Product Safety & Quality
Consumers trust us to provide them and their families with safe and high-quality products. All of our products are designed and manufactured to be safe for their intended use.
Safety comes first
Our Code of Business Principles sets out our commitment to provide branded products and services that are safe, and to innovate based on sound science. We have mandatory policies and standards in place to ensure that we meet this commitment. Safety and product quality are an important and integral part of our product design.
Unilever’s long-established Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) works with teams across the company to assess the safety and environmental sustainability of our products, and the processes used to manufacture them. As part of our Responsible Innovation approach, we design safety and sustainability into our products and manufacturing processes using the best science available. See Safety and Environmental Science for more.
We monitor and track consumer and customer feedback to proactively address potential product quality or safety issues. Sometimes mistakes can be made in the end to end value chain that potentially impact product safety or product quality. A product might, for example, have a quality defect or a contamination of the raw materials or a mislabeling of ingredients. If this happens, protecting consumers' safety is our number one priority and when it is necessary, we will recall such products from the marketplace.
We track the number of product incidents we have globally. Unilever classifies them into those that could potentially impact consumers’ safety and incidents that could potentially seriously impact product quality. Wherever and whenever these shortcomings occur we investigate them fully, identify the root cause and capture them within a ‘lessons learned’ document which is then deployed throughout the end to end value chain order to prevent a recurrence.
Over the last five years, market place product quality incidents have reduced by 54%. All improvements have been driven by focused improvement projects targeted at improved risk reduction measures in our manufacturing sites and those of our suppliers.
Unilever’s intention is to achieve zero quality incidents in the very near future through the application of World Class Manufacturing and the application of other targeted programmes. Our target for 2018 is to reduce quality incidents by a further 50%.
Separate to our market place incidents are our public recalls where we, as a company, recall or correct particular products for the protection of the public. The table below shows public recall data since 2013.
Number of public recalls
In 2017, two public recalls took place; one as a result of undeclared food allergens, and the other as a result of microbiological spoilage. No consumers were harmed as a result of these incidents.
Continued focus on quality
All 140 of Unilever Foods and Refreshment sites are certified to Food Safety System Certification scheme FSSC 22000, a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked standard. In addition, with support from the British Standards Institute and Industry partners, we have developed and published an equivalent standard for Home and Personal Care manufacturing facilities (PAS420), which has been adopted by an independent 3rd party and converted into a certifiable scheme HPC420.
Unilever will continue to work with external organisations and the authorities to develop more rigorous product vulnerability risk assessments and counter measure programmes that will help prevent malicious or economically motivated adulteration.
We continue to work in partnership with research organisations, industry partners, NGOs and regulators to strengthen consumer confidence in our products, and to work with them to try to find alternative ingredients, where appropriate. In 2017 we created an online platform which provides information beyond what’s given on labels, such as our approach to developing safe products, explanations of ingredient types and answers to common questions. For more information, please see what’s in our products.