GS1 Canada Web portal to hasten product recall

GS1 Canada on Tuesday launched the pilot for a national product recall system that should enable manufacturers to share accurate data on affected products, and retailers to communicate back on the status of recalls.

Built on GSI standards, the bilingual system is a systematic approach to product recall, said Eileen MacDonald, chief operating officer with GS1 Canada, a Toronto-based not-for-profit supply chain standards organization.

“Consistency, speed, accuracy, resulting in efficiency and safety — this is what the industry has built,” said MacDonald.

The Web-based portal is designed to “enhance current processes,” not replace the existing CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) recall system, said MacDonald.

While the current system is one of notification, the new system gives direction to the retailer as to how to actually go about recalling affected products, like product handling and reimbursement, said MacDonald.

Basically, the new system allows for faster and more accurate communication of product data from manufacturers to retailers, the ability to better target affected products wherever they may be, and enabling retailers to report back on the status of affected products.

John Scott, president and CEO of Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, said that while Canada has one of the safest food systems in the world, this can only make it safer.

“Nobody likes recalls,” said Scott. “But it’s a reality in our system.”

In particular, said Scott, smaller retailers and communities require an accurate and effective system through which they can receive recall notifications directly from the manufacturers.

Nancy Croitoru, president and CEO of Food & Consumer Products of Canada, said today’s global supply chain makes product safety a critical foundation for the food, beverage and consumer goods industry.

“It is even more important than ever for manufacturers to work closely with government and stakeholders to ensure the ingredients and products, regardless of whhere they originate, meet our Canadian safety standards,” said Croitoru.

Once a manufacturer receives a recall notice from the CFIA, that manufacturer uses the system to fill out an online form with various identifying product data, including an image. A screenshot of the form is then sent via e-mail to retailers in the distribution channel identified by the manufacturer. The manufacturer can then view a report indicating whether the e-mail has been read, as well as comments by the retailer as to the status of the recall.

Currently in pilot and slated for rollout in 2010, GS1 Canada expects 3,000 users within the next year. For security purposes, users are authenticated before accessing the system.

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, MacDonald said it was decided that a Web-based system would not only make the process efficient, but would ensure all parties could participate.

But for those smaller retailers not using the Web, manufacturers can still print out forms instead of e-mailing them, said MacDonald. That said, MacDonald doesn’t imagine small retailers won’t want to partake in the new Web-based system given its efficiency. 

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