Update to the Food Act: Compulsory mock recalls for food businesses
From July 2023, most food businesses including importers and exporters need to undertake a simulated (mock) recall at least once every 12 months.
What is a mock food recall?
Similar to a fire drill, a mock food recall tests the ability of a food business to trace and recall its products, ensuring it will be prepared and able to act quickly in the case of a genuine food recall. It involves developing a scenario, carrying out a scenario in a similar way to a genuine food recall, reviewing how effective it was and identifying any areas for improvement.
Which businesses must comply?
Any food business with a plan or program under the Food Act, Wine Act or Animal Products Act will be affected by the latest legislative change and have to complete annual mock recalls, including:
- Distribution centres
Businesses that sell food for immediate consumption e.g. cafés, sausage sizzle fundraisers and restaurants are not required to undertake food recalls, or mock food recalls. However, businesses of mixed scope that may include wholesale or packaged food e.g. a café that sells coffee beans will need to undertake both genuine and mock food recalls.
Why have a mock food recall?
The safety of consumers is a top priority. Although the food industry plays a significant role in ensuring food safety, things can go wrong. Mock recalls ensure food businesses have effective procedures in place, well-trained staff, and have identified any gaps before a real emergency arises. Having reliable systems in place allows businesses to act quickly by accurately identifying and removing at-risk product from shelves and distribution to prevent or limit harm to consumers. These legislative changes help drive best practice across all food businesses no matter their size or model, essentially providing consumers with better protection.
How to do a mock food recall?
Different businesses will need to have different processes in place depending on their size and nature. A business should first develop a mock scenario, starting with picking a problem. The problem should be one that could actually happen in the business, for example, a customer finding an undeclared allergen in a product. The business must then develop a back story and prepare supporting information. The second step is to work through your scenario. Businesses are guided online by Food Safety to investigate, inform, assess, check, communicate, audit, and record the mock recall. Businesses should aim to involve all staff in the mock recall who would be involved in a real recall. This means everyone from senior management teams, IT teams, to sales and distribution.
How will mock food recalls be managed?
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has published guidance on mock recalls for businesses (Simulated recall guidance for food businesses (mpi.govt.nz)). When the mock recall has been completed, MPI recommends filling out a recall audit form and emailing it to your case officer (appointed to enforce the Food Act) or New Zealand Food Safety. MPI will review the process to see if the business has followed a succinct recall procedure and give advice on future improvements to ensure any mistakes don’t get made twice.
We can help you understand these new obligations and guide you through processes to ensure your compliance. If you are concerned about your food business or need guidance for simulated food recalls, talk to one of our Commercial specialists:
Ellen Sewell – Partner, Commercial
021 952 642
Geneviève Barry – Solicitor, Commercial
027 205 3939
Olivia Paterson – Summer Clerk, Commercial
027 638 8908