Startseite Insights Blog Listeria, salmonella and co. – How a good product recall works in the food industry

Listeria, salmonella and co. – How a good product recall works in the food industry

We show you the pitfalls to watch out for in a product recall and why transparency pays off in the end.

Daniel Metten
10. April 2024
Crisis communication

Increase in food recalls: Causes and trends

Product recalls are published almost daily on* and via other information portals for consumers, such as According to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, the trend is also increasing in the food industry.

* Portal of the federal states and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety

Around a third of the recalls were due to microbiological contamination, mostly due to listeria or salmonella. Other reasons include unauthorized or undeclared ingredients, allergens or foreign bodies.

Should consumers be worried about this increase in recalls? On the contrary: the increase also points to an ever tighter control system. This is not only required by the authorities; many manufacturers have also introduced better tests on their own initiative.

If, for example, listeria or salmonella are detected in a product, depending on the individual assessment of the health risk to the end consumer, an officially ordered recall can be issued or the manufacturer can decide – often in consultation with the inspectors – to issue a voluntary recall in order to rule out any risk.

Recall the affected batches via the retailer or supplier, inform them and the matter – unlike the product – is over?

Caution: These pitfalls stand in the way of a good product recall

Reality shows: In many cases, things go wrong – especially when you stumble across pitfalls that are not given much attention:

  • Lack of coordination: contamination has been detected in a batch of a product. The authorities are involved. The responsible employees discuss what to do next. Responsibilities are not clearly defined. This is not fiction, but has happened many times. The solution: Create or optimize crisis guidelines with clear responsibilities and competencies.
  • Image material (packshots) available too late: The image of the affected product or the relevant batch is an important part of a recall. The recall itself is often (communicatively) prepared, but the packshot is missing. Here, too, the solution is to appoint persons responsible for this task in the event of a crisis.
  • Access to information channels: Ideally, a recall is also published on the company’s own website or via social media channels. But what do you do if the callback has to be made on a Friday afternoon or at the weekend and the person responsible is not available or the website is managed externally? The following applies here: designate responsible persons who can be reached in the event of a crisis and who also have technical access to the channels.
  • Missing or poorly trained consumer hotline: A hotline is not only essential for queries in the event of a crisis. Here, too, availability is often limited or it is unclear who is responsible for which shift.

What makes a good product recall

A recall in March 2024 was not limited to the pitfalls mentioned above. We are not naming the responsible producer. A company is recalling all products with a best-before date in a range of several weeks. The stated reason: there may be foreign bodies or other contamination. No further details or possible health consequences are given. A telephone number is given for queries, but is de facto non-existent. This example lacks almost everything that makes a good product recall:

  • Reason for the recall: B. Detection of listeria, salmonella, foreign bodies.
  • Type of recall: for the consistent protection of the consumer due to a proven health risk or precautionary recall, as such a risk cannot be ruled out.
  • Affected product: Specific details of the product, the affected batches, the best-before date; plus a pack shot of the packaging.
  • Place of sale: Germany-wide or regional, at which sales outlets or retail chains available.
  • Recommended action: Description of the potential health risk and, if applicable, particularly vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women or elderly people.
  • Take-back modalities: How and where can an end user return the product? At any point of sale in the retail chain? Even without a receipt?
  • Contact for queries: Specify a contact person who can be reached by phone and email at normal times (e.g. 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.) in the event of queries. Ideally, also provide a media contact. We will be happy to do this for you.
  • Express regret: Consumers want to eat a safe product. If this is not the case, an apology should be made.

Immediate and broad publication: Once all the documents for communication with the relevant facts have been drawn up and finalized, the information should reach the consumer as quickly as possible. This is done by publishing it on, sending a press release to the dpa and local media in the vicinity of the company headquarters and to other consumer portals.

Why a transparent recall is worth a lot

Websites such as or not only publish product recalls, they also evaluate them. If all of the above points are taken into account, the assessment is usually very positive. There is also good feedback if you also draw attention to the recall on your own social media channels. This transparency is a sign of sovereignty that is well received by the above-mentioned portals and also by the customer. But why should I as a manufacturer attach importance to this?

Our experience clearly shows that your customers pay very close attention to the quality of product recalls. Manufacturers regularly come to us after a failed recall because a customer or trading partner has obliged them to bring experts like us on board.

We prepare you comprehensively for a possible product recall and are also at your side immediately if the worst comes to the worst.

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