It is better to be prepared for a pet food recall that never occurs than to be unprepared when a recall does occur. Beyond that obvious axiom, pet food companies can take concrete steps to ensure a recall never happens and remains manageable if one does hit, Michele Sayles, Ph.D., executive director of food safety and technology for Diamond Pet Food, said during her Ask the Pet Food Pro presentation.
Preparing for a pet food recall
The fundamentals matter in pet food recall preparation, and the bedrock is a plan. Companies have a wide range of guidance to help them develop those programs, including from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, she said. Thinking beyond that plan, into the administrative of implementation such as phone trees, make the plan more practical.
“What are some of the things that you do outside of just the actual recall plan?” she asked. “Who are you going to call? What customers to call?”
Mock recalls help pet food companies refine their ability to locate and retrieve finished product. Traceability becomes key.
“A good rule of thumb is one step forward, one step back,” she said. “One step forward would be finished product traceability and one step back would be ingredients.”
Within the ingredient category, differences between minor ingredients and major ingredients need to be considered, she said, such as vitamins and minerals versus carbohydrate and protein sources.
Pet food companies must prepare to roll with these plans quickly, she said. In audits, identifying choke points that slow the process can reveal opportunities for improvement.
“Obviously, the more you practice them, the better that you get,” she said.
Lot coding and data management play an important role in traceability.
“For example, if you identify an issue with a particular ingredient, and it has a lot code that extends for months that could create issues as far as how much product you're going to have to recall,” she said.
Data management is critical in a pet food recall program. A data-driven recall program can provide more than just a means to trace a specific lot of a certain ingredient. In a world of skeptical consumers, information of how products are made helps prove pet foods are safe and made to specifications to pet owners as well as health inspectors.