Sometimes the involved food authorities call you first. Afterwards, an email or a fax follows. They took samples from one of your customers. They took it, analyzed it and found something wrong. The attached note says: “Please give us your statement by following date…..”, frequently accompanied by a photograph of the packaging. Take a deep breath and use a methodological approach now. Find our tipps here ……..
Which documents did you receive?
The first step for a good defense is to check out completeness of information. Usually the authorities supply a sampling protocol, together with an analyze and an expert opinion and assessment. Most issues contain a delivery note from your company and a photo of the complained packaging. Did you receive all that? Fine – now you can start checking it!
Be suspicious of the Sampling Protocol!
In Germany the official controls of foodstuff are in different hands – depending on the respective federal state. The sampling protocol is a form and referring to a legal norm, such as § 43 LFGB in Germany, under which the sampling had been affected. Also it must indicate who and when the sampling took place, also how many grams were taken. Did they indicate also the target of analysis?
Check plausibility of the protocol now:
– Is the company where samples were taken your customer or the customer of your customer
– What kind of packaging had been sampled? (Your packaging/customers packaging?)
– Check the expiry date of the packaging – is it still up-to-date?
– Check the lot no. – are you sure it’s your lot?
It can prove helpful in replying to these questions before going further into the matter, because it already shows whether your products had been processed by others before samples were taken. In these cases, the complaint might not affect you.
I.e.: In case of mould, it is essential to know more about the packaging the mould has been found. In your “original” packaging or in the packaging of your customer? In the latter case hygienic or environmental factors, such as humidity, may have had an impact on the development of mould.
Each production process step beyond your control also can confuse about the origin of the goods. Perhaps somebody else supplied the goods? Therefore, compare the sampling date and your delivery date. If the sampling date is before the delivery date or very nearby– the risk of confusion is high!
Take special care on the labeling of the sample. Does it adhere to the packaging sampled? Is the sample within the remaining shelf-life at time of sampling, or is the shelf life already extended?
Of course the quantity of the sampled product must been indicated on the document. Does it correspond to the legal sampling key? The legal sampling key may be different in every country, so please just ask for it in your country.
Is there a written confirmation on the sampling form of a responsible person of the company that a second, sealed sampled had been taken and left in the company? This is very important in case of dispute. Because only with this a cross check can be made later on.
Be sure that….
– the name of the person that performed the sampling,
– the name and address of the laboratory which analyzed the goods and
– the way how sample was dispatched from the sampling point to the laboratory
is indicated in the report.
Only with this you can be sure that the protocol has been fully completed and no formal error has occurred. Otherwise you already can have reason to doubt the official claim already at this stage.
You should also inform your supplier
At this stage and just in time you should call your supplier for appropriate help and report about the incident. Pass over copy documents to him and ask him to gather important points for a statement towards the authorities. AKO The Spice Company! can provide a lot of analyses to support you in this points. Please be aware of the fact that not every authority is specialized in spices. Therefore mistakes could happen.
Check the date of analysis and the date of sampling. It may happen that there is more than four weeks between those dates. In this case, the data of the analysis is not representative any more.
Is the laboratory accredited for the special analysis it was doing? Information on this are often laid down on the website of the lab. If not: you can doubt the validity of results.
Check if the packaging and the labels of the samples which were sent to the lab correspond to the indications in the analysis report: even here confusions may happen.
If there is a summarizing assessment of the involved laboratory, Sisyphus work is starting now: because you need to go into the regulations and norms. The best things to happen to you is if there is a summarizing like “the quality does not conform to the general public perception” because this is a really weak and vulnerable statement. The general perception is an elastic term.
Check the assessment by doing some literature work. Therefore check norms like
– DGHM (German Society for Hygiene and Medicin)
– Codes Alimentarius and Quantity Minima Document of ESA with annexes
– Or other norms in the EU bases on VO EU 178/2002
– Or DIN Norms
Our tipp: As precautionary measurements collect data already at an early stage. This saves a lot of time and bewares of stress!
Analysis of your Retaining Samples
If you delivered a blended product to your customer, try to get all information and analyses of the ingredients now. Collect those data.
In any case you should test your retaining samples of the product delivered. Many authorities mostly do not accept results from internal laboratories; therefore you save time when sending your sample directly to an accredited laboratory with a recognized expert.
As your customer to send you the sealed retaining samples of the authorities. Ask you authorities which laboratory and expert will be accepted and whether they allow you that lab to retain the official seal.
As all analyses will take some time, it’s better to ask the authorities for a prolongation of your statements deadline.
Statement to the relevant State Authorities
Your statement should be based on facts. List your testing parameters as detailed as possible. Put in question what you found out during checking the protocol and the summary of the expert (including the Laboratory Parameters). Our tip: in any case, put in question the summary “quality does not conform to the general public perception”, because this is really negotiable.
Ultimately, the references to the analysis results of the retaining samples are helpful.
You should be aware of the following: a good relationship to the authorities is also helpful in the future, even if there is no crisis. So it is of great advantage to look pragmatically at the whole question. Demonstrate your professionalism and your professional expertise. Here you will score high marks with your authorities. Furthermore, use every opportunity, to intensify the contact and to have a facing.
In case of questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
All data given are according to our todays knowledge or opinion. They are without obligation.