In a recent report released by Stericycle ExpertRECALL Index, the fourth quarter of 2013 showed an increase in the number of critical data points.

In a conversation with Industry Today, Kevin Pollack, Vice President, Stericycle, discusses the report’s findings, talks about what increased complexity and geographical reach means for the global marketplace, and offers advice on how manufacturers can effectively manage recalls going forward. Steve Engelhardt reports.

According to Pollack, while the overall number of FDA regulated recalls actually decreased in Q4, the drop is masked by what he calls, “an explosion in complexity and geographic reach.”

“What this tells us is that these complexities cannot be measured solely by the number of events,” he says, adding, “and with an expanded geographic reach, it means you’re dealing with an exceedingly sophisticated marketplace, and in the case of recalls, it could mean varying languages and regulatory environments that make resolutions that much more complex.”

Pollack says manufacturers, in particular smaller ones who don’t necessarily have the manpower on a day-to-day basis to handle recalls, are facing added pressure.

One particular issue is surge capacity. “This comes into play when there’s a large number of units recalled. Companies must deal with the complex reverse logistics that are required to alert customers and regulatory bodies and retrieve product. This process can overwhelm a small or mid-sized company who isn’t properly staffed to respond to a high volume event and rectify the situation.”

Pollack says that breaching this ‘complexity’ issue is difficult in that there are a multitude of factors impacting it. “More products are being distributed more widely, impacting unit volume and geographical diversity,” he says. “Additionally, you can see that today’s world is much more inter-connected, so a recall that may have effected only one market ten years ago, now is being seen across a multitude of regions and it creates a much wider, expansive issue for companies to identify and remedy.”

It’s a global issue in a global marketplace, but what about North America, specifically?

Food products being recalled by the US Department of Agriculture also reflected the broader recall trend of increased complexity. While there were just 19 recalls in the fourth quarter, the amount of pounds recalled nearly doubled when compared to the figures produced at the beginning of 2013.

In the beginning of the year, approximately 450,000 pounds of food were recalled, but by the fourth quarter, the number had risen to 860,000, representing a 91 percent increase in weight, further highlighting the difficulty of managing recalls, particularly for smaller-sized producers.

Another issue impacting the figures was the two-week shutdown of the U.S. Government last October, which led to industry experiencing the fewest number of reported recalls in the last year and a half for the month, which Pollack says, “suggests that changes to the political climate can further complicate recall management.”

“The trends documented in the final months of 2013 are just a few of the elements giving rise to this ‘recall sprawl’,” Pollack says. “In this environment, it’s critical that manufacturers understand these challenges and are prepared to address their unique requirements. With consumer safety and brand reputation at stake, companies simply cannot afford to misjudge the complexities of global and nationwide recall management.”

As the globalization of supply chains and distribution networks continues, understanding the procedures of safety standards with regards to imported goods, and a clearer understanding of foreign practices of handling and distributing ahead of time is key for manufacturers. Pollack terms this as “pre-preparedness” and urges manufacturers, and all businesses by extension, to take it a step further. “Maintaining quality throughout production processes is always key for manufacturers, but this needs to be extended to recalls as well,” he says, adding, “of course no one wants recalls to happen, but they do, and planning ahead with a standard operating procedure in place is something that may take a little time upfront to set up, but will save you a lot later if or when an actual recall occurs.”

About the Stericycle Recall Index
The 2013 fourth quarter Stericycle Recall Index is the only report that aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the U.S. Consumer Product safety Commission (CPSC), the FDA, and the USDA.

About Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS:
Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS is the industry leader in managing consumer product, pharmaceutical, medical device, juvenile product, and food and beverage recalls. Stericycle ExpertRECALL streamlines the entire product recall process and manages Notification & Response, Processing & Tracking, and Compliance & Reporting for a variety of companies. For more information, visit http://recall.stericycleexpertsolutions.com/en/.


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