Meat recall: nightmare for producers!

Recent incident of recall by the sausage producing company Wilke and subsequent bankruptcy is a warning sign for the producers of meat products to prepare themselves for such eventualities.

By Alok Singh

In recent years, the number of food recalls in Germany has grown exponentially. The number of warnings about dangerous foods was 75 in 2013 but it rocketed to 186 by 2018. Food manufacturers have to recall products if they are unsafe for consumption. They are mostly unaware of the biological processes which take place during and after the production of the food items. Microbiological contaminants play a dominant role in spoiling food quality and are most difficult to identify in initial stages. Meat and meat products are the most affected commodities, followed by milk and dairy products.

Food Recalls have got severe implications. They do not only deteriorate the  brand value of the company but also carry huge financial and legal implications. The financial damage is often enormous. According to experts, even a small recall often consumes hundreds of thousands of Euros, a major loss can amount to millions along with daunting lawsuits. Additionally, the cost of destroying recalled food, the lost profits, the drop in sales due to the bad publicity and the expenses for remedial advertising campaigns aggravate the situation more.

The one with no re-call cost insurance, suffer the most. Recall cost insurance are quite expensive, to insure 10 million euros in damages one has to pay about 50,000 euros premium a year. Moreover, recall insurance companies do not cover long-term costs such as lost profits and damage to brand value. For such insurance, entrepreneurs would also need to complete a product protection policy and that is de facto priceless in many industries. Experts suggest that the product protection policy should not revolve around the insurance cost but to avoid recalls at all cost. 

“According to Allianz, on an average a food recalls costs almost 10 million euro to a small and medium size company.

Presently in the absence of technology, avoiding recalls might be a very difficult puzzle to decode. For meat producers and processors the biggest threat is bacterial contamination. According to 2018 reports of Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) there were almost 600 notifications for meat products.  The biggest cause for it to happen was pathogenic micro-organism which in today’s case is difficult to identify within the nip of time, as existing technology is not that efficient.

Slaughterhouses and meat processing companies rely heavily on the HACCP approach for food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes. But due to lack of in-line hygiene monitoring system, any lapse in the implementation of HACCP standards cannot be identified in time which may result in a product recall.

In recent years, inspection methods have become more sophisticated and sensitive and are able to identify even iota of mistakes during meat supply and hence the number of food recalls has increased dramatically. Although bigger companies are somehow able to manage these recalls, SMEs (which are more in numbers) have borne the brunt of these recalls due to their limited resources and know-how in dealing with food recall procedures.

Proper implementation of HACCP and rapid monitoring of the hygienic condition of the produce is the key to prevent the recall. A non-hygienically produced item has a high probability of harboring dangerous pathogens and thus recall whereas if the fresh product has low bacterial count, the chances of any recall reduce substantially. 

We at Bosetein help meat manufacturers and processors manage HACCP procedures by measuring the hygienic condition of the produce. Our modern day cutting edge invention the “Real-time Bacterial Inspection Sensor (ReBIS)” is an in-line measurement system which quantifies the number of bacteria on meat items on the production line and during the supply chain. ReBIS is capable of scanning the product even in the presence of packaging material and indicate the hygienic condition of food products.

Experts advise that a proactive measure can protect meat manufacturers and their interest from many recalls associated hassles.  The bankruptcy of Wilke, which is facing multi-million euro loss and many lawsuits, due to recall is a warning sign for the producers of meat products to prepare themselves for such eventualities by adopting new technologies and ensuring the safety of the produce for customers.

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