Recall and Withdrawal of Food

Recall and Withdrawal of Food

As part of our Farm to Fork blog series, it’s important to talk about what happens when problems occur. Food recall and withdrawal comes into play when there are issues in the manufacturing line that affect the product. A prime food safety requirement is understanding the difference between the two.


Product Recall is when the food is removed from distribution and sale. This is usually due to a health and safety concern be it either contamination or a defect. Recalls are often a result of reports from anyone involved in the farm to fork process. Anyone from the manufacturer to the customer can report defects or problems to health and safety authority. Alternatively, reasons for recalls can be spotted internally which minimises risks to consumers.

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency overseas food processes and has recently recalled products for containing small pieces of plastic or metal which poses a direct risk to the consumer. There has been a rise in the number of recalls in the UK but the Food Standards Agency maintain that this is not a cause for alarm. Their standards and levels of diligence have increased, hence the increase.


Product Withdrawal refers to the removal of a product from the supply chain for other reasons. It does not have anything to do with health and safety. Reasons for withdrawal include things like product design faults or incorrect labelling. However, if the labelling displayed the wrong ingredients or missed allergen warnings, it would then be recalled. Manufacturers can themselves decide to withdraw their food product if they anticipate a potential risk.


In Recall cases, companies are legally required to communicate recall information to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The company is also responsible for informing the public of the recall. However, when a voluntary withdrawal is made, there are no legal requirements and authorities do not meet to notified but standards should be maintained. Ensuring that efficient and diligent internal checks and testing are maintained will significantly minimise the risk of a product being recalled or withdrawn.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) can issue Product Withdrawal Information Notices and Product Recall Information Notices in the UK to alert consumers and local authorities to any problems associated with food. In extreme cases, a Food Alert for Action can be issued to provide local authorities with specific details of action to be taken on behalf of consumers.

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