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Food Recalls: Why They Happen and Why We Should Care

By BLUE Software

What if every day… every meal… every bite you feared an allergic reaction or even death? For the millions of Americans with food allergies, this is their reality. Food allergies are linked to an estimated 30,000 emergency room visits and up to 250 deaths a year in the United States.

According to the FDA, undeclared allergen information is a common cause of food recalls. For example, Hy-Vee American Macaroni Salad was pulled from store shelves because the packaging label didn’t mention the product contained milk and wheat products. Whole Foods Market’s Cherry, Blackberry, and Peach pies were removed because ‘egg product’ was missing from the labels. Nectar Foods Inc. recalled CocoNoNut Cacao-Nectar Bars because the bars might contain almonds, but the information wasn’t noted on the packaging. The list of food recalls is extensive, and labeling oversights like these impact consumers directly and personally.


So what happens when food recalls occur?

No consumer goods manufacturer is trying to hurt anyone. Sometimes, the problem is simply in the packaging and artwork development process. Lots of people are involved in reviewing and approving labels and artwork, and so it’s easy to think many eyes on a package equates to a high quality of information.

However, simple mistakes such as proofreading, typos, and omissions can occur because the more people there are in the approval group, the less accountable any one of them actually feels for the approval. Review quality can be diluted because of the number of people involved, and as a result, it can be unclear who is actually responsible for the activity.

This behavior is similar to what Robert Cialdini, PhD, identifies as the Bystander Effect: when individuals in a large group perceive they are each bystanders and therefore not totally or directly accountable for decisions.

Packaging Digest recently published an article on this topic titled, Own it: How more effective packaging approvals can help you avoid a recall by Jackie Leslie, BLUE’s Director, Business Development. Her article explains why mistakes occasionally occur, despite quality processes in place. Read the article to dive deeper into the psychology of getting artwork right.

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