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Final Guidance - Public Warning and Notification of Recalls
browse: Release date:2019-02-18
Final Guidance - Public Warning and Notification of Recalls


I. Introduction:
 
The purpose of this guidance is to assist and provide recommendations to industry and FDA staff regarding the use, content, and circumstances for issuance of public warnings and public notifications for firm-initiated or FDA-requested recalls under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C –Recalls (Including Product Corrections) –Guidance on Policy, Procedures, and Industry Responsibilities. The guidance also discusses what information should be included in a public warning, as well as the parties responsible for issuing it. It represents FDA’s current thinking on public warning and notification of recalls under 21 CFR Part 7.
 
This guidance applies to voluntary recalls of products subject to FDA’s jurisdiction, including any food, drug, and device intended for human or animal use, any cosmetic and biologic intended for human use, any tobacco product intended for human use, and any item subject to a quarantine regulation under 21 CFR Part 1240. However, it does not apply to radiation emitting electronic products which are governed only by 21 CFR Parts 1003 and 1004.
 
FDA's guidance documents do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities. Instead, guidance describes the Agency's current thinking on a topic and should be viewed only as recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited. The use of the word should in Agency guidance means that something is suggested or recommended, but not required.
II. Terminology:
Recall
Recall means a firm’s removal or correction of a marketed product that FDA considers to be in violation of the laws it administers and against which the Agency would initiate legal action, e.g., seizure. Recall does not include a market withdrawal or a stock recovery.(21 CFR§7.3(g))
 
Recall Determination
A recall determination is the assessment the FDA makes in deciding that a firm’s ongoing or completed removal or correction of a marketed violative product constitutes a recall as defined at 21 CFR § 7.3(g). A firm’s characterization of its action is not determinative of whether the FDA would determine that the action is a recall. A firm’s action constitutes a recall when it meets the definition of “recall” under 21 CFR § 7.3(g).
 
Recall Classification
Recall classification means the numerical designation, i.e., I, II, or III, assigned by the FDA to a particular product recall to indicate the relative degree of health hazard presented by the product being recalled or considered for recall. (21 CFR §§ 7.3(m), 7.41(b)). The determination is made on the basis of the health hazard evaluation and in consideration of the factors provided at 21 CFR § 7.41.
 
Public Warning
The purpose of a public warning under 21 CFR Part 7 is to alert the public that a product being recalled presents a serious health hazard. It is reserved for urgent situations where other means of preventing use of the recalled product appear inadequate. (21 CFR § 7.42(b)(2)). Public warnings under 21 CFR Part 7 can be disseminated through general or specialized news media, e.g., professional or trade press, and/or to specific segments of the population such as physicians, hospitals, etc. The FDA may issue public warnings in a variety of forms, including, but not limited to, press releases, emails, and web and social media postings.
 
Public Notification of Recalls
The FDA promptly makes available to the public in the weekly FDA Enforcement Report a descriptive listing of each new recall according to its classification, whether it was FDA requested or firm-initiated, and the specific action being taken by the recalling firm. (21 CFR §7.50).
 
Confidential Commercial Information (CCI)
Commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential means valuable data or information which is used in one's business and is of a type customarily held in strict confidence or regarded as privileged and not disclosed to any member of the public by the person to whom it belongs. (21 CFR § 20.61(b)).
 
III. Discussion:
The FDA’s policy is to evaluate the particular circumstances of each individual recall in determining whether a public warning is needed in accordance with 21 CFR § 7.42(b)(2) as part of the recall strategy. The FDA may issue a public warning or notification before formally classifying a recall under 21 CFR § 7.41(b). We note that due to the level of hazard associated with Class I recalls, the FDA has generally issued, and/or sought issuance of, public warnings in Class I or potential Class I recalls unless specific circumstances indicate that one would not be beneficial to the public. The FDA also recommends and/or issues public warnings for some urgent Class II recalls that, while not rising to Class I hazards, still present a serious hazard to health.
 
Once the FDA makes a recall determination or classification, the recall will be listed in the weekly FDA Enforcement Report in accordance with 21 CFR §7.50.
 
A. Public Warnings
1. Under what circumstances should firms issue public warnings?
Public warnings are for urgent situations and are issued to alert the public that a product being recalled presents a serious hazard to health, and where other means for preventing the use of a recalled product appear inadequate. For instance, public warnings may be appropriate for urgent recalls of prescription drugs or medical devices when retail level consignees cannot identify persons to whom the drug or device was dispensed. A public warning is also often needed when a recalled product has been widely distributed.
 
On the other hand, when recalled products have only been distributed to direct accounts, and the recalling firm has records that show exactly where the products have gone, a prompt and effective communication to such accounts informing them of the recall may be adequate to prevent the use of a recalled product. This could be an instance where the product has only reached the wholesale level, such as a warehouse or distribution center, and has not been further distributed to the retail or consumer level.
 
