Caliente! Hot Topic!
Have you heard? FDA is going to initiate recalls and announce recalls to consumers. Technically, the FDA initiating a recall is not new, because FDA gained the authority to initiate a recall in 2011 with the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FDA has pumped out three new guidance documents on public notification of a recall. The last of the three, Public Warning and Notification of Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C, Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff February 2019, was recently published.

What is the Purpose of the February 2019 Guidance?
FDA is communicating to industry and providing recommendations for its own staff for when they will initiate a recall and publish a public warning of a recalled food. FDA has seen, in rare cases, where there is not cooperation from the recall firm or there is slow announcing of a recall. FDA calculated the average time for a firm to announce a recall is four days; it is implied that four days is too long for hazardous food to be in commerce. FDA intends to work cooperatively with the recall firm. The FDA must first provide the responsible party with an opportunity to voluntarily cease distribution and recall the article of food. FDA gives the first opportunity for initiating and announcing a recall to the Owner, Operator, or Agent-in-charge. Infant formula recalls are mandated separately, but all food, ingredients and chewing gum are otherwise covered by the guidance.

It’s not all bad news!
For fiscal year 2018, there were 7420 recalls and 831 classified as a high risk. Since 2012, the 2018 numbers are the lowest number of recalls. What happened after 2012? February 2013 was the start of FDA uploading whole genome sequences to GenomeTrakr and the transition away from PulseNet which uses the method of pulsed field gel electrophoresis. The greater sensitivity of whole genome sequencing has led to more recalls.

Timeline: April 2016
Given a head’s up on a pending report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), FDA created a team of senior leaders with oversight of recalls; the team meets at least weekly. Named Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution (SCORE), SCORE expediated the process for suspending the registration of two facilities as of December 2017.

This is where the E. coli hit the fan.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Food-Recall Process Did Not Always Ensure the Safety of the Nation’s Food Supply, December 2017. The 2017 report published from the OIG found FDA failures in food recall practices. The OIG made a series of recommendations on how the agency might improve its management of recalls.

Timeline: January 2018
FDA draft guidance [the January 2018 draft guidance is no longer available] on FDA’s policy and notification of recalled products and posting recalls to the FDA Enforcement Reports was published to assist the food industry in working with FDA through a recall.

What products are covered?
Food, drug, or device intended for human or animal use; cosmetic and biologic intended for human use; tobacco product; and any item subject to quarantine regulation. Radiation emitting electronic products are not covered.

Timeline: April 2018
I wanted to know when and how FDA used its new authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. Last year I wrote what I learned in a ConnectFood blog post, which included 3 cases:

    1. Sunland peanut butter sold finished product containing Salmonella.
    2. Kasel dog treats recalled after Salmonella found.
    3. Triangle Pharmanaturals’ kratom dietary supplements contain Salmonella.

One of my favorite sentences from the Kasel recall notification is as follows:

    If you do not voluntarily cease distribution and conduct a recall in the time and manner described in this section, FDA may, by order, require you to immediately cease distribution of the affected pet treats.

Timeline: September 2018
FDA Draft Guidance, Public Availability of Lists of Retail Consignees to Effectuate Certain Human and Animal Food Recalls Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff September 2018, was the first of three guidance documents published by the FDA. If known, FDA will notify the public of stores where recalled food was sold. Retail consignees include grocery store, pet food stores, convenience stores, but not restaurants or distributors.

Timeline: November 2018
In this FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on FDA’s effort to make more robust use of mandatory recall authority to quickly remove unsafe foods from the market November 2018, two examples were given for when FDA has notified the public of a recall:

    FDA Investigated Multistate Outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Linked to Fresh Crab Meat Imported from Venezuela, September 2018
    FDA Alerts the Public Regarding Recalled Vegetable Products, October 2018 McCain’s Ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat (RTE)

While I appreciate the explanation, the following sentence stopped me in my tracks:

We’ve already acted on these draft guidances.

I had previously heard that FDA was acting on a different unpublished draft guidance document, but here I saw it in print. It is not clear if the FDA is working from the published draft guidance shared with the food industry or from unpublished, draft guidance documents.

The second guidance document was published: Questions and Answers Regarding Mandatory Food Recalls: Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff, November 2018. The Q & A addresses three questions.

