Canada: Recalls 2008: Are You Ready?

Recall and Crisis Management

The number of recalls and public notices of voluntary product withdrawals that have been issued over the last year is unprecedented in Canada. These recalls and notices have resulted in a far greater visibility and awareness of product safety and quality issues. Ensuring product safety and quality – and reassuring the public that products are safe – have now taken on a significantly heightened prominence and importance.


In Canada, there are very few circumstances under which a regulator could require a company to recall a product. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, for example, has the power to order a recall of a food if the CFIA reasonably believes that the food poses a risk to the public. There are also limited circumstances in which a manufacturer (or other participant in a production or distribution line) is statutorily required to notify regulators of a recall or a product safety issue.

Canadian regulators do, however, often have power to make other compliance orders. These powers include the ability to control the sale of suspect products by seizing or detaining products, stopping imports at the border and, potentially, taking other regulatory (and non-regulatory) action such as issuing public advisories. The effect of such compliance orders may, in the end result, be tantamount to a recall order. The impact of a public advisory, for example, is significant – it is notice to the general public that a regulatory authority considers the product in question to be unsafe. These notices may have a dramatic (negative) effect on product sales and on the reputation of the manufacturer.


Manufacturers and retailers regularly take voluntary, proactive steps to ensure that unsafe or suspect products are removed from the market. However, a recall or product withdrawal may also arise in the case of a non safety-related technical regulatory infraction. A manufacturer may also withdraw a product if that product fails to meet the manufacturer's high standards (which could, in fact, be higher than a regulated standard). Even if a recall or product withdrawal is precautionary (i.e., no safety issue exists) there could still be an impact on a manufacturer's, distributor's or retailer's reputation. In addition, to the extent that a manufacturer may be a product input supplier for a further manufacturer or a supplier for an end distributor or retailer, business relationships may also be negatively impacted.


Proactive steps that a company could take to try to avoid the likelihood of a recall arising would include:

  • comprehensive product testing and design assessment to ensure the product is safe;
  • constant vigilance to ensure that changing regulatory standards (in all jurisdictions in which the product will be sold) are monitored and observed.

In addition, a company should also ensure that:

  • consideration is given to adopting the most rigorous product standard – even though an international standard may be stricter than that required in Canada;
  • product purchased from suppliers is re-tested before use to confirm it meets regulatory requirements;
  • any third party processor, manufacturer or supplier used by the Canadian company can provide direct evidence of their adherence to quality standards and processes;
  • any contracts for third party processing, manufacturing or supply incorporate quality standards, direct oversight by the ultimate manufacturer, employee training and audit rights;
  • if a third party processor, manufacturer or supplier is outside Canada, consideration is given to hiring an independent party to periodically audit or review the foreign manufacturer's or supplier's facility;
  • contractual audit rights are exercised as frequently as necessary and that any audit is thoroughly conducted; and
  • consideration is given to incorporating random, unannounced inspections of suppliers to verify compliance with quality and safety controls and standards.

Apart from these steps, employee sensitivity to product quality and safety issues is essential – not only at a management level but at the level of employees who are actively involved in the manufacturing process on a day-to-day basis. Employee/management training should be specifically included in a company's compliance manual, undertaken for each new hire and regularly updated/renewed for employees and management (i.e., at least annually and more often if necessary).


In addition to the precautionary steps to avoid a recall, it is essential that manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, importers and distributors have in place a comprehensive recall plan that could be launched into action at the first indication of the need for a recall or product withdrawal. A recall management plan must ensure that a response/investigation is initiated immediately and must:

  • have senior management support and "buy-in";
  • set out, specifically, the recall team – including representation from all relevant business/manufacturing sectors, senior management, quality control/quality assurance, communications, marketing and legal;
  • specify any notification/recall obligations that the company may have;
  • identify relevant stakeholders for notification purposes;
  • confirm the person responsible for notifying regulators if necessary or if the company decides to do so voluntarily;
  • outline how the initial investigation will proceed;
  • have been tested (to ensure the plan will work when needed); and
  • have addressed, depending on the product, any immediate steps that could be taken while an investigation is pending – For example, should affected production lines be stopped temporarily? Should product be quarantined? Should alternative suppliers be engaged on a temporary basis?


Once the recall/product withdrawal has ended, the recall/withdrawal process must be reviewed to ensure that the recall management plan functioned appropriately and to assess whether:

  • any changes need to be made to the recall plan or to the composition of the recall team;
  • any employee disciplinary action or additional training is necessary;
  • any third party contracts should be modified and/or whether audit procedures incorporated in those contracts are appropriate;
  • the communications aspect of the plan ensured that all appropriate information was communicated to the public in a timely fashion; and
  • regulatory authorities were advised as appropriate and the company responded appropriately to questions or information requests by such authorities.

At the end of the day, the equation is simple. The more active steps that a company takes to avoid a recall or to prepare itself for a recall, the more the company will be able to minimize the effect of the recall. Its response to a recall/product withdrawal must be swift, commensurate with the gravity of the issue(s) that gave rise to the recall and fully responsive to queries from regulators and the public.

About Ogilvy Renault

Ogilvy Renault LLP is a full-service law firm with close to 450 lawyers and patent and trade-mark agents practicing in the areas of business, litigation, intellectual property, and employment and labour. Ogilvy Renault has offices in Montréal, Ottawa, Québec, Toronto, and London (England), and serves some of the largest and most successful corporations in Canada and in more than 120 countries worldwide. Find out more at

Ogilvy Renault is the International Legal Alliance's Canadian Gold Award winner for 2008 in M&A and Corporate Finance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions