What actions can supermarkets take to avoid product recalls?

Retailers have been warned not to grow complacent after figures showed a decrease in instances of campylobacter. 

Numbers from the Food Standards Agency indicated that between January and March 2017, 6.5% of tested birds in retailers contained campylobacter. This is a fall from 9.3% for the same time period in 2016, 12% in 2015 and 20% in 2014.

However, just last week, Tesco had to recall two of its chicken salad products as they were found to contain campylobacter. Retailers have been told that they need to remain vigilant in the fight to eradicate the bug and not let the impressive figures engender a false sense of security.

Supply chain consultancy firm Crimson & Co advised the retailers to not just rely on their own organisations, but to work in conjunction with suppliers in overcoming the issue.

“The recalling of two Tesco products reinforces the ongoing challenges retailers face when tackling food safety,” said Nick Miller, associate director of Crimson & Co.

“Despite recent data depicting some drop in traces of campylobacter, high-profile recalls such as this thrust firms back into the spotlight and bring to attention inefficiencies among organisations and the supply chains.”

Miller highlighted that effective supply chain management controls the people, organisations, activities, information and resources that go into moving a product or service from the time of concept, right to the store shelf. “Effectively implemented, that product will be delivered with the right documentation, in the right quantity, at the right quality, to the right place, at the right time,” he said.

“While the majority of the big supermarkets will argue their quality assurances given by suppliers are to a satisfactory standard, recalls like those experienced by Tesco reinforce how organisations cannot simply rest on their laurels and therefore must engage continuously to remove threats and ensure quality within their supply chains. Because of this, relationships will be tested. Supermarkets with any sort of concern should not be afraid to ask difficult questions of suppliers, and if their answers are not satisfactory, they must be prepared to review existing agreements and potentially walk away.”

He warned that if retailers failed to take proactive control over their supply chains, they could become alienated from their customers. “They need to make sure that they are constantly reviewing processes and making active, continuous steps in improving food safety and quality,” advised Miller. “Failure to do so could have serious ramifications for a brand.

“In this instance, Tesco was swift in its response, but the potentially deadly nature of bacteria, such as campylobacter, means shoppers won’t think twice about taking their business elsewhere if a brand is perceived to not be doing all it can to protect its customers.”

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