It is easy to include “avoid a recall of a dairy product “in your company vision statement or plant’s goals. It is relatively easy to write a recall program that you hope will never be used. 

Unfortunately, the dairy industry has had no shortage of recall examples from highly respected dairy companies.

The top two causes for dairy recalls are the presence of a pathogen (for example, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, EcoliO157:H7) and undeclared allergens.  Why are pathogens and allergens continuing to be a growing cause of recalls?  I offer these seven management “philosophies:”

1. Titanic philosophy.

It hasn’t happened to us yet, so our current (meaning “outdated”) food safety operational programs are okay.

2. False Sense of Security philosophy

(also known as “You’re Okay — I’m Okay”). The tendency to run mock recall programs using scenarios which can produce “good” results and reports for management.

3. Invulnerable philosophy.

This is a strong belief that pasteurization and finished product testing will prevent any recall issues.

4. First Grade Teacher Avoidance philosophy.

This means allowing poor employee-hygiene practices since we are not hired to babysit employees.

5. Pathogens Don’t Have Feet or Wings philosophy.

A belief that any pathogens that might be on the plant floor will stay there since they don’t have feet or wings. It usually results in an inadequate plant hygiene and environmental monitoring program.

6. Extreme Lean Manufacturing philosophy.

Practitioners believe that an investment in food safety and quality programs does not contribute to net profit, so they keep cutting these budgets and their program resources every year to improve net profit.

7. Tree Falling in the Forest When No One is Present to Hear It philosophy.

By blocking reports of plant quality and safety issues from reaching a dairy’s upper management, these problems do not exist and will go away on their own if ignored long enough.

Depending upon the plant, one or more of these philosophies might be the cause of your next recall.

The other challenge faced by companies issuing recalls is correctly identifying the lots or the product to be recalled.  Recent recalls have followed a “death by a 1,000 recall notices” pattern that needs to be avoided at all cost.  Consider what happened at one plant:

  • March 13, 2015. Public notice of the deaths of three people who were hospitalized in Kansas. They are linked to a company’s single-serve ice cream.
  • March 23, 2015. The processor announced a second recall of three flavors of 3-ounce ice cream cups.
  • April 3, 2015. Operations were suspended at the primary plant. 
  • April 7, 2015. The company then expanded its recall to products made between Feb. 12 and March 27.
  • April 20, 2015. The company announced that all products from all of its plants were being recalled.

The real solution to avoid recalls of dairy products is to address the root-cause philosophies listed above.  It is critical that strong mock recall and environmental sampling programs are effectively implemented. Finally, lot identification with “hard” stops and starts is a necessity to limit any recall to one public notice.