New certification scheme a wake up call for industry

Toyota recalls a series of models with safety problems, an E coli outbreak kills over 30 people in Germany, hundreds of manufacturers caught up in a food safety crisis involving plasticiser DEHP in Taiwan – recently found in Australian food products and a full list of product recalls in Australia from motor vehicles to baby strollers.

These headlines make the announcement of a new certification scheme designed to prevent and manage product recalls very timely.

Developed by the international certification organisation RABQSA, the International Product Recall Coordinator (RABQSA-IPRC) certification program will recognise the important strategy, risk management and communication capabilities that managers of consumer goods companies need to prevent and manage incidents, reduce the impact of recalls and prevent crises.

Product recall expert Steve Hather, who chaired the certification scheme committee and who is also on the international working group developing a new international standard for product recall, believes the certification scheme is overdue.

“This scheme will ultimately lead to safer products for consumers and an enhanced reputation of companies that have certified recall coordinators on staff, says Hather.

“It sends a clear message that the company is serious about developing systems and processes that reduce the risk of incidents occurring but when they do, that fast effective action is taken to reduce risk to consumers and damaging the reputation of the company and its brands.”

Hather is Managing Director of RQA Asia Pacific Pty Ltd, the region’s only specialised product recall consulting company.

After 13 years of working with some of the most trusted names in consumer goods industries to reduce risks associated with product recalls, RQA have captured some very valuable lessons.

“All responsible companies will continue to strive for incident-free operations, Hather says. “Despite that, suppliers will have a problem, mistakes will be made, a process can fail, regulations change and people – and sometimes the media, respond in surprising ways to issues and incidents. A crisis however is not inevitable. In the context of products, crises occur through poorly managed incidents and recalls.”

While it is inevitable that a company will have an incident, whether it escalates to a crisis
comes down to a company’s ability to:

  • Quickly investigate a problem
  • Make decisions based on solid information and robust analysis
  • Understand and manage a range of stakeholder expectations
  • Take fast effective action to reduce risk
  • Get back into business quickly and
  • Learn from the experience

“Where we see problems is not necessarily around the mechanics of a recall – often the
focus of most plans, but around how a company assesses risk, develops strategy, engages with key stakeholders and communicates, says Hather.

“RQA is incorporating those lessons into very practical training courses that will help managers improve their capabilities for preventing and managing recalls and prepare them for certification as an International Product Recall Coordinator.

“RQA is proud to announce the launch of RQA Product Risk Institute – a training company dedicated to improving product risk management, product recall planning and implementation and crisis prevention for consumer goods companies. The Institute will offer a range of short courses in product risk management, incident investigation, recall planning and implementation, preventing and responding to malicious tampering, business continuity and crisis management.

“We believe enhancing knowledge and skills through effective training and recognising those skills through the RABQSA-IPRC certification scheme will ultimately lead to safer products and an enhanced reputation for the companies that produce them.”

For further information on the RQA Product Risk Institute, see
In each of the next five editions of Industry Update, Steve will be selecting one key lesson from previous recalls and providing some additional information about how to prevent incidents escalating into crises. In the next issue, Steve will talk about how ineffective traceability caused what should have been a small scale recall to escalate into the recall of a whole product line and risking the reputation of the brand.

Steve is also happy to answer your questions on product risk, recall and crisis management. Contact Steve on