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University of Florida updates recall manual for food businesses

Any business involved in the manufacture, processing, packing, holding or delivery of food for people needs to understand and address food recalls.

When safety concerns arise with food, manufacturers have a legal and ethical responsibility to mitigate any damage to the health and wellbeing of consumers.

The Food Science and Human Nutrition Department of the University of Florida has assembled a manual to assist food businesses, at all points in the food chain, in learning to conduct rapid and effective product recalls. Link to manual at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs108

The manual was developed to help businesses with the process and is based on information provided by important food recall and safety resources.

The mandatory food recall authority of the Food and Drug Administration went into effect when the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was signed into law in January 2011. No one in the food industry likes to think about product recalls, but they are necessary to protect both public health and a company or brand reputation, the food recall manual says. The number and scope of food recalls is increasing as regulatory agencies implement new tools including whole-genome sequencing of microorganisms, which permits linking illnesses to a specific food with a whole new level of sensitivity and accuracy, according to the manual.

Under the FSMA, plans for product recalls are mandated for operations that manufacture, process, and pack or hold foods; in short, any food operation that must register with the FDA. Under FSMA there are some exempted operations, such as small farms. However, under its broad authorities to protect the public health, recalls can affect even exempted operations should FDA conclude that a threat to public health exists. FSMA also gives the FDA a new authority — the ability to order a product recall.

The food recall manual offers a guide to what actions a food business should take. For example, if a regulatory agency believes a product is causing an illness, the producer should assemble its recall team and ask if recall is recommended.

If there is a news media story on a possible problem with a food, if internal quality control staff or a customer log suggests a problem or if a local health department believes a product is making people sick, the producer should assemble its recall team, review internal records, engage a crisis communication professional and contact the appropriate regulatory agency.

The 134-page manual walks food producers through dozens of scenarios regarding food safety and legal responsibility and provides links important food recall and food safety resources.

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