Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs: What We Can Learn from Recent Food Recalls

From Marie Callender’s frozen dinners to Campbell Soup’s SpaghettiOs, food recalls are making headlines this summer and are raising concerns about safety as a result.

The FDA, of course, has been doing its best to monitor for manufacturing and supply issues and contamination with its staff of 450 on-site inspectors for the 150,000+ operations it regulates.  Even in the face of resource constraints, the agency is doing an admirable job of increasing their transparency initiatives, recently launching applications for mobile devices that help consumers track recalls.

The fact is, however, that the FDA currently lacks the authority to mandate a food recall.  Until the current bill to change this moves through the required legislative process, companies need to take another look at what they can do to keep the public safe and healthy in an environment where simply meeting current regulations isn’t necessarily enough.

In the event of a recall, swift and clear communications are a must—and require additional follow-up.  As Irv Schenkler, the director of management communications at NYU’s Stern School of Business pointed out in a recent piece on consumer safety, the public “need[s] to hear what management knows about how the problem arose, what’s being done to address the problem now and what will be done to prevent it from happening again.” With the increasing attention on recalls and heightened  industry focus on food safety and brand protection, government agencies will be adopting more sophisticated regulations. In response, we’ll be seeing a rise in quality systems across the board.  Widespread adoption may be years down the road. But it will come.