Food recall information for businesses

Food safety issues can happen even in the best-managed food business. Find out what to do if you discover a food safety or suitability issue, and how to determine if a food recall is needed.


MPI is reviewing our guidance for food businesses on doing food recalls. The guidance includes documents and templates. Our review of these documents, and the processes involved, will make sure they're fit-for-purpose.

We are expecting the review to run until mid-2021. It covers recalls under the Food, Wine, and Animal Products acts. This includes products sold in New Zealand, imported, and exported.

We have set up a joint working group with the Food and Grocery Council and food businesses to provide input into the review. We are open to feedback or suggestions from any parties that have a stake in food recalls, at all steps in the review process.

We held a series of workshops with industry participants as part of the review. We'd like to thank the participants for their contributions.

The next step in the review process is to work through these ideas to further improve our guidance. These will be tested with the sector later in 2021.

Recalling unsafe or unsuitable food

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. This can include consumers, stores, and distributors.

If you have a food business and you distribute food, you should have a recall plan.

Use our food recall checklist

If you have to do a recall, our checklist will help you through it.


When a food safety or suitability problem is found in a food that has been distributed or sold, a recall is possible. The food business should notify the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) by phoning 0800 00 83 33 and asking to speak with the food compliance services team. A team member will work with your business to decide whether a recall is needed.

MPI works with food businesses to provide guidance and advice during the food recall.

The aim is to protect consumers.

Food recall information for consumers

Types of food recall

There are 2 types of food recall. Each depends on whether the affected product has reached consumers yet.

  • A trade level recall involves food product that has not been available for direct purchase by the public. It removes an unsafe food 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.
  • A consumer level recall is more extensive than a trade level recall. It involves removal of the food from all points in the production and distribution network, including any affected food that consumers have. Therefore, the public must be informed about a consumer level 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 finding a problem and reporting it to MPI
  • a third-party verifier identifying an issue during verification checks
  • 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 do 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:

  • freephone MPI – 0800 00 83 33
  • ask to speak with the food compliance services team.

To ensure that public health is protected, 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.

Scope of recalls

Recalls apply to all products containing the affected food or ingredient. To keep selling a related product (such as an earlier batch), the food business that supplied it must show why it's different from the recalled product.

If you have good traceability in place, it means the scope of the recall can be limited to affected product only. If a food business cannot distinguish between batches of food through lot numbers or date labelling, all products are likely to be recalled.

MPI's role in food recalls

When a food business does a food recall, MPI's food compliance services team provides guidance and support throughout the process.

The team coordinates all recalls using MPI recall guidelines. MPI must be satisfied that all reasonable steps are being taken to protect consumers.

MPI may issue a media statement to ensure consumers are aware of a recall, particularly when there is a high food safety risk to consumers.

MPI can direct a recall if:

  • MPI believes consumer safety is at risk and there is more urgency than usual
  • the manufacturer or food business is reluctant or slow to initiate or complete a recall.

Privileged statements

A "privileged statement" is also referred to as a "Director-General statement". This can be made by MPI’s director-general to protect consumers and inform the public under the:

  • Food Act 2014
  • Animal Products Act 1999
  • Wine Act 2003
  • Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997.

MPI's decision to make a privileged statement is based on:

  • 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
  • whether the manufacturer or importer of the product cannot be identified or contacted, and it is crucial that the public is informed without delay
  • if the manufacturer or 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.

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Who to contact

If you have questions about food recalls, email

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