Food businesses in New Zealand must carry out a mock recall every 12 months under new regulations.

Beginning in July 2023, all businesses with a plan or program under the Food Act, Wine Act, or Animal Products Act and food importers and exporters will need to undertake a simulated recall at least once yearly.

“A simulated recall tests the ability of a business to trace and recall their products, ensuring they are prepared if a genuine food recall is required to prevent or limit harm to consumers,” said Jenny Bishop, New Zealand Food Safety acting deputy-directory general.

“Businesses must be able to act quickly and accurately to identify and remove at-risk products from shelves. Having effective systems in place to do that protects people from contaminated food, which can cause serious harm.”

Potential scenarios
The hope is practicing recalls will help firms ensure their procedures work so staff know what to do, and any gaps are identified before a real emergency occurs. They should then review how effective it was to identify areas for improvement.

Example problems could include an undeclared allergen such as peanut or milk; foreign matter like glass or metal; a microbiological hazard, for example, Listeria monocytogenes or a chemical hazard such as histamine in fish.

Companies are encouraged to identify a back-story on how the issue was identified or reported such as a complaint from a customer, notification by a supplier or detection of illness by New Zealand Food Safety.

New Zealand Food Safety has developed guidance and resources, and has been engaging with industry about the new requirement over the past few years.

“All food businesses have a role in ensuring the safety of food in New Zealand; practicing for a food recall ensures they will know how to play their part when problems are identified,” said Bishop.

Tahini recalls
Meanwhile, several recent recalls have been issued for Durra brand products containing tahini because of possible Salmonella contamination.

“Food businesses strive to make sure the food they produce is safe. However, from time to time, things can go wrong, and food businesses must be ready to recall unsafe food quickly. Businesses can get guidance from New Zealand Food Safety to help them fix any issues found in the test run to improve the speed and effectiveness of any real recalls they have to carry out.”

Affected products are sold at various stores and retail outlets throughout New Zealand and were imported from Jordan. They are different sizes of Durra Tahina, Durra Halawa Plain, Durra Halawa Pistachio, and Durra Halawa Extra Pistachio. Shelf life dates range from Dec. 18, 2024 to Feb. 12, 2025. Multiple importers are involved but there have been no reports of associated illness.

“Tahini is a high-risk food, so New Zealand Food Safety has been keeping a close watch on problems with tahini overseas. When we saw a potential issue with product from a manufacturer in Jordan, we worked with importers here to ensure they assessed the safety of the tahini sourced from this manufacturer. Testing was a part of this, and the tests came back positive for Salmonella,” said Bishop.

New Zealand Food Safety has also strengthened rules around imported food, with new regulations coming into effect in August 2023.

“Given the recent tahini issues, New Zealand Food Safety has contacted tahini importers directly to explain the more stringent rules, which include importers having to assess and confirm the food they will be importing will be safe before it arrives in New Zealand, checking their supplier’s food safety compliance background, and keeping evidence of their assessments and confirmations. As is our usual practice, New Zealand Food Safety will be working with importers to understand how the contamination occurred and prevent its recurrence,” said Bishop.

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