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While these statistics may be alarming to consumers, those in the food industry know that increased recalls are often due to increased regulations. As the FDA continues to improve consumer safety efforts, they will also be in an uphill battle to keep up regulations alongside evolving health and food science. Naturally, the more the FDA learns about food safety, the more the industry will have to adapt to fit within tightening regulations.
However, for consumers on the outside of the food industry, they often don’t have this opportunity to look “behind the curtain.” And from their perspective, increased recalls are cause for concern. Depending on the severity of a food product recall, how long it took for a company to respond and recover, and how much food was impacted, customers could abandon a brand entirely. According to our 2021 Consumer Sentiment Report, 18% of consumers would abandon a brand if a recall was issued due to consumer sickness. Another 43% reported they would leave the brand for a few months before coming back, illustrating the long-lasting and costly impacts recalls can have on brands.
Thus, consumers are demanding less recalls, and for good reason. Which is why it is so vital for companies to prioritize recall preparation, conduct regular food safety audits, and perform other measures that can help reduce the chance of recalls and improve business responsiveness when they happen. Let’s explore from the consumer perspective why recalls have such a negative connotation, and what food businesses can do to minimize recall risks.
Recalls = More Consumer Safety Risks
Recalls in the food industry have a direct and profound impact on consumer safety. When a recall is issued, it signifies that a product poses a potential risk to the health and well-being of consumers. Whether it's due to contamination, undeclared allergens, or other safety concerns, the recall serves as a critical warning that the product should not be consumed.
Foodborne illnesses associated with contaminated products pose significant health risks to consumers. In severe cases, these illnesses can result in hospitalization, long-term health issues, or even fatalities. Recalls serve as a reminder of these potential risks and intensify customers' concerns about the overall safety of the food supply chain. Fear of falling ill or compromising their well-being leads customers to become more cautious and vigilant about the brands they trust.
According to the World Health Organization, there are over 600 million cases of foodborne illness resulting in over 400,000 deaths every year. And sadly, 30 percent of those deaths occur in children under 5. As revealed in our 2021 Consumer Sentiment Report, where we surveyed 2,000 consumers, recalls that cause consumer illness can result in people abandoning a brand for a few months, with at least 18% never returning to a brand at all.
Recalls = More Food Waste and Lack of Sustainability
Food industry recalls have a significant impact on food waste, as well, which can have severe environmental consequences. When a product is recalled, the process results in a substantial amount of wasted food. And depending on the number of units impacted, recalls can lead to large-scale disposal of perfectly edible products, which not only squanders valuable resources but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing food in landfills.
When consumers hear about recalls, they may become apprehensive and choose to discard not only the recalled product but also other similar products they have at home. This cautious response stems from concerns about food safety, leading to the disposal of potentially safe and consumable items. This fear-based waste is an unfortunate consequence of recalls, further exacerbating the already alarming levels of global food waste created every year.
Recalls = Consumer Confidence and Trust Lost
Food recalls can severely damage a brand's reputation and erode customer confidence and trust. When a brand fails to ensure the safety and quality of its products, it raises doubts about its commitment to consumer welfare. Customers may question the brand's competence, integrity, and transparency, which can result in a significant loss of customer loyalty. Once trust is broken, rebuilding it becomes an uphill battle for the brand.
Recalls not only affect the reputation of the brand directly involved but also impact the overall perception of the food industry. When news of a recall spreads, it tends to garner significant media attention, creating a negative spotlight on the industry as a whole. Even if consumers understand that recalls are isolated incidents, the continuous occurrence of such events can lead to a general perception that the food industry is incapable of ensuring product safety. This negative image affects all brands within the industry and makes it challenging to restore faith in customers' minds.
The Best Line of Defense: Recall Preparation
Recalls in the food industry evoke significant concerns and worries among customers, primarily related to their safety and well-being. The negative impact on brand reputation and customer trust can have long-lasting consequences for businesses. Restoring customer confidence requires consistent efforts to demonstrate a commitment to consumer welfare, as does responding and handling recalls swiftly, which will ultimately help rebuild brand loyalty and trust in the food industry as a whole.
In an era that prioritizes smarter food safety, the modern consumer’s demand for transparency is unprecedented. Evolving regulatory developments only augment the need for swift, efficient, and accurate recall resolution. Our current climate creates a need for business owners to assess and resolve recalls and withdrawals, and handling these one at a time creates downtime that your brand reputation cannot withstand.
FoodLogiQ’s Recall solution empowers leading food brands to execute product withdrawals seamlessly and issue recalls across all of their locations simultaneously, while also tracking the response in real-time. With mock recalls and other tools to help prepare your team, businesses can reduce the time needed to access data to execute a recall by +70% – and cut the time it takes to acknowledge and resolve a product withdrawal in half.
While it’s one thing to think proactively about recalls, it’s another thing to experience it happening first-hand. Luckily, Trustwell is offering an opportunity to see a mock recall happen in real-time on the FoodLogiQ Recall dashboard, with our upcoming online event: