Food recall information for businesses
A food recall stops the sale, distribution, and consumption of food that is unsafe or unsuitable.
When a food business identifies a problem in a food that has been distributed or sold, a recall of the affected food may be required from all customers who have received it, including consumers, industry, or both.
If you have a food business, you should have a recall plan. Find out how to develop a recall plan:
If you have to conduct a recall, refer to our checklist for making a food recall:
You need to notify MPI's Food Compliance Services team about any potential recalls. An officer from that team will work with your business to decide whether a recall is needed.
Types of food recall
There are 2 types of food recall, depending on whether the affected product has reached consumers yet:
- Trade recall
A trade recall involves food product that has not been available for direct purchase by the general public. It removes an unsafe food product from the distribution chain – for example, distribution centres and wholesalers. It may also involve recovering the food from hospitals, restaurants, and other catering establishments, and outlets that sell food manufactured for immediate consumption.
- Consumer recall
A consumer recall is more extensive than a trade recall. It recovers the food product from all points in the production and distribution network, including any affected product in the possession of consumers. Therefore, the public must be informed about a consumer recall. This is normally done through newspaper advertisements or other media (such as a news release or radio advertisement).
How a food recall can start
Food safety issues leading to recalls can include:
- consumers complaining about a product they've bought
- manufacturers, importers, or distributors becoming aware of a problem and reporting it to MPI
- results from MPI's regulatory monitoring and surveillance
- advice from other sources – for example, overseas regulatory authorities or news reports alert MPI to recalls made overseas.
Deciding to conduct a recall
If there is a possibility that a food you sell or supply is unsafe or unsuitable, and it is no longer under your direct control, always contact MPI by phoning 0800 00 83 33 and asking to speak with the Food Compliance team:
To ensure that public health is protected at all times, a food business must apply the precautionary principle when assessing risk. This means that if there is doubt, err on the side of caution. If the information available indicates that the food could be a risk to human health, but the scientific evidence is inconclusive, then assume that it is a risk and take appropriate action to control the risk.
Refer to our step-by-step checklist for what to do in a recall:
When a food business conducts a food recall, MPI provides advice to them through the Food Compliance Services team.
The team coordinates all recalls according to strict MPI recall guidelines. MPI must be satisfied that all reasonable steps are being taken to protect consumers.
The chief executive of MPI can direct a recall under the Food Act 2014 if:
- MPI believes customer safety is at risk
- the manufacturer or food business is reluctant or slow to initiate or complete a recall.
A "privileged statement" (also referred to as a "Director-General statement") is a step higher than a recall. MPI's chief executive can make privileged statements to protect consumers and inform the public under any of these Acts:
- Food Act 2014
- Animal Products Act 1999
- Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997
- Wine Act 2003.
Both recalls and privileged statements are public statements. MPI's decision to make a privileged statement rather than, or as well as, a recall is based on these factors:
- the need for urgency – if it is crucial that the public is informed with the absolute minimum of delay, MPI will issue a privileged statement, possibly followed by a recall
- whether the manufacturer/importer of the product cannot be identified or contacted, and it is crucial that the public is informed without delay
- if the manufacturer/importer is failing to manage a recall and a privileged statement is needed to correct inaccuracies that have been created
- if the owner of the product is managing a recall appropriately, but there is a high level of public concern, a privileged statement may be issued to confirm to the public that all reasonable steps are being taken.
MPI may decide to make a privileged statement in conjunction with a recall, to further inform the public.
Keep up to date
It’s important to keep up with any new or revised information about food recalls: