recall and withdrawal notifications with trading partners and regulators.

The whole-of-industry solution led by industry in collaboration with GS1 Australia helps food and consumer products organisations reduces errors, reduce the amount of time taken to respond to a recall and mitigate costs associated with managing the recall.

This user-friendly, streamlined service, which is far more efficient than the previous paper-based system – is supported by all major retailers and FSANZ, many of whom attended the GS1 Recallnet™ launch in Sydney, involving 120 guests and 12 speakers.

It will help to ensure the food safety of all Australians as it’s designed to remove potentially harmful food, grocery, liquor and other products from Australia’s long supply chain.

Importantly, GS1 Recallnet™ allows industry and retailers to rapidly and more consistently respond to a decision to recall or withdraw a product. It also provides accurate and up-to-date information and is a communication medium with regulators.

However it must be remembered that GS1 Recallnet™ is not a substitute for a recall plan.
Businesses still need to have comprehensive risk management procedures designed around the specific needs of their business. It’s a mandatory requirement under the Food Standards Code that food and grocery have a recall plan.

GS1 Recallnet™ will help if your plan determines you need to recall a product.
While the service will initially be used by the Australian food and grocery sector, it’s not only limited to manufacturer-to-retailer notifications. For example, GS1 Recallnet™ enables producers to issue recall notifications to distributors and distributors to issue recall notifications to manufacturers. Recallnet™ will eventually be rolled out in the healthcare sector based on requirements currently being developed by representatives from Government health jurisdictions, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and global suppliers.

For this service to achieve optimum capacity, it needs industry-wide support. So far, 50 food and grocery-based and retail companies have signed up to use the highly-secure portal including Coles, Woolworths, Metcash and Costco. FSANZ and the ACCC have also uploaded details to be able to receive recall/withdrawal information.

It’s crucial that all food and grocery manufacturers in Australia get behind this technology which offers a range of unique benefits, including the ability to target notifications to selected customers with tailored information, two-way communication allows your customers to report progress within a highly secure system that ensures only approved notifications are issued.

It also offers clear handling, disposal and reimbursement instructions to speed the recall process, the ability to extend recalls and withdrawals and navigate between related notifications, as well as the addition of multi-media files to the recall notification including images and lower risks, costs and increased brand protection in the execution of recalls and withdrawals.

Other benefits of the system include communicating directly with FSANZ, receiving immediate feedback from customers on the progress of the recall or withdrawal, significantly reducing risk in the event of a recall and help to contribute to the improved wellbeing of all Australians.
Fortunately, Australia’s food and grocery industry has an excellent food safety track record and GS1 Recallnet™ provides a tool for manufacturers to ensure we maintain this record.

Innovations such as GS1 Recallnet™ enable Australian food and grocery manufacturers to stay on the forefront of global best practice.

Using this new process, food and grocery manufacturing – which is currently under immense pressure from a ‘perfect storm’ or rising imports, high commodity prices and a proposed carbon tax – will not only remain competitive, but safe for all Australians.

The recent e-coli outbreak in Europe was an illustration of a lack of food safety and a breakdown of communication in the region’s wide supply chain, where food is sourced globally.

Interestingly, the new GS1 Recallnet portal will also link with other similar systems overseas as there are 108 GS1 member companies operating over 147 countries.
I urge you to embrace this technology and register your business with GS1 Recall net.


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