1. When will the FDA publicize retail consignee lists?
FDA will determine the likelihood of serious adverse health consequences or death of humans or animals (SAHCODHA) resulting in the food being adulterated and in most cases a class I recall. Some class II recalls or unclassified recalls will be publicized. I was very interested to see examples of what FDA considers high risk foods:

    Listeria monocytogenes-smoked salmon, pumpkin seeds
    Salmonella in ready-to-eat food-peanut butter, alfalfa sprouts, deli products
    Certain undeclared allergens in food
    E. coli O157:H7 in leafy greens
    Botulinum toxin- e.g. under processed canned chili
    Choking hazard in baby food, and
    Misbranded food with missing or incorrect food allergen labeling

For notification by FDA and in most cases, the retail packaging will make recalled food difficult to identify, and the food will be likely to still be in homes or stores. For example in the spring 2018 Romaine lettuce recall, much of the Romaine was beyond its shelf life and was not expected to be available in stores or homes by the time the recall was announced. From the Q & A guidance: There may be situations where both criteria are not met and FDA notifies the public. The FDA is not required to contact the firm before issuing a public warning or allow its review of the proposed statement. FDA may supplement or correct [the] warning.

What information will the FDA provide?
When FDA notifies the public of a recall, they wish to have information that help the consumer identify the product. Such information includes name of the food, lot or code dates, product description, photographs, geographic information, retail-related information, e.g. by naming the retail store chain, and potentially store specific information such as city and state. FDA will describe the risks and information about similar food that is not affected by the recall. FDA will state that the information may be under or over inclusive.

How will the FDA publicize this information?
FDA Public Warnings will come as a press release posted on the FDA website, alerts, and public notices by email, web or social media. Public notification of a recall is published in the weekly FDA Enforcement Report.

Timeline: February 2019
The FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps to strengthen the agency’s process for issuing public warnings and notifications of recalls February 2019, and FDA Guidance, Public Warning and Notification of Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C, Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff February 2019, detail the FDA’s current thinking on when FDA will notify consumers of a recall. Companies which do not cooperate with the FDA for a recall or communicate a recall slowly to the public may experience the FDA announcing a recall.

ConnectFood can help you meet the requirement of the rule and be prepared for a potential recall. The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting LLC
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she has delivered over 20 workshops to the food industry. With 35+ years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an active communicator at all levels of an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in the prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at


    1. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) January 2011
    2. FDA Rule, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food September 2015
    3. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report, The Food and Drug Administration’s Food-Recall Process Did Not Always Ensure the Safety of the Nation’s Food Supply December 2017
    4. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on efforts to support more efficient and effective food recalls December 2017
    5. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new policy steps for strengthening public warning and notification of recalls January 2018
    6. ConnectFood blog post, FDA Uses New Authority Under FSMA to Order a Mandatory Recall, April 2018
    7. FDA Draft Guidance, Public Availability of Lists of Retail Consignees to Effectuate Certain Human and Animal Food Recalls Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff September 2018
    8. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on FDA’s effort to make more robust use of mandatory recall authority to quickly remove unsafe foods from the market November 2018
    9. FDA Guidance, Questions and Answers Regarding Mandatory Food Recalls: Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff November 2018
    10. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps to strengthen the agency’s process for issuing public warnings and notifications of recalls February 2019
    11. FDA Guidance, Public Warning and Notification of Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C, Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff February 2019
    12. 21 CFR Part 7 FDA Enforcement Policy, Subpart C–Recalls (Including Product Corrections)–Guidance on Policy, Procedures, and Industry Responsibilities

The world of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) versus Preventive Controls is an interesting conversation we are seeing at and across the entire food industry. FDA has trained hundreds of inspectors in Preventive Controls for Human Food and there are thousands of Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals (PCQI’s) across the country and the world. There are tens of thousands of HACCP trained individuals. I have used the analogy that food safety best practices are like a sport; the more you train and the more you focus on “basics done well,” the better your plan will be on a day-to-day basis. The focus is making the food supply safer. This does not mean that HACCP is not valid, as a matter of fact HACCP and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) should be looked at as the foundation of Preventive Controls for Human Food. Local departments of public health still rely on HACCP as their main line of defense for the food safety industry. We have seen so many small processors and restaurants that have inspections at which HACCP is still the focus, even though Preventive Controls has some more advanced techniques for protection.

Both HACCP and Preventive Controls focus on making sure you have good sanitation practices, employee training and have done a hazard analysis for biological, chemical and physical hazards. I feel like the lines are blurring a bit as companies, academics, and regulators don’t often understand the differences between the two and – to be honest, the differences are not that great from a fundamental level. Here is where I come in with some definitions for you…

    “HACCP: A systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards.

    HACCP Plan: The written document which is based upon the principles of HACCP and which delineates the procedures to be followed.

    HACCP System: The result of the implementation of the HACCP Plan.

    HACCP Team: The group of people who are responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the HACCP system.

    Hazard: A biological, chemical, or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.

    Hazard Analysis: The process of collecting and evaluating information on hazards associated with the food under consideration to decide which are significant and must be addressed in the HACCP plan.”

The fundamental principles of HACCP come through in Preventive Controls with some additional areas to focus on as we enhance our food safety plans.

