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Worst case scenario: when pest control infestations lead to a product recall

This blog delves into the impact of a product recall caused by a pest infestation in the food manufacturing sector and the crucial role of fly extermination, fly pest control, and commercial fly control in averting such situations.

Let's take a dive into a pest-related product recall. Please keep in mind reading this blog that there are three main reasons for product recalls: cross-contamination, pathogens, and physical contamination. Pests can be the cause of all three of these issues. 

What is product recall?

By definition, the act of summoning anything back to its original location is known as recall. A product recall is defined as a request to return, exchange, or replace a product after a manufacturer or consumer watchdog group discovers flaws that could impair performance, hurt consumers, or cause legal problems for the manufacturers.

The impact of product recalls

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Product recalls, especially food product recalls, are expensive to say the least. Not only are they financially expensive but recalls place huge pressure on the brand which is now under the spotlight. This in turn also translates to lower consumer trust and a decrease in purchases. 

How do pests cause product recalls?

As mentioned above, product recalls are caused by three things generally: cross-contamination, pathogens, and physical contamination. Pests have the inherent ability to cause issues in all three of these categories.  

1. Cross-contamination

The issue of cross-contamination is explained in detail in this blog Preventing cross-contamination in the supply chain. Just on a surface level however, cross-contamination is the inadvertent transmission of germs or other bacteria from one substance or object to another, with potentially dangerous consequences.

2. Pathogens

When it comes to pathogens we define those as organisms that cause disease to the host. We all know that pests carry a number of diseases, bacteria, and germs that can and will harm us.

3. Physical contamination

As for physical contamination, this makes for a robust discussion on actual pest sightings and signs that the surrounding areas are compromised. The best way to prevent physical contamination of products by pests is to ensure that your staff members are trained to see signs and symptoms of live infestations. In addition, staff should be trained to positively identify what type of pest is being experienced on site. This is imperative to taking steps to dealing with the pest problem.

Worst case scenarios - food for thought

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No matter what commodity or product you procure or sell, there's a risk of a recall. For this scenario we'll take a simple box of cereal; a convenient breakfast that most people enjoy. You get a consumer complaint stating that there are flies inside the cereal box.

Your first point of action is to communicate with the customer and explain to them that an investigation will need to take place to establish the root cause of the infestation, and whether another product has been impacted, and that you'll keep them in the loop regarding the outcome of the investigation.

Now that an escalation has occurred, this product line item is compromised and there needs to be a detailed and thorough check on the quality of the product, its production line, all retailers stocking the product, storage facilities and all stages of the cereal's raw materials. A risk analysis needs to be conducted to establish whether or not a full product recall is required. This will be as a result of the infestation check. 

The infestation check: 

Let's say that the product was infested in the production stage, soon after the product exits the oven and just before packaging. The product is still warm and the flies lay eggs on the cereal. Once packaged, the remaining warmth facilitates the growth of the egg and larvae. This would certainly be cause for a recall of that batch of cereal - and so the logistics nightmare begins.

Now an official letter of recall needs to be extended to your retailers,  and everyone who purchased from those retailers will need to have an avenue to return the product. Refunds and credits will need to be issued as a result of the recall, and the costs skyrocket as more components in your supply chain pause operations and conduct reverse logistics activities.

Now what?

Once the recall notice has been issued and the product has been returned (and there have been millions of pounds in stock write-offs), the production facility will need to be treated for pest concerns, and then the actual production process will need to be re-engineered to mitigate the risk of future infestations  (this is on the internal operational belt).

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Externally, there is damage to the brand reputation, and to the customer base as more and more consumers move to competitor products and brand loyalty sees a sharp drop. This is truly the worst case scenario as the operational costs and financial impact of customer dissatisfaction mount and can ultimately lead to job loss and even business closures.

The product recall mitigation strategy should include quality checks throughout the supply chain, ensuring that products are inspected at every entry and exit point - from raw materials through to the final consumer retail destination.

Although the implementation of these checkpoints can be costly initially, in the long run they pay for themselves and are completely necessary and beneficial to the longevity of your business.

Make sure that you consider the damage that pests can do (cross-contamination, pathogens, and physical contamination) and involve a reputable, reliable pest control service provider in your quality checks. That way you can ensure that your supply chain is covered and that there is peace of mind for you and the consumer market you provide for.

 

 

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