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A Step-by-Step Guide to Make Mock Recalls a Routine Business Practice

The importance of performing mock recalls and a step by step guide for preparing and implementation no matter what your industry.

A step by step guide for conducting mock product recalls no matter what your industry.

Making Mock Recalls a routine business practice – A step-by-step guide

From the basketball court to the stage to the supply chain—practice makes perfect. 


Repetition is all about creating muscle memory so you can act immediately, automatically, and authoritatively without having to think. 

Because even a moment’s hesitation during a crisis can waste precious time and increase your risk. 

And for brands in the midst of a product recall, every second counts. 

That is why regularly performing mock recalls is such an important routine to practice. They prepare your team and familiarize them so that, in the event of an actual recall, they’re ready to act swiftly, accurately, and effectively. 

But how do you perform a mock product recall and why do they matter? Below, we’ll answer that and more.

What is the purpose of a mock recall? 

No matter your field, it is only through repetition and refinement of technique that you can truly master a task. The late, great, Kobe Bryant famously said that the secret to his success was, “Part perspiration, all preparation.” He had a legendary pregame shooting routine  where he forced himself to make anywhere from 500 to 1,000 jumpers before the game even began. 

But why did he do this? What was the purpose of repeating the same act over and over, again? 

It was to build up muscle memory so he could be ready for the shot—the game-winner.

This begs the question, “Are you ready?” Is your company prepared should a product, food item, or food ingredient be recalled? 


Have you taken your thousand shots?  

Without making mock recalls a routine practice for your business, you’ll be entering a crisis unprepared—which is a perfect storm for a PR catastrophe. But, by routinely testing and fine-tuning your process and systems, you ensure your organization is ready to act when the time comes.


How to perform a mock recall

The goal of any mock product recall or food recall is to poke holes in your system, identify weak spots in your process, and highlight your deficiencies. This will help you make improvements along the way.

While there’s no doubt that you want to strive for perfection, mistakes are expected, and it’s better to get them out of the way now, when your business’ reputation and your customers’ health and safety aren’t in jeopardy. 


According to Quality Assurance Magazine, the keys to an effective mock recall mock are:

  • Be realistic
  • Be comprehensive
  • Document everything
  • Critique/review yourself and your system
  • Assess the effectiveness of the mock recall


So, what are the recommended steps to prepare for a mock recall, and ensure food safety in the supply chain? 


Step 1: Get Management Involved 

It’s important that management is aware and on board with the mock recall, but unaware of when it will happen. Enlisting their support and participation is the only way to ensure that every employee takes it seriously. So, focus on the importance of practicing, and the long-term impact it can have on the company and its customers. 

By practicing now, you can protect the business in the future.   


Step 2: Build an Effective Recall Management Team 

Once you’ve enlisted management’s participation, it's important to designate a crisis management team who'll be responsible for handling your recall process and communicating with partners along the supply chain. Nominate the recall coordinator and then designate the chain of command.

According to Food Manufacturing:

Your team needs to be well-rounded and will ideally include the heads of maintenance, engineering, food safety, quality assurance and sanitation. If you have the luxury, you should also include a microbiologist, a chemist or a toxicologist.

Step 3: Select a Random Product and Don’t Warn Your Team Ahead of Time

If you’re trying to gauge the efficacy of your recall plan, systems, and processes, you can’t cheat by broadcasting to your organization that it’s going to happen. Like a fire drill, it needs to be conducted randomly, so that everyone treats it with the same seriousness they would in the case of the real thing. 

So, on the appointed day, we recommend selecting one or more products and lot number(s) to be used for the mock recall. From there, provide a reason for the recall (stating this is a Mock Recall is okay). There are a variety of mock product recall scenarios (from widely distributed products to more targeted), and although you don’t want to incite a panic, you shouldn’t pick something that is too narrowly focused in scope. Testing different days of the week, hours of the day, multiple locations, regions, or even time zones are all good ideas.

Challenge your team. By doing so, you can accurately test how prepared your team and supply chain is for the real thing.


Step 4: Perform the Mock Recall 

Once the mock recall has begun, it’s time to monitor your recall team as they track products via traceability procedures.

The team will be tasked with determining:

1. The products involved (differing sizes and quantities may be in play here)

2. The amount of affected product in the supply chain

3. Where the product is

4. Customers who have received the product

Ideally, your team would utilize product recall management software that automatically facilitates the process from investigation, identification, notifications, recovery, to record keeping and reporting.  


Download our guide on Recall Management


Step 5: Send Notifications and Monitor Responses 

Once you’ve created your distribution list and sent your communications (be sure to include an expected time frame to respond), you’ll need to start tracking responses and the time it takes for parties to respond. It’s important to gauge:

> Did recipients get the notification?

> Do you have good contact information? 

> Were the instructions clear on how to act?

> Did people receive the notification but not understand the need to respond, or how to respond?

> Was the product identification information clear?

> Was the correct product found?

> Were all the correct SKUs included in the responses?

> What other identifying information would be helpful?

> Were the instructions clear on what to do with the product? (Be sure to let them know that the product doesn’t have to be destroyed or sent back as this is just a test!)

> Did recipients respond within the expected time frame?

Step 6: Post Mortem Review and Adjustments

Once your test has come to an end, you’ll need to see how effective your team was, and you’ll need to measure your effectiveness percentage. You can do so by comparing the recovered product amount to the amount in inventory. Your goal is to reach 100% reconciliation, but in all likelihood, it won’t be. You might even end up well above 100%!

It is also recommended to spend time calling and debriefing with those that responded AND those that didn’t. Identifying aspects that work and areas that need improvement is important.

You’ll next want to spend time as a team reviewing your documentation and looking for areas to improve such as:

  • Internal or external communication issues
  • Silos of information, incomplete information, or conflicting sources of information
  • Incomplete or inaccurate contact information
  • Team members or supply chain partners that failed to follow the recall procedures
  • Issues with instructions, identification or labeling errors
  • Lack of control over products that were put on hold 
  • Slow or inadequate responses

From there, take the necessary steps to rectify the issues and cover your exposure gaps.


Step 7: Practice, Practice

As we’ve stated throughout this piece, you don’t simply do this one time and consider your job done—you do so regularly.

According to Food Logistics: 

As a general guideline, execute mock recalls every 12 to 18 months to identify any potential gaps and correct them. However, if a series of gaps are evident, “you don’t want to wait a full year to conduct a mock recall again,” he cautions. “Overall, it’s something that you want to make sure you’re doing on a frequent basis, that you’re taking action, and that you’re documenting it.

Remember, practice makes perfect. 


CMX1—The Go-To Recall Management System

Recall Management Software


Whether you’re running a mock recall or are in the midst of a real crisis, your operation must have a Product Recall Management System that automates the process end-to-end. 

CMX1 software is the platform that global brands depend upon. It comes stocked with critical features that allow you to act swiftly, accurately, and efficiently, such as: 

  • Automated identification of issues and trends
  • Quick identification of impacted parties
  • Full cycle event management
  • Automated communication and response management 
  • Real-time event monitoring
  • Comprehensive record keeping

Download our guide on Recall Management


When the health and safety of your customers and your brand’s reputation are on the line, you can’t take risks.

You need something you can trust and rely upon. 

You need CMX1




Editor’s note: This article was originally published in April 2020 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.