How to avoid recalls due to packaging and labelling faults, part 1

Product Recall

Between 2005 and 2014, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) co-ordinated 589 food recalls, with one-third caused by incorrect labelling, including undeclared allergens. In this blog series, our experts will reveal how you can avoid recalls due to packaging and labelling faults.

Australian state of food recalls

Just the other week, Woolworths recalled its chicken and vegetable pies nationally, fearing the product may contain glass. Before that Target was forced to recall its Klett and Target-branded chocolate bunnies due to undeclared allergens. And before that there was the infamous Nanna’s hepatitis A scare.

The fact is, product recalls are common in the food, grocery and liquor industry in Australia, with the reasons ranging from contamination to packaging faults. FSANZ has been collecting statistics on Australian food recalls since 1990. Interestingly, of the 568 recalls FSANZ coordinated over the 10 years from 2005-2014, 32% were due to labelling issues and undeclared allergens — making it the most common reason for food recalls in Australia.

While there was a spike in recalls following new labelling laws in 2002, the number of recalls for labelling and undeclared allergens has remained fairly constant since. And because undeclared allergens accounted for approximately 91% of all labelling-related recalls during the 10-year period, FSANZ now categorises them separately to get a more accurate picture of what is going wrong.

So why should you care?

Recalls are costly for any manufacturer — no matter how big or small. But just how costly comes down to the scale of recall, the stage at which it is recalled, and any fines or penalties incurred along the way.

There are five typical costs a business incurs for a recall:

  1. Newspaper ads: the FSANZ minimum-size recall advertisement is two columns wide x 12cm tall. For a single state or territory, this can cost between $500 and $1,000. So multiple product-recall ads in multiple newspapers can end up costing you anywhere over $50,000. And remember, these are not ads promoting you products – quite the opposite in fact.
  2. Stock value: the cost of stock that won’t be sold.
  3. Stock recovery: the cost of physically recovering the stock, either in person or nationwide.
  4. Additional company testing: the cost and inconvenience of testing the rest of your product lines depending on the reason for recall.
  5. Stock destruction: whether it’s normal trade waste, deep burial, incineration or store-level destruction, such as opening packets and pouring contents down the drain.

And all of those are before we get to the long-term cost of lost sales and goodwill. But the real cost goes deeper still, as retailers and consumers can lose trust in the brand – and that can be irreparable.

What does a recall for labelling look like?

Nobody can deny the importance of a recall due to contamination. But it can be more difficult to comprehend the impact of a recall due to labelling. Undeclared allergens is an especially hot topic because Australia has a particularly high incidence of peanut allergies – three in every 100 children suffer from peanut allergies.

To help, here are five examples of recalls for labelling:

  1. Peanuts not declared: Over Easter 2015, Target Australia was forced to recall its Klett and Target branded chocolate bunnies on a national scale, due to the possible presence of undeclared allergens. The warning statement on the product labels referred only to “shell fruit”, not peanuts or tree nuts. Lindt had the same troubles in 2011, when its peanut-butter-filled Lindor Milk Easter Eggs were mislabelled as milk-filled.
  1. Milk and tree nuts not declared: In a similar incident, cupcake mixes sold nationally in Woolworths, Safeway, Food For Less and Flemings Supermarkets were recalled when a label-application error meant milk and tree nut allergens were undeclared.
  1. Damaged flagon mouth: In May 2012, McWilliams Wine Group recalled Assorted McWilliams Wines when the flagon mouth on some bottles was damaged. This could cause injury to consumers and contaminate the product with glass.
  1. Hummus Dip becomes Spicy Capsicum: In February 2012, a production error resulted in the Coles Deli Hummus Dip being wrongly labelled as Spicy Capsicum Dip. Coles Supermarkets had to recall 200g products due to undeclared allergens (being sesame and tree nuts).
  1. Snickers becomes Mars: Similarly, in March 2012, Woolworths Cookies with Mars were recalled when the Snickers-flavoured cookies were incorrectly labelled as Mars flavoured, resulting in an undeclared allergen (peanuts).

The common element in all the above recalls is that the packaging faults and errors could have been avoided, saving these manufacturers time and money. In our next blog, we’ll explain exactly how you can avoid the same fate. In the meantime, this article explains how traceability helps with recalls.

Can’t wait for the next blog? Download our whitepaper or contact us for more information on how to avoid labelling faults in your production line. You can also click on the link below to get free access to our ebook on avoiding recalls.

In part 2, we look at a solution to avoiding recalls due to labelling and packaging faults.

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Mark Dingley
Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 25 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile
Mark Dingley

by Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 25 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile

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