A food recall is defined as:
'Action taken to remove from sale, distribution and consumption foods which may pose a safety risk to consumers'.
A food recall may be initiated as a result of a report or complaint from a variety of sources − manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, government agencies and consumers. It may also occur as a result of a food business’s internal testing and/or auditing. Recalls are conducted by food businesses to ensure that potentially hazardous or unsafe foods are not consumed.
Recalls occur in consultation between state and territory government authorities and a sponsor who is usually the product's supplier, for example, the manufacturer or the importer.
Recalls can be conducted at either the trade or consumer level.
Trade level recall
A trade recall is conducted when the food has not been sold directly to consumers. It involves recovery of the product from distribution centres and wholesalers. It may also involve recovery of product from hospitals, restaurants and other catering establishments.
Consumer level recall
A consumer recall is the most extensive type of recall. It involves recovery of the food product from all points in the production and distribution chain including recovery of product in the possession of consumers.
A food can also be withdrawn from sale. A withdrawal, which is quite separate from a food recall, is action taken to remove food from the supply chain where there is no public health and safety issue. A withdrawal may occur in two circumstances:
- when the food product has a quality defect (e.g. colour or texture), is underweight or has labelling irregularities that do not pose a potential risk to public health and safety; or
- as a precaution, pending further investigation of a potential public health and safety risk. However if a risk to public health and safety is established, the food must be recalled.