Food Product recalls

Over the past few months there has been a number of recalls of food products initiated due to foodborne illness being reported to authorities, and through the detection of contaminants by food producers.  The most widely publicised of these were the frozen berries imported from China that was reported to cause a Hepatitis A outbreak in Australia.

It is always difficult to calculate the true cost of foodborne illness as there are the following contributing costs:

  • public foodborne illness surveillance and control activities;
  • industry disruption associated with food poisoning outbreaks;
  • health care services;
  • lost productivity borne by businesses; and
  • lost productivity, lifestyle and mortality costs borne by individuals.

However in a 2006 report titled ‘The Annual Cost of Foodborne Illness in Australia’ published on the Australian Government OzFoodNet website (www.ozfoodnet.gov.au), it is reported that the total cost of foodborne illness in Australia is estimated at $1,249 million per annum.  A similar report published for the then New Zealand Food Safety Authority (www.foodsafety.govt.nz) in 2010 titled ‘The economic cost of foodborne disease in New Zealand’ estimates the total cost to be $161.9 million per annum for New Zealand. 

Food Safety Management System (FSMS) certification is a tool used by producers to improve food safety outcomes for customers and for consumers.  It does so by providing a producer with a framework within the hazards to food safety can be managed and risks to public health minimised.

Food safety certification will not stop a food producer from having to recall products – incidents will happen, and hazards can occur that a business may not have identified, such as a particular piece of machinery failing, or mishandling of raw materials that cannot be detected in real time.  However food safety certification will increase the level of assurance to the customer and consumer that the food producer will be able to detect that problems have occurred, and allow them to trace all effected product, whether it remains in the factory or has been despatched to customers.  This will ensure an effective recall to reduce the effect on consumers.

Information on food recalls can be sourced from the following sites:

For Australia, from the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand site at: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/INDUSTRY/FOODRECALLS/Pages/default.aspx

For New Zealand, from the Ministry for Primary Industries site at: http://www.foodsmart.govt.nz/food-safety/recalls/.