When a product recall is announced, store personnel normally pull the items from the sales area to ensure that they are not sold. The Defense Commissary Agency has now gone beyond the norm of food safety by implementing a “fail-safe” response system that prevents recalled products from scanning at the checkout stand.
Through a procedure called Universal Product Code “lockout,” DeCA can ensure that recalled products are not inadvertently sold to customers. It's one more check in a food defense network designed to safeguard the health of commissary customers, said DeCA Acting Director Rick Page.
“We made use of existing commissary front-end technology to start a Universal Product Code ‘lockout' on recalled items,” Page said. “We're always researching, testing and fine-tuning ways to ensure food safety for our customers.”
Springing from a suggestion made to all retailers by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the UPC lockout provides a low-cost safeguard in making sure recalled items don't find their way back on the shelves or in a customer's shopping cart. DeCA officials immediately went to work to make that suggestion become a requirement for worldwide commissaries.
“We can now block an entire UPC at the register,” Page said. “We've closed that loop. A recalled product scanned at the register would prompt a flag indicating the item is not for sale so it will not ring up.”
The UPC block cannot be used on a recall for a specific lot number or date, said Page, though that capability could emerge in the future. For now, the system blocks an entire UPC. If the product becomes safe to sell again, commissaries simply remove the lockout. DeCA's public health staff said three recalls in 2007 required removal of an entire UPC and would have been perfect candidates for a lockout.
Commissaries receive swift notification of recalls, prompting immediate removal of any recalled product from shelves. The items enter medical hold status and are marked, inventoried and closely monitored until they are either released for sale or removed and destroyed by vendor representatives.