A barcoded apple is more important than you may realise

What is the significance of barcoding every single apple in a mountain of fruit at the supermarket? It seems a tedious process when an apple is surely just an apple. But, an apple is much more than what is seen at face value.

It comes with a history – a place of origin, a past in which it was grown in specific soil and shipped in a certain container.

This is valuable information, even for the humble apple, as a food recall could affect any product at any time.

Many products go through a number of processes before landing on a consumer’s plate.

READ: GS1 Australia and Drinks Association join forces to drive industry standards

Unfortunately, there have been many instances where products are recalled for a number of reasons.

Products are often recalled due to potential presence of glass or metal, or e.coli contamination.

Items can also be nixed in cases where cross contamination occurs, such as wheat being present in a gluten-free product.

In August alone, Food Standards Australia New Zealand warned of nine products that had been recalled due to undeclared allergens or the presence of foreign matter.

Keeping track of products

To help keep track of products, GS1 Australia offers barcode numbers based on current global standards as well as services to help its clients trace items and action recalls with ease.

GS1 Australia recall services sales manager, Andrew Brown, said the traceability of products was important, including for fresh produce such as apples.

In early 2018, rock melons from one Australian producer needed to be recalled. It became a difficult task as it was hard to distinguish the good rock melons from the contaminated ones, Brown said.

This resulted in many rock melons being taken off Australian shelves that were not necessarily in the recalled batch, or from that particular company. “Because the rock melons weren’t labelled, it had a big impact.

Most retailers and all consumers didn’t know which rock melons were affected and which ones weren’t. So the impact wasn’t just on the company that had the product issue, it also flowed on to the rest of the industry,” he said.

“That instance showed it is important to identify which products had been affected to facilitate the quarantine of only the affected ones.”

In instances where products aren’t labelled properly, retailers often take all similar products off the shelf to be on the safe side, he said.

GS1 Australia works with the fresh product market to get products labelled correctly. Barcoding fresh produce is becoming more popular as people understand the importance of it, he said.

Labels help from an environmental impact as well. Having labels on fresh produce and other products saves food from ending up as rubbish if it is actually ok to sell, he said.

“Our role at GS1 is to help industry in these situations. The more that get on board, the greater the benefit for other companies.”

Working for a common goal

GS1 is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to help food industries by minimising waste and harm. “The recall portal was designed by industry for industry,” said Brown.

GS1 Australia helps companies beyond the barcode. GS1 gives companies the power to figure out how much of a product may be affected.

For example, this could be based on where a particular product was packaged rather than where it was grown. “They need to be able to know what products have gone where and why,” said Brown. The same cereal may have been made in different factories and may not all need a recall, for instance.

GS1 Australia could help companies find out how, where and when products were moved to a new location, he said. “GS1 facilitates not just traceability, we help conduct the recall,” said Brown.

Getting prepared before a crisis hits

A company needs to be able to ask its trading partners, such as supermarkets, to action a recall as soon as possible. “Companies need to prepared to act in a crisis,” said Brown.

“In lots of situations, in most organisations within the food industry, they will have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points programme or another food safety programme designed to stop these situations occurring. But in most instances, we would expect that a product recall comes from an unforeseen situation,” he said.

“What we help organisations do as part of a mock programme, is create a template recall notice. That template enables them to go into a product recall meeting prepared to get the right information, rather than having that meeting, going away and filling out forms, and then having more meetings.” Communicating well in the first instance is key, said Brown.

Having worked with numerous companies, Brown realises that many companies aren’t prepared for recalls.

This means that when a product is recalled, it can take days to action as phone calls and email communication go back and forth, he said.

“There’s a time factor that’s very important. You want to get that notice up as quickly as possible. Getting prepared and having a structure is very important.

“A company has to identify what part of production is affected, and then find out all the locations the product went to.

“If they’ve got all the information together, they can probably get a notice done in 20 minutes for a recall, but the limiting factor is having all of the information at hand,” said Brown.

Recalling products quickly, also helps keep a brand’s reputation intact, he said. “Consumers want to feel like they can buy your products again.”



Cadbury recalls some chocolate blocks because of plastic find

Chocolate maker Cadbury has recalled some Caramilk chocolate blocks because pieces of plastic have been found in some of them.

The company said in a statement the products affected are 190g Cadbury Caramilk chocolate block sold in Australia only with best before dates of 17/01/2019 and 21/01/2019.

The recalled product has been available for sale in Coles, Woolworths, IGA’s and independent retailers (VIC only) in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS and WA.

Products containing plastic may cause minor injury if consumed. Analysis of the samples received to date has determined that this product does not appear to pose a serious health or food safety risk, but the quality and safety of our products, as well as our consumers, is our first priority and a recall has been initiated to prevent the risk of minor injury.

