With product recalls all over the world seemingly the new normal, the demand for improved alerting and response has become critical in reducing the risk for incident and injury. Regardless of whether through the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, USDA, or CPSC domestically, or through other global regulatory organizations, notifications internally and externally need to be clear and demonstrate the proper amount of clarity and concern, while reaching their intended audience. The following analysis is from the perspective of Retarus.
All this while the EU has announced plans to overhaul its rapid alert system for product recalls following the recent international "egg scandal" and lessons learned from other instances of food product impurities in the near past. A reaction on the part of the authorities is long overdue, suggests Miriam-Carena Schmitt, a retail sector specialist at global information logistics experts Retarus:
"According to the consumer protectors at foodwatch e.V., hazardous food products have been recalled in more than 500 cases in Germany over the past five years. On average, this equates to at least two product recalls per week. European law first and foremost places the onus of responsibility on the producers of the food products, to protect consumers from coming to harm through unsafe or hazardous food products. Consumers these days have come to perceive precautionary product recalls as evidence of responsible business conduct on the part of a producer.
Avoid health risks: every second counts
To avoid high claims for compensation or legal redress, as well as dissatisfied customers and health risks, producers have to alert importers, wholesalers and retailers about product recalls without delay - unambiguously and by all imaginable channels. The legislator also prescribes precise documentation of the recall activities, which leaves no gaps and can easily be traced and validated. The intention is clear: Steps must be taken immediately to prevent the impacted products from being sold. So far, in the EU, a lot of the information has been reaching the stores and customers too late. This may be due to the information spread only by means of a single channel. It is important, though, to alert addressees by means of the most fitting communication channel for that specific target group.
The alerts should also reinforce and build on each other: The individual supermarket stores are, for instance, best contacted by means of fax, so that the message can be taken as a paper document from the fax machine and displayed directly in the shop. Store managers and sales representatives in the field can also be informed by SMS as a supporting measure. In addition to the alert itself, a back channel is also especially essential in ensuring the availability of audit-proof documentation. It is crucial that the stores respond to the head office to confirm that the food products concerned have been removed from the shelves properly.
Producers of food products have to optimize their communication processes
In both the U.S. and the EU, to ensure dependable communication in a crisis, producers of food products and the regulatory agencies which oversee them, therefore have to review their communication processes and revise them if necessary. They require a flexible, automated solution, with which they are always able to reach their recipients as quickly as possible and which can verify receipt of the message with great precision in compliance with legal provisions. Cloud services offer valuable support in this regard.
Retarus provides messaging solutions with both individually customizable APIs and standardized interfaces for instance, to business applications such as SAP. These solutions make it possible to administrate messaging campaigns for various channels directly in existing IT systems. The processing of responses from the stores and the logging of communications can be handled directly in the business application, irrespective of the channels used for the communication. Thanks to detailed analyses of delivery and throughput rates, those responsible can immediately determine whether messages have reached their recipients. In this manner, the legal duty to document the process can be fulfilled effortlessly. Numerous supermarkets and manufacturers globally are currently turning to the messaging services offered by Retarus to successfully handle product recalls.
Since 1992, Retarus has been supporting companies in achieving highly efficient communication. The global information logistics provider always plays an important role where large amounts of data need to be transmitted securely and reliably irrespective of which communication channels, interfaces, applications and devices are required. The services are soundly based on a Global Delivery Network which includes the company's own data centers in the USA, Europe and the APAC region, as well as redundant carrier infrastructure. A total of 17 percent of Dow Jones corporations as well as numerous Fortune 500 companies in the banking, finance and healthcare sectors depend on Retarus' services. Longstanding customers include Adidas, Bayer, Continental, DHL, Honda, Puma, and Sony. For more details: www.retarus.com/us
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