An ongoing Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) recall modernization project workgroup has released its recommendations after a three-year review of data and information. The AFDO team is made up of regulators and industry representatives from across the country.

AFDO has released a Recall Whitepaper outlining the group’s work, which it explained as follows:

“In 2018, AFDO developed a Recall Working Group. Its goals were to capture the entire recall process, diagram it, and identify the pain points in that process. The outcome of the two face-to-face meetings was a series of recall response flowcharts. The summary flowchart breaks down a recall into phases. The red flags indicate a pain point experienced by either state regulators, industry or both. The group was initially composed of six Rapid Response Team (RRT) states, with representatives who came together for a 2-day, face-to-face discussion about recalls.

“During this meeting, the six states broke apart the recall process from initiation to closure, identifying pain points along the way and developing a recall process diagram. A few months later, key industry leaders joined the six states to review the diagram. The combined state-industry AFDO Recall Working Group confirmed the unknowns of how recall activities are accomplished across all three entities. This knowledge gap presents an opportunity for further research and development. “

The report says that even with stringent protocols and processes used to produce food today, food recalls are still commonplace. To understand why this is so, it says we need to understand two basic problems associated with food recalls.

  • 1) Consumers continue to become ill from recalled products that are consumed after the issuance of a recall announcement, and
  • 2) the issuance of a recall and communication around it is typically done too late in the outbreak investigation to prevent additional illnesses.

While the US Food and Drug Administration has made efforts to address improvements around its recall activities, more is needed to adequately protect consumers. The release of FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint calls for smarter tools and creative approaches for prevention and outbreak response, including recall modernization.

AFDO urges FDA to do just that: creatively explore new perspectives, innovative policies, and out-of-the-box approaches to implement the recommendations included in this paper.

This paper outlines recommendations in five areas: policy, training, communication, retail management, and culture.

A Recall Response Survey was issued in December 2020 to state retail and manufactured program managers. This was the second time this survey has been utilized, the first was in 2010. The goal was to compare the data in an effort to identify how the recall response process has improved and if new challenges have arisen or if past challenges remain. Additionally, the industry recall training survey was shared in February 2021.

Download the Recall Whitepaper here.

About the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO): Since 1896, AFDO has united high-level regulatory officials, industry representatives, trade associations, academia, and consumer organizations. AFDO members strive to foster uniformity in the adoption and enforcement of science-based food, drug, medical device, and cosmetic products safety laws and regulations for improved public health.

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