Affected product should not be consumed and should be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund – no proof-of-purchase is required.

No other Mondelēz International or Cadbury brand or product is affected. Cadbury Caramilk

products sold in New Zealand and all other Caramilk products sold in Australia with different best before dates, are not affected by this recall.

Consumers are asked to call our consumer relations centre on 1800 034 241 if they have any further inquiries.


Australian food & beverage industry not prepared for crises

While many food companies are relatively well prepared to deal with product recall, they are under-prepared in the event of a crisis, according to a new survey.

The Food and Grocery Product Recall Survey Report by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and Victual also found that insurance cover across the industry is inadequate, leaving organisations vulnerable to potential costs of over $10 million in the event that something goes wrong.

Additional key findings include that recalls have steadily increased in recent years, largely due to the detection of undeclared allergens and microbial contamination.

While all respondents said they have a recall plan in place, only 59 per cent frequently review it. In addition, one third of businesses surveyed have either no nominated spokesperson or have not trained their spokesperson in the event of a recall or crisis

“The results of the survey highlight the need for industry to better prepare themselves for a crisis situation. We have seen time and time again that a poorly managed recall has the potential to turn quickly into a crisis, affecting a company’s reputation and bottom line. This is especially relevant with the advent of social media, where issues are rapidly amplified,” said Director of Victual Recall and report co-author, Peter McGee.

“An essential component of protecting an organisation’s balance sheet is to transfer the risk of a product recall escalating in to a crisis through the purchase of specialist recall insurance. Added to this is the need for access to specialist resources to guide the recall process.”

The report states that there are many direct and indirect costs incurred when a recall occurs. These include not only tangible costs such as logistics, cleansing and legal fees, but more importantly costs relating to a damaged brand. The report notes that the average global cost of a recall is US $10 million. The fact that 62 per cent of respondents purchase insurance that covers significantly less than this amount is concerning.

“An insurance policy is complex, but it is a critical contract that needs to be understood so that it responds in the way you expect it to,” said David Goodall, Director of Victual Recall and a report co-author.

“For example, understanding the difference between a stand-alone contaminated products insurance policy and a product recall extension under Public & Products Liability policies is essential to ensure that you are not exposed to all the major costs relating to a recall.

“Specialised recall insurance, combined with carefully-executed preparedness planning could be the difference between the end of a business and its ongoing viability.”

The survey made these recommendations to industry:

  • Businesses need a robust system for monitoring customer sentiment, including through social media
  • Small, relatively cheap measures, such as reducing batch quantities and storing batch samples, can reduce recall costs
  • Systems that track components or raw materials through the supply chain can help to pinpoint the source of defects
  • Good communication between suppliers and retailers regarding product and packaging changes can reduce the risk of unexpected product issues
  • A robust and practised recall and crisis management plan will limit the impact of a recall event



Kettle Fried Potato Chips recalled

Snack Brands Australia has recalled Kettle Rosemary and Sea Salt and Kettle Sea Salt from Woolworths and Coles stores in the ACT, NSW and VIC because they could contain foreign materials.

The NSW Food Authority issued a warning saying the products may contain white rubber pieces.

Specifically, the recalled products are:

  • Kettle Sea Salt (175g) at Woolworths in NSW, ACT & Vic.
  • Kettle Sea Salt (300g) at Woolworths in NSW & ACT
  • Rosemary & Sea Salt (175g) at Coles in NSW & ACT

Snack Brands Australia’s statement reads: “Consumers should not eat this product as they represent a possible choking hazard. Consumers should return the affected product to the place of purchase for a full cash refund. We apologise for any inconvenience.”


Creative Gourmet’s frozen mixed berries recalled

The maker of Creative Gourmet’s frozen mixed berries has recalled a batch of its 300g product sold in independent supermarkets across Australia, after the product was linked to three cases of hepatitis A. This comes two years after a similar scandal affected the brand.

A “precautionary” recall was issued last Friday, calling for anyone who had purchased the company’s 300g Creative Gourmet Frozen Mixed Berries with a best-before date before January 15, 2021 to return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

This came after a packet tested positive to traces of hepatitis A. A second test came out negative, but the product was recalled as a precaution. This affects 45,000 packets sold in supermarkets including IGA, Foodworks, Foodland, SPAR and Supabarn.

The berries were sourced from Canada and China and packaged in Australia by Entyce Food Ingredients, which bought Creative Gourmet from Patties Foods in 2015.

“Consumers can be confident that the recalled batch of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g is an isolated one and the recalled batch is no longer available on supermarket shelves,” said a spokesperson for Entyce Food Ingredients.

Cat food recalled following health scare

The Best Feline Friend range of cat food, made by an American manufacturer, has been recalled from Australian pet owners, following reports that it has made pets ill.

