Blockchain and Food Recall

, 10 minute read

Quick summary: According to the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, an average recall costs $10 million and takes 14 days to identify and 34 days to enact, and by this time only 40% of the products can be collected. It is the brand’s responsibility to remove the product from circulation and prevent foodborne illness. Blockchain technology aids in better recall management.

Food recalls cost companies an average of $10 million in direct costs alone, according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)now called the Consumer Brand association in the US.

Safe and healthy food is a basic human right and governments must ensure food safety standards. In this interconnected world, food systems are constantly changing. Foods are produced, delivered, and consumed in different ways which call for a global safety approach to handle food security incidents. In the global movement of goods, the possibilities of food contamination are enormous. It may start with the contamination at the farm, during processing and transporting, and mislabeling during packaging. 

WHO has had a strong commitment to reducing the burden of foodborne illness on public health. Foodborne diseases have a great impact on the health of people. Food containing harmful levels of bacteria, chemicals, physical substances, and allergens cause illness and sometimes even proves fatal to mankind. 

It is estimated by 2050, 10 million lives will be at risk and a cumulative US$ 100 trillion will be lost due to the spread of antimicrobial resistance if no immediate actions are taken. 

Global food production, distribution, and retail have been under great pressure from consumers and regulators, especially following food security incidents like food contamination and foodborne disease outbreaks. Consumer safety has become a primary concern resulting in an increased number of product withdrawals and recalls. 

What is a product recall? 

A food product recall is an action to remove food that may pose a safety threat to the consumer, from the sale, distribution, and consumption. This safety threat could be due to food contamination or a defect in the product. Recalling of food happens when there are complaints from consumers, manufacturers, retailers, and regulatory bodies or when the company itself conducts quality tests and audits.

A product withdrawal happens when the product is removed from the supply chain which may be due to incorrect labeling like the mention of incorrect weight. There is no safety issue involved.

But if the labeling had no mention of allergens, then there could be a problem affecting some people and this would need a recall. 

What triggers Food Recalls? 

Contamination due to various reasons 

  •  Bacteria like E coli, Listeria and Salmonella 
  • Chemical substances like pesticides and fertilizers 
  • Contamination during processing activities 
  • Animal drugs and hormonal residues 
  • Foreign bodies like plastic, glass 
  • Heavy metals like lead and mercury 
  • Genetically modified organisms. 

Mislabeling of a product that contains allergens 

Quality inspections by external regulators or internal checks 

Product tampering and counterfeit 

Consumer complaints

Why is Product Recall important? 

The ability to track products from the time they are manufactured through delivery to the consumer is very important and it is the responsibility of these stakeholders to deliver a safe end product to the consumer. Product recalls can have serious social, economic, and legal consequences. Food recalls impact public health resulting in sickness, hospitalizations, and even deaths. In addition, there is significant brand damage and sales loss to the industry. 

Why do Food recalls occur in supply chains? 

  • Lack of visibility in supply chains 
  • Inefficient or absence of Track and Trace systems 
  • Lack of collaboration between stakeholders 
  • Information is not shared consistently across the network 
  • Insufficient information on sourcing of raw materials affecting the quality of the product 
  • Noncompliance with quality standards 
  • Food fraud 
  • Incorrect labeling and undisclosed allergen information in labels. 

Food Product Recalls across Value Chains 

Dairy Value Chain 

The Chinese melamine scandal is one of the most infamous product recalls in history.

It began when six infants died and a further 300,000 people were hospitalized after consuming contaminated milk-based products. 

1Shamrock Farms issues voluntary recall for Vanilla milk. The company is recalling its 2% reduced fat vanilla half-gallon milk due to undeclared almonds. 

Meijer recalls select Meijar brand Greek and low-fat yogurt products as the product contains small glass particles. 

Dairy products are most commonly recalled due to process hygiene and pathogens that cause a specific hazard. Of the dairy recalls third was due to undeclared allergens and another third was due to bacterial contamination.

Fruit and Vegetable Value Chain 

Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc recalls garden salad due to the risks of Listeria. The outbreak ended up costing the spinach industry $350m, and a large number of customers. 

2Fruit Fresh Up Inc recalls fresh-cut fruit, and vegetable products, ready-to-eat dips, processed at its Depew, NY production facilities because of Listeria contamination. 

A large California-based vegetable supplier has recalled products in US and Canada that may be contaminated with harmful Listeria bacteria. These vegetables were shipped to Supermarkets like Walmart, Safeway, Meijer, and Trader Joe’s. 

Foodborne pathogens are the main cause of recalls in fruits and vegetables. 

Cereal Value Chain 

3Baby cereal sold at Walmart was recalled due to excessive arsenic levels. 

Kellogg company voluntarily recalls Honey Smacks Cereal due to salmonella contamination. 

Nestle recalls batch of gold honey flakes cereal that may contain plastic 

Contamination in processed food occurs due to pathogenic bacteria and foreign objects

Seafood Value chain

4NorthEast Seafood products, Denver recalls seafood products due to salmonella contamination. 