The FDA generally recommends public warning for recalls that are likely to be classified as, or have been classified as Class I recalls, unless specific circumstances indicate that the warning would not be beneficial to the public. Such circumstances could be where there is not adequate information to convey risk and appropriate actions, or when the product is limited to a small number of consignees that are easily identified and can be rapidly reached through targeted contact. Furthermore, different products might dictate different communication considerations. For instance, during a medical device recall, the FDA may consider how patients respond to a public warning about a defective product without first having the benefit of consulting with their physician. In these and similar situations, public warnings may be more confusing than helpful.
 
The FDA will continue to assess the need for public warnings for voluntary recalls of FDA-regulated products based on the particular circumstances of the individual recall. The following recalls generally present examples of serious hazards to health such that a public warning may be warranted:
 
l  Recalls of food products initiated by a firm after receipt of consumer reports of illness or injury (including allergic reactions), for which there is an active outbreak associated with the product or its ingredients, or for which the FDA has substantiated reports of illness or injury.
l  Recalls of food products that are intended for or would more likely be consumed by vulnerable populations. Examples of vulnerable human populations include infants, toddlers, the elderly, pregnant women, and medically-compromised individuals, who may be more susceptible to foodborne hazards than healthy persons.
l  Recalls of food products initiated because of manufacturing deviations where the consequences of the manufacturing deviations could have significant health impacts; e.g., under processed low-acid canned foods which could result in botulism if the product is consumed.
l  Recalls of food products initiated because of microbiological pathogen findings (e.g., Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, etc.) in environmental testing where direct food manufacturing contact surfaces are found to be contaminated.
l  Recalls of animal food products which may be contaminated with low levels of drugs or unsafe food additives. Examples include pet jerky treats contaminated with antibiotics, and cat food products containing propylene glycol.
l  Recalls of home use medical devices which could malfunction and lead to incorrect dosing of drugs or blood volumes.
l  Recalls of sterile injectable drug products which may contain particulate matter.
l  Recalls of implantable pacemakers or defibrillators where the device’s battery may fail suddenly and without warning.
The FDA may issue or supplement a firm’s public warning, among other actions, in the following situations: a firm refuses to issue its own public warning when recommended or requested by the FDA, an ongoing recall or public warning is not prompt or effective, or the FDA learns of a completed recall where new adverse events associated with the product are reported after completion of the recall. The FDA will generally provide a timeframe for when the firm should issue a public warning based on the circumstances of the individual recall. While timeframes will vary depending on the recall and product, these firms should generally issue a public warning within 24 hours of the FDA notifying the firm that it believes a public warning is appropriate.
 
2. Who prepares public warnings?
 
The FDA generally gives firms the first opportunity to prepare and issue public warnings during recalls. For instance, for firm-initiated recalls, recalling firms are expected to develop their own recall strategy. The recall strategy addresses, among other things, whether a public warning is needed and how it will be issued. In most cases, the FDA reviews and comments on the recall strategies, including any public warnings developed by firms (see 21 CFR § 7.42(b)(2)). Firms should include any drafted public warning as part of their submission of the recall strategy to the extent that it does not delay strategy development or recall initiation. In other situations that warrant an immediate warning, firms may choose to issue public warnings without the FDA’s review. The FDA may supplement that warning with its own public statement, if necessary. When the FDA believes that a public warning is appropriate and the recalling firm does not include one in its initial recall strategy, the FDA will generally request one from the recalling firm.
 
In some situations, the FDA may prepare and issue public warnings on its own initiative and in accordance with 21 CFR § 7.42(b)(2). This may occur, for instance, when the public needs immediate warning concerning a product and the firm has not issued a public warning or a firm’s public warning is deficient. The FDA will ordinarily work with the recalling firm to ensure the factual accuracy of a public warning. However, the FDA is not required to contact the firm before issuing a public warning or allow its review of the proposed statement.
 
If a firm issues a public warning that is deficient in any respect (see also section III.A.3 in this document), the FDA may supplement or correct that warning with its own public warning. If a firm’s public warning is not reasonably likely to be adequately received by the target audience, the FDA may ask the firm to reissue its public warning and/or the FDA may issue its own public warning. Additionally, the FDA may publicly issue information that may address outstanding questions about the nature of the incident and/or the Agency’s actions.
 
3. What information should be contained in a public warning?
 
The purpose of a public warning is to alert the public that a product being recalled presents a serious hazard to health. As such, a public warning should include: a) information to help identify the recalled product including images, numerical product information (e.g., lot number, expiration date, serial number, unique device identification (UDI) number), packaging information or brand names; b) the geographic areas and dates of distribution of the affected product; c) a thorough description of the product defect, health hazard involved, and reason(s)for recall (e.g., product testing, environmental sampling, etc.); d) the name and contact information for the recalling firm; e) instructions to consumers or users; f) the number and nature of any illnesses/injuries/complaints associated with the product, related to the product defect; and g) a description of common symptoms of any illness of concern. The headline of the public warning should include the brand name, type of product, and the hazard prompting the recall (e.g., “XYZ chocolate chip cookies recalled for potential Salmonella contamination.”).
In some cases, it may also be necessary to include the recalling firm’s supply-chain relationships in order to alert the public of the product being recalled. When possible, the FDA encourages firms to provide specifics about firms it sold product to in order to help people better identify and avoid recalled product.
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