SAN DIEGO — A new service from the United Fresh Produce Association aims to help produce suppliers prepare for food recalls and deal with the fallout if one does occur.
The fee-based Recall Ready Program was announced May 16 by Ron Midyett, chief executive officer of Apio and incoming chairman of United Fresh. The program will be available June 1.
The program is a partnership between United Fresh and the legal and communications experts at OFW Law and Watson Green, respectively. Program options are priced from $5,000 to $15,000 and include a recall plan review, creation of a custom recall plan and simulated recall training, according to United Fresh. Leaders of the program are David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for United Fresh; Amy Philpott, crisis communications expert with Watson Green LLC; and David Durkin, principal with OFW Law, Washington, D.C. Gombas said other experts will be available to provide backup if needed.
“What the program does is offer several options to companies to fit their needs,” Philpott said.
She stressed that the simulated recall training creates an environment where produce companies can test themselves and their plans.
Gombas said even industry operators who have a recall plan in place can face tough questions on what to do if a recall happens, including questions about legal issues and crisis communications.
“The idea here is that the three project areas are steps in increasing complexity to get a company prepared,” he said.
Gombas said most companies believe they are doing everything right and will never have a recall.
“Those who have gone through a recall recognize that you don’t have to do anything wrong to need this,” he said.
Once companies have completed one of those services to be prepared for a recall, companies can then use United’s Rapid Recall Response Team, according to a release from United Fresh. That service, available for a $15,000 annual fee, would entail assistance from United and outside experts from the first moments of a recall crisis. The plan offers a 24-hour recall hotline and eight hours total consultation from United and Watson Green, according to details of the plan. If more help is needed beyond the initial consultation period, the plan includes discounts on legal and communications services, if needed, beyond the initial consultation period.
Gombas said no two recalls are alike and having access to United Fresh’s rapid response team will be an advantage to produce companies who choose it.
“You can get as prepared as you can get, but you still need a team to get you through a specific circumstance,” he said.
Durkin said that people who don’t have a recall plan don’t understand the legal significance of the fact they just committed a crime. “They need to take that seriously,” he said. Durkin said that the notice of a recall typically starts the beginning of an investigation, and he said a company needs to understand its rights and obligations are.
Gombas said being prepared can make all the difference, and even more so with food safety regulations now being written. With the FDA’s preventive control rule, Gombas said every facility will have to have a recall plan.
“We don’t see that disappearing from the final rule and those companies that prepare will be that much more ahead of the gain.”