    “In general, you are a covered facility if you are required to register with FDA under section 415 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act. Covered facilities are required to have and implement a written food safety plan that includes:

Hazard analysis: The first step is hazard identification, which must consider known or reasonably foreseeable biological, chemical, and physical hazards. These hazards could be present because they occur naturally, are unintentionally introduced, or are intentionally introduced for economic gain (if they affect the safety of the food).

If the hazard analysis reveals one or more hazards that require a preventive control, the facility must have and implement written preventive controls for the identified hazards.

Preventive controls: Facilities have the flexibility to tailor preventive controls to address hazards that occur in the products they manufacture. The preventive controls, which must be written, must be implemented to ensure that any hazards requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented and help ensure that the food is not adulterated. The rule includes the following preventive controls:

Process controls include procedures that ensure the control parameters are met. Process controls can include operations such as cooking, refrigerating, and acidifying foods. They must include parameters and values (e.g., critical limits), as appropriate to the nature of the applicable control and its role in the facility’s food safety system.

Food allergen controls are written procedures the facility must have and implement to control allergen cross-contact and ensure allergens are appropriately listed on the labels of packaged food products.
Sanitation controls are procedures, practices, and processes to ensure that the facility is maintained in a sanitary condition to minimize or prevent hazards such as environmental pathogens, hazards from employees handling food, and food allergen hazards.

Other Controls are controls that are not described above but are necessary to ensure that a hazard requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented.

Oversight and management of preventive controls: Once a facility has identified a preventive control for a hazard, the facility must make sure that the controls are being met.

Monitoring: These procedures are designed to provide assurance that preventive controls are consistently performed. Monitoring is conducted as appropriate to the preventive control. For example, monitoring of a heat process to kill pathogens would include recording temperature values. Monitoring must be documented.

Corrections: These are steps taken, in a timely manner, to identify and correct a minor, isolated problem that occurs during food production.

Corrective actions: These include actions to identify and correct a problem implementing a preventive control, reduce the likelihood the problem will recur, evaluate affected food for safety, and prevent that food from entering commerce if you cannot ensure that the affected food is not adulterated. Corrective actions must be documented with records.

Verification: These activities are required to ensure that preventive controls are consistently implemented and effective in minimizing hazards. Examples of verification activities include scientifically validating process preventive controls to ensure that the control measure is capable of effectively controlling an identified hazard and calibrating (or checking the accuracy of) process monitoring and verification instruments such as thermometers. Verification activities also include reviewing records to ensure that monitoring and corrective actions (if necessary) are being conducted. Verification activities must be documented.

Product testing and environmental monitoring are also possible verification activities, required as appropriate to the food, facility, nature of the preventive control, and the role of that control in the facility’s food safety system. Environmental monitoring is required if the contamination of a ready-to-eat food with an environmental pathogen is a hazard the facility identified as requiring a preventive control.

Supply chain program: Manufacturers must have and implement a risk-based supply chain program if the hazard analysis identifies a hazard that

    (1) requires a preventive control and
    (2) the control will be applied in the facility’s supply chain.

Facilities do not need to have a supply-chain program if they control the hazard in their own facility, or if a subsequent entity (such as another processor) will control the hazard, and the facility follows applicable requirements.

Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that raw materials and other ingredients requiring a supply-chain-applied control are received only from approved suppliers, or on a temporary basis from unapproved suppliers whose materials are subject to verification activities before being accepted for use. (Suppliers are approved by the facility after the facility considers several factors, such as a hazard analysis of the food, the entity that will be controlling that hazard, and supplier performance.)

Another entity in the supply chain, such as a broker or distributor, can conduct supplier verification activities, but the receiving facility must review and assess that entity’s documentation that they verified the supplier’s control of the hazard.

Recall plan: If the hazard analysis identifies a hazard requiring a preventive control, the facility must have a written recall plan that describes the procedures to perform a recall of the product. The recall plan must include procedures to notify consignees, to notify the public when necessary, to conduct effectiveness checks and to appropriately dispose of recalled product.”

In conclusion, HACCP and Preventive Controls are both food safety risk management systems. provides the ability for all facilities that handle or process food to create a plan depending on what the regulatory authority or a clients needs. Contact us and let us assist you in your food safety planning.

About the Author
Matthew Botos is the CEO and Founder of ConnectFood. ConnectFood offers a step-by-step, “Do-It-Yourself” food safety plan generator to help companies comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act and On-Demand plan reviews from a national network of food experts. Mr. Botos is currently on the Food Safety and Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) International Subcommittee. He is also one of few approved Train the Trainer instructors of the FSPCA Lead Instructor program launched in October 2015 and has taught over 800 of the nation’s leading food safety experts.