Last year, Constellation Brands issued a voluntary product recall for a small batch of their popular Corona Extra lager due to the potential of small glass particles in some bottles. Unfortunately, it seems to be a process the company is all too familiar with. For a massive company like Constellation Brands, a small-scale product recall is hardly damaging. But what if your brewery or distillery finds itself in a similar situation?
While you can initiate a product recall of your own accord, it usually starts when the TTB has reason to believe that an alcohol beverage is, or may be, adulterated. Before taking any recall action, the TTB first consults with the FDA. If the FDA identifies an urgent health hazard, or the TTB decides there are significant mislabeling issues, the TTB will contact the responsible party and recommend a product recall. As part of this process, you will need to create a strategy for removing affected products from the market, present this strategy to the TTB, and inform the TTB of the final results of the recall effort.
Technically, the TTB does not have statutory authority to require you to recall products, but they are far from powerless. They can notify trade associations and the public by any means they see fit, detain product shipments, and suspend or revoke permits and licenses. They can also examine financial records and other documentation relating to the manufacture, removal, or sale of the product in question. So, if they request that you conduct a product recall, it’s in your best interest to comply and act quickly.
After your recall strategy has been implemented, the TTB will follow-up by requesting a Recall Status Report to determine whether your recall efforts were effective. Generally, this report should include:
• Dates customers were notified
• Number of customers notified
• Number of customers responding
• Quantity of product returned and when this occurred
• Additional details and benchmarks attesting to the effectiveness of the recall
Once the TTB double-checks with the FDA and is satisfied with the results, they will advise you to stop your recall efforts. Unfortunately, a successful recall doesn’t guarantee that you’re in the clear – the TTB can still take administrative action against responsible parties after the recall is complete. If that occurs, you should contact a lawyer with experience in alcohol beverage law (if you didn’t already at the start of the recall process) to clarify your rights, liabilities, and which courses of action are best for your unique situation.
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