Stellar Bay Shellfish recalls oysters harvested from Deep Bay areas in Canada due to norovirus contamination. These were sold to Albertsons and Safeway supermarts 

Contamination in seafood is basically due to Salmonella. 

Meat Value chain 

5Crider Foods issued a recall for canned beef with gravy after it was detected that it was contaminated with unsafe levels of lead. 

Listeria contamination of cooked deli meat from Toronto-based Maple Leaf Foods left 23 people dead and another 57 hospitalized in 2008. Maple Leaf initiated a voluntary recall before the contamination was traced to the company, but was forced to pay C$27m (US$25.5m) in damages.  

In the largest-ever beef recall in the US, more than 143 million pounds of Westland / Hallmark frozen beef was deemed unfit for human consumption by the USFDA. The recall was issued because the cattle had not been inspected before slaughter and a video had been released showing employees at the California slaughterhouse abusing sick animals. 

Bacterial contamination is the main cause of meat recalls, occurring due to unhygienic processes adopted and not adhering to quality practices. 

Supply Chain Traceability Solutions 

Traceability is essential to make the product visible all through the supply chain. Traceability is crucial to improving quality, and security, combating fraud, and managing the complex network.  

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been in effect since long with emphasis on food safety and prevention of foodborne pathogens entering the food ecosystem. FSMA encourages companies to be proactive towards food recalls and recall management system.

To recall a product effectively, the traceability system should be able to track the product and its ingredients backward and forwards through the supply chain. The records must be detailed and accurate to trace back a particular lot of the product or ingredient. At the same time, it should be able to track the forward movement of these products. All ingredients need to have a unique batch code for identification. Records of production, inventory and distribution have to be maintained to facilitate easy identification of lots. Proper labeling procedures need to be in place to avoid errors. 

Blockchain traceability solutions provide an effective solution with the capture of real-time data and sharing this data on a common collaborative platform. End-to-end traceability ensures visibility and transparency in the network delivering an authentic product. The robust Track and Trace systems ensure the accuracy of recalls and their resolution. The decentralized, immutable ledgers enable the security of information and authenticity.

The validation of data and a single source of truth enables easy certifications by regulatory bodies, assuring compliance with food safety standards. Immediate recall can be initiated in case of food safety incidents 

Recall Management with Traceability Solutions 

Traceability is vital for quick, reliable, and efficient product recalls at fewer costs. The unsafe or defective products can be quickly located and removed to ensure food safety for consumers. Food Recall management requires the adoption of the best traceability practices.

Check the 6 best traceability practices to have proper Recall Management in place. 

Benefits of Recall Management system 

  • Food safety to consumers 
  • Quality control 
  • Brand trust 
  • Combat against Fraud 
  • Operational efficiency 
  • Regulatory Compliance 

Blockchain makes it possible to pinpoint the origin of every ingredient in our food, prove its authenticity, and mitigate the effect of contamination. A digitized supply chain backed by the power of blockchain can provide visibility across the supply chain, allowing for traceability in seconds compared to weeks and days. This is vital for the consumers and the brands to gain trust.

Recall to Resolution in minutes with FOODSIGN, TraceX’s traceability solution 

Manage a Product Recall event from identification, tracking, reporting, and complying with regulations with our suite of mobile and web apps designed to suit food traceability across all value chains. As the products are harvested or caught, they are identified and recorded in the blockchain ledgers. The data captured at every stage in the supply chain brings visibility at every step and ensures that the product is genuinely sourced and safely handled. In the event of a recall, the response can be immediate and accurate. 

The blockchain platform is a scalable and configurable platform where the information is stored in immutable ledgers, rendering it tamper-proof and the decentralized data is available to all the stakeholders in the network. The supply chain solution provides a platform to handle the manufacturing processes, inventory, procurement, and sales orders. The seamless exchange of data reduces errors and enables transparency and visibility. Every participant is accountable for their responsibilities in the supply chain. 

Food Recalls can be very expensive to a company and destroys its reputation. Farm to fork food safety helps companies and the regulatory bodies to identify sources of contamination and reduce recall costs and even minimize the scope of recalls. Preserve long-term profitability and gain consumer trust with our solutions. 

Manage costs associated with food recalls throughout the supply chain and empower your brands with our Recall Management Solutions. 

Check our traceability solutions 


Hyperledger private permissioned blockchain.

Data is captured in digital immutable ledgers which provide security and accountability of data . The decentralized platform enables transparency among stakeholders

The end to end traceability builds trust and transparency in the product thereby assuring consumers of a quality product. The farm management solutions help in improving market linkages and demanding a premium for the product.
Start using TraceX
Transparency, Trust, & Success for your Climate Journey.
Get the demo
food traceability, food supply chain

Please leave your details with us and we will connect with you for relevant positions.

food traceability, food supply chain

Please fill the form for all Media Enquiries, we will contact you shortly.

food traceability, food supply chain

Kindly fill the form and our Partnership team will get in touch with you!