The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) recently released a whitepaper entitled “Recall Modernization: Accelerated Partnering for Effective Recalls.” The whitepaper calls on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to explore new approaches to policy and foundational practices for recalls, and provides recommendations for recall modernization based on three years of collected data and information. To craft these recommendations, AFDO explores two fundamental issues associated with food recalls: consumers continuing to eat recalled foods and becoming ill, and recalls being issued too late to prevent additional illnesses.

AFDO’s extensive list of recommendations relate to policy, training, communication, recall management, and culture. Specifically, AFDO stresses the need to establish clear expectations for roles and responsibilities with partners; the necessity of unrestricted information sharing between regulatory partners; and providing standardized interpretation of FDA guidance, directives, and internal policies for all relevant parties. The organization hopes FDA and other stakeholders will use the whitepaper to update policies, align staff members, develop new approaches to information sharing, provide law and guidance training, enhance the transparency of communications, and build effective partnerships.

AFDO also identifies what it believes to be the single most important issue that needs to be addressed in recall modernization: creating a clear and common purpose in effectuating recalls for FDA and state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners. AFDO presents that clear purpose as prioritizing public health by quickly removing products from the market, and providing consumers with simple information that will allow them to identify recalled products. AFDO believes that it is important to shift the public health system’s focus from administrative measurement of recall effectiveness to timely and successful product removal.

To contextualize AFDO’s conclusions, the whitepaper includes an in-depth historical analysis of watershed recall events. Notably, the whitepaper contains charts that compare the timelines of foodborne illness outbreaks and recall issuances and communication. The whitepaper also uses surveys and expert insight to analyze FDA, state, and industry perspectives on the challenges of recalls. The whitepaper then summarizes its historical analysis and stakeholder perspectives to identify points of confusion and potential steps for resolution.

The whitepaper is the product of an AFDO recall modernization project workgroup that was established in 2018 and comprises regulators and industry representatives.