Food recall process

Learn why and how foods are recalled, and find out what's done to protect consumer safety.


Identifying a risk

A potential food-safety issue may be identified by:

  • the business responsible for supplying the affected food or ingredient
  • a complaint made by the public to MPI's food-safety hotline – 0800 00 83 33
  • a report by an overseas authority where an imported food was produced
  • testing through MPI's food monitoring programmes.

Learn about MPI food monitoring:

Examples of food-safety risks:

  • Foreign objects such as glass or unintended ingredients.
  • Unlabelled ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction.
  • Contamination with microbes, such as bacteria or viruses that can harm human health.
  • Contamination with chemicals that can harm human health.

Deciding if a recall is necessary

MPI works with industry (the product's manufacturer, supplier, importer or distributor) to decide if a food should be recalled. When making the decision, we consider things such as:

  • the nature of the hazard
  • how it could affect people
  • how much of the hazard a consumer would be exposed to.

We use a risk analysis form to help reach a decision about a recall. 

Caution first

The safety of consumers is our number one priority in any recall. Food-recall decisions have to be made quickly, sometimes before all the information is available. If there's a possibility of harmful effects on health, the product is recalled – even if scientific uncertainty remains.

Recalling food

Businesses that sell the affected food are told to take it out of circulation. If there's any chance the food has already been sold to consumers, a plan for creating public awareness is developed. 

Making sure consumers know about recalls

The public are notified of food recalls in a number of ways:

  1. Notices are placed at outlets where the product was sold.
  2. A media release is issued to appropriate news services.
  3. The recalling company runs paid advertisements in selected media.
  4. A recall notice is published by MPI on this website.

The recalling company may also use social media and their own website to notify consumers.

Director-General statements

Besides recalls, MPI may issue statements to help warn consumers about food safety problems. This is done if:

  • it's especially urgent that a wide audience is made aware of a recall, quickly
  • there's a problem with a category of food but we don't yet know which product/s to recall
  • the manufacturer or importer of the food is responding too slowly or mismanaging a recall
  • there's a recall causing a particularly high level of public concern.

Stay informed

Scope of recalls

Recalls apply to all products containing the affected food or ingredient. To keep a related product (such as an earlier batch) on the market, the business that supplied it must demonstrate why it's different from the recalled item. 

Closing the recall

When the recall has been completed, MPI audits the process to see if the recall could have been done better. We also look for improvements to food safety practices that could have avoided the recall in the first place.

Find out more

Read MPI's step-by-step checklist that industry uses for notifying the public of a food recall

Who to contact

If you have any questions about food recalls, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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