Natural Foods Merchandiser

FMI plans online product recall tool

Jessica Centers

The Food Marketing Institute announced last week that it is developing an online tool to facilitate and standardize recalls. The tool, which is now being tested, is a joint project with the Grocery Manufacturers Association that consulting group GS1 has been working on for close to a year.

Bill Greer, FMI communications director, said the tool will be unveiled "very soon" but the organization doesn't want to announce the details until testing has proved the concept. "I think there's a sense of urgency that we get this implemented as soon as possible, but we have to make sure it works with all technologies," Greer said. "We've got to get all the bugs worked out essentially. Not that we're having problems, but we have to make sure it does what it's supposed to do."

At the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference, FMI president Tim Hammonds said the tool would be available early this year.

The numerous recalls of the past two years — starting with spinach — made it clear to FMI and its members that communication needed to be improved. "The recurring scenario with so many retail executives was they'd be driving home on a Friday night and they'd hear a product recall announcement and then they'd have to turn around and figure out what products to pull from the shelves," Greer said. "It's been hard to find that information, with retailers sometimes pulling more than they have to."

While FMI does have an extensive communication process in place, the new process should ensure that everyone — including smaller companies — gets the information faster, especially when recalls are constantly changing and expanding as happened with the recent pet food recall. "It becomes very hard to keep track of, so there needs to be a better system for getting that information standardized," he said.

The new tool will be available to the entire industry, including manufacturers and suppliers.

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