As the SMH reports, the move follows posts made on online forums by pet owners that claimed their pets became ill after consuming the ‘gourmet’ products.

The products are distributed in Australia by Petbarn.

Weruva posted a statement on its website which reads: “We have recently been made aware of select Best Feline Friend (BFF) canned foods, exclusive to the Australian market, which may have been produced outside of intended formulation guidelines.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in partnership with our exclusive retailer of these goods, Petbarn has removed BFF canned items from shelves in Australia until our analysis is complete. The facility for this exclusive BFF canned food does not produce BFF foods for any other global market or any other Weruva-branded foods.”

Petbarn said on its Facebook page that it would refund all purchases of the products.


Food and beverage recall portal certified by HACCP Australia

GS1 Australia has received certification from HACCP Australia for Recall – an electronic product recall notification management system designed to minimise the impact and cost of food and beverage products recalled and withdrawn from the supply chain.

The Recall service has been certified as ‘effective and suitable for businesses that operate a HACCP based Food Safety Programme’.

HACCP Australia is a food science organisation specialising in the HACCP Food Safety Methodology. HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) is a risk management methodology used by the food and beverage industry for the identification, evaluation and control of food safety hazards.

According to Richard Jones, GS1 Australia’s General Manager – Marketing and Quality Services, the certification of Recall is a major milestone for HACCP compliant food suppliers in the Australian Food and Grocery Industry.

“Recall is the first online recall portal to be approved and certified by HACCP. This means that in the event of a product recall or withdrawal, subscribers of the Recall service will have access to a convenient and effective means of complying with HACCP requirements for recall communications such as notifications, reporting and tracking of communications.”

Australia’s leading food businesses (retail, service and manufacturing) now demand that their suppliers have a HACCP-based food safety program in place.

A food safety program is an important tool for helping businesses who process or sell potentially hazardous foods to maintain safe food handling practices and protect public health.

Martin Stone, Technical Director of HACCP Australia said, “HACCP protocols are designed to ensure consumer safety by preventing as many food hazards as possible. A food safety program should be put in place to prevent any danger from those hazards. Food safety programs always include procedures for product recall.

“The recently certified service from GS1 Australia called Recall is an effective online solution that maximises the effectiveness of a product recall that can reduce the risk to consumer safety.”

SPC Ardmona recalls tinned tomatoes due to explosion risk

SPC Ardmona has recalled a batch of tinned tomatoes which have increased pressure and could potentially explode while being opened.

The company said in a statement the affected products were the 400g Ardmona Whole Peeled Vine Ripened Tomatoes, carrying the code TOM W/P 428580 007CM on their base.

The products were sold from Coles, Woolworths, IGA and independent supermarkets.

Anybody who has these products should throw them out immediately and contact SPC on 1800 805 168.

“No other Ardmona products, or any other SPC products, are affected,” a company spokeswoman said.


Blue ribbon ice cream recalled

Unilever Australia has recalled 1.25l and 2l tubs of Blue Ribbon ice cream tubs because of fears they may contain plastic pieces.

The company said in a statement that there have been a small number of cases where plastic has been found so they are recalling the products to prevent possible injury to consumers.

The affected products have best before dates between 28th April 2017 – 27th April 2018. The recall affects products sold through retail outlets across Australia.

Members of the public can return empty ice cream tubs to the place of purchase for a full refund.

According to the SMH, the contamination took place during the production process at the company’s Minto factory.

“This is an operational issue whereby plastic appears to have entered some tubs during the production process,” a Unilever spokeswoman said.

“We have undertaken a full investigation of the issue and reviewed our quality assurance measures. We have implemented a number of measures to address the issue and are confident the steps we have taken have rectified the problem.”

Unilver said products with a best before date from 28th April 2018 onwards are not affected and invited members of the public to contact the company if they have any questions.

RECALL NOTICE: Cottage Cheese Farm Goats Fetta

Cottage Cheese Farm Pty Ltd has recalled Cottage Cheese Farm Goats Fetta Cheese from Cottage Cheese Farm and Middle East Bakeries in Victoria due to microbial (E.coli) contamination. Food products contaminated with E.coli may cause illness if consumed. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice and should return the products to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Date notified to FSANZ


Food type


Product name

Cottage Cheese Farm Goats Fetta Cheese

Package description and size

Plastic 2.3L tub (height – 145mm x diameter – 176mm), 1kg

Date marking

Use By 03 Jan 16, 05 Jan 16 and 06 Jan 16

Country of origin


Reason for recall

Microbial (E.coli) contamination


Cottage Cheese Farm and Middle East Bakeries in Victoria

Consumer advice

Food products contaminated with E.coli may cause illness if consumed. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice and should return the products to the place of purchase for a full refund.


Cottage Cheese Farm Pty Ltd

03 9306 2516