How Important is Food Safety to Your Customers?
2016 saw a 22% food recall surge over the previous year, reaching approximately 764 total recalls in the U.S. and Canada, or more than 2 per day, according to research by Food Safety Magazine. It’s true that recalls are happening more frequently today than ever before, for reasons including stricter compliance regulations and ramped-up testing approaches.
This stronger focus on testing has positively led to a greater discovery rate of contamination. This is actually a good thing because it means today’s food safety efforts are much more accurate and effective at identifying contamination and protecting the population. Nonetheless, recalls can be alarming to your customers, and the last thing you want to risk is their trust in your brand. It’s necessary to understand exactly how your consumers feel about food safety so that you can work to maintain their trust and loyalty to your products. Ultimately, your reputation depends on implementing a contamination prevention plan that makes food safety a high priority, meets all regulatory requirements and integrates a proactive mindset. Here’s what you need to know about the importance consumers place on food safety.
SAVE YOUR BRAND FROM A MAJOR RECALL
Use this free checklist for finding and preventing contamination in food processing plants.
Modern Recall Reactions
Consumers are now more knowledgeable about food safety than they have been historically. There is a lot of information at their fingertips, and contamination prevention is no longer just a kitchen-centric concept. People are paying attention to what’s happening in the manufacturing industry, and recalls tend to trigger big health concerns.
Compounding this response is the monumental shift happening in the regulatory arena. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has enacted strict laws that place a greater emphasis on proactive and preventive approaches to food safety. For manufacturers, this means adjusting processes and procedures to comply with legal requirements for monitoring, testing, documentation, risk assessment and more. It is not enough for plant managers to have a plan for taking corrective action on contaminated products; they must also have a strong preventive plan in place to identify pathogens in the production environment before they affect the product and/or leave the facility.
“Processors of all types of food will now be required to evaluate the hazards in their operations, implement and monitor effective measures to prevent contamination, and have a plan in place to take any corrective actions that are necessary. Also, FDA will have much more effective enforcement tools for ensuring those plans are adequate and properly implemented, including mandatory recall authority when needed to swiftly remove contaminated food from the market.” (Foodsafety.gov)
This transition has impacted the number of food recalls that consumers are seeing in the news. These new FSMA mandates are shedding greater light on food safety and bringing a higher level of scrutiny to plant operations, resulting in more positive test results for contamination. As these positives increase in number, so do the recalls affecting consumers.
Foodborne Illnesses: The Fear Factor
The people consuming your food products are fearful of foodborne illnesses, and for good reason. This isn’t a concern to be taken lightly. Food contamination extends far beyond the worry of stomach aches and vomiting. The consequences can be much worse, sometimes even leading to death. It’s no wonder food safety issues are met with consumer fear and apprehension.
“The Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually – the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. And each year, these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.” (U.S. Food & Drug Administration)
The bottom line: Any occurrence of contamination in your food products -- from E. coli and Salmonella to Listeria and Campylobacte -- has the potential to cause serious health outcomes such as kidney failure, brain or nerve damage, meningitis, food poisoning, chronic arthritis or death. None of these is a reality you want to see surface on your watch.
“Food-borne illness is a giant, expensive challenge for companies big and small -- and the surprise is, their exposure to the risk (and the liability when linked to an outbreak) is arguably bigger than ever. ‘Thirty years ago if you had a little problem, you were not going to get discovered,’ says David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who today runs a consulting firm. ‘Now the chances of getting caught are significant, and it can be the end of your company.’” (Fortune)
“There was a time when negative incidents involving food or beverage products tended to be isolated to a very regional audience, but that era no longer exists. Why? Our food travels around the globe, and so do the stories about food safety issues. Now, stories of companies that don’t take food safety issues seriously are shared instantly across social networks, and sharing is virtually frictionless. It takes only the click of a ‘like’ button to repeat news of a contamination across yet another social media platform growing from nationwide to worldwide news instantaneously.” (The Acheson Group)
At the end of the day, your brand is your livelihood. It is a representation of who you are, how you do business and what you stand for. When recalls happen, customers lose trust in your brand -- which comes with a hefty price tag for your company. If your brand deteriorates due to lost consumer trust, you’re looking at a plummet in revenue and the potential of business failure.
This is a serious reason to make recall prevention a high priority. According to industry stats, the average direct cost of a recall to a food company can be $10 million, and depending on the scope of the recall, these expenses can be much higher. If you’ve been thinking about food safety solely in the context of a compliance necessity, it’s well past time to make a critical change. Recalls can devastate your business and bring serious consequences to everyone involved. It is vital to take all the proper steps to prevent contamination in your plant and save your brand.
Protect your brand from a major food recall that could result in tens of millions in damage costs, severe brand equity loss and unexpected food audits. Download your free checklist today: How To Find & Prevent Contamination in Food Processing Plants.