Recalls - Questions & answers

How do I report a food product problem?

If your concern relates to a food product that you have purchased, please contact a Health Protection Officer at your local District Health Board.

When is it decided that a product should be recalled?

A recall can be initiated in a number of ways, including:

  • manufacturer discovers a problem through internal checking systems
  • advice from overseas authorities
  • customer complaint to a public heath unit (PHU)
  • concerns from consumer groups that regularly monitor food.

Recalls can also occur as a result of regular monitoring carried out by MPI as part of its Total Diet Survey (as was the case with the lead contaminated cornflour recall earlier this year) and the Food Residue Surveillance Programme.

Who makes the decision to recall a product?

All recalls are coordinated with MPI in accordance with strict guidelines. MPI must be satisfied that all reasonable steps are being taken to protect consumers.

In most instances the manufacturer of the product to be recalled will inform and work with their local Health Protection Officer (HPO) to find the size and extent of the problem with support from technical staff at MPI.

How does a recall work?

When a problem product has been distributed beyond the warehouse to consumers, then the manufacturer must advise or warn those customers who may have food in their home. The decision on how best to do this is taken in consultation with MPI. When a decision to issue a recall is made, warnings must be placed in the media, usually newspapers, and at locations where the product has been sold.

A recall notice must be signed off by MPI and must, if it is to run as a newspaper advertisement, follow strict guidelines regarding the size, presentation and position as well as the information to be included.

What does a recall notice look like?

A recall notice must display the following information:

  • who is recalling the product
  • what the product is
  • what’s wrong with it
  • a ‘do not consume’ message
  • a health warning and action
  • where the product can be found
  • what action should be taken
  • who to contact for enquiries.

What role does MPI play in the recall process?

In cases where a manufacturer initiates the recall, MPI keeps a watching b rief on the situation, leaving the day-to-day management of the situation to the local PHU.

If MPI believes that customer safety is being put at risk, and the manufacturer or food business is reluctant or slow to initiate a recall, the Food Act 1981 provides that either the executive director of MPI or the Minister for MPI can order a recall.