Food safety is the No. 1 priority of food retailers. Proactive prevention and vigilant food safety management is key to selling safe and wholesome food. However, when something does go wrong, such as, a food product recall, retailers are prepared to take immediate action in order to remove the product from commerce quickly and effectively as well as notify customers who purchased the recalled food products.
According to the Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) 2014 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends survey, customers have a high confidence level in the food supply found at grocery stores. Ninety-one percent of consumers report that they trust food retailers to ensure safe food products, up slightly from 85 percent reported in 2005. Shoppers increasingly rely on a broader array of resources to ensure the safety of the food purchased at the grocery stores. As shown in the table below, consumers expect producers, retailers and lawmakers to share responsibility for delivering safe food to consumers.
There are many reasons for food product recalls and there are many factors – such as product type, recall size, geographic scope and distribution of product, intended customer, etc. – that determine the manner in which customers are notified of food recalls. Consumer preferences and needs are constantly changing and often differ depending on circumstances; therefore, retailers rely on various communication methods to inform customers of product recalls.
Television remains the major source for information on food recalls (76 percent), followed by newspapers and magazines (31 percent) and friends and family (27 percent) and radio (25 percent), far ahead of supermarket visits or messages (11 percent, 7 percent, 6 percent, and 4 percent). Given the variety of communication methods available and the range of preferences by consumers, flexibility in recall communications by retailers is important so that they can communicate with their customers in a way that meets the retailers' and the customers' needs.
Maintaining food safety for customers requires diligence from the entire supply chain. Customers have confidence in the food supply and expect the food they purchase to be safe. There is not a single approach or solution that will fit all situations when it comes to food safety and product recalls; however, it is up to the food retailers and other stakeholders to safeguard consumers by responding in a timely and efficient manner.