Product Safety & Quality

Consumers trust us to provide them and their families with products that are safe and of high quality. All of our products are designed and manufactured to be safe for their intended use.

Safety comes first

Grandaughter and granfather eating ice-cream

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 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 Consumer safety for more.

We monitor and track consumer and customer feedback and act swiftly to address potential product quality or safety issues. Sometimes mistakes can be made at our manufacturing sites or at our suppliers that potentially impact product safety or 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 (A class) and incidents that could potentially seriously impact product quality (B class). 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 supply chain in order to prevent a recurrence.

The number of market place incidents recorded by Unilever has been falling steadily since 2009. Between 2009 and 2011 there was a 60% reduction and 2012 to 2013 saw a further 48% reduction.  Between 2014 and 2013 however incident reduction performance has flattened as direct result of the number of management system changes that have been made during 2014 bedding. Going forward into 2015 we expected to see further improvements.

Continued focus on quality

By Q3 2015 the vast majority of our Foods and Refreshment sites will be certified to the Food Safety System Certification scheme FSSC 22000, a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked standard. FSSC 22000 is bringing increased rigour and focus and it will be one of the key factors that will drive continued improvement in quality performance. Later in 2015 we will initiate a similar external certification programme of our Personal Care and Home Care manufacturing operations, which we believe will bring similar benefits to those seen in our Foods and Refreshment sites.

Some consumers are concerned about the recent high profile food adulteration cases that have been in the media. Unilever will continue to work with external organisations and the authorities to develop more rigorous product vulnerability risk assessment and counter measure programmes that will help prevent future fraud. 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.

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