Vince Shiers: Food companies must grasp the importance of social media

Shiers, the Managing Director of the RQA Group, gave a presentation on 'Food recall trends and the role of social media' at the Insuring Food safety event at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue.

Read a text version of his interview here:

"What I've been looking at in the presentation this morning is the trends in the recalls. It's quite clear that in the US, and in Europe the number of product recalls are increasing year on year. The most common products recalled is typically fruit and vegetable products, but then we also have fish, nuts, and nut products, meats, etc, ready meals. There's a complete range of products. I can't think of any category of product that's immune from that.

The cause is due to microbiology contamination like listeria or salmonella, as well as things like toxin contamination, chemicals, pesticides, foreign bodies, etc. The more testing that's done, the more issues that we found. We used to be able to detect down to certain levels, and now with increased technology in laboratories they can detect much lower levels. If there's a banned substance it can be detected at the smallest level.

Social media's a big part of everybody's life these days. It can be an issue for companies when dealing with a contamination issue. Once it's known that there's a potential contamination or recall, then many people can get on the bandwagon and start posting things about a company's product, which may or may not be true.  It's really important that a company knows how to manage that sort of interaction.

The insurance industry working through, for example, product recall insurance, or product liability insurance, really contributes to the industry for risk management, and insurance as a joint solution. Working with companies to identify issues, and really trying to correct them, which is in the interest of the insurance agency, as well as the company themselves, of course."