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It seems the problem is at an all-time high. Daily news articles reveal recalls due to product mislabeling. Everything from peanut butter to medications have been taken off the shelves in recent months, many companies explaining that there is nothing wrong with their product, it just does not contain the necessary warning label or ingredient listing. The questions beg to be asked. Why were these voluntary recalls necessary? Why were these products not correctly labeled from the beginning? What can be done to rectify the situation as well as prevent similar mistakes?

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After all, product recalls, even those that are voluntary, cost companies money and can damage their reputation. In addition to concerns over lost revenue there is added worry for the individuals who might experience allergic reactions due to use of an incorrectly labeled product, as well as the potential of law suits and FDA penalties.

In recent months product recalls due to mislabeling were connected to everything from unjustified marketing claims (e.g. "100% all-natural"), to failure to include all ingredients on the label, or failure to include allergy warnings. These mistakes in labeling could be due to any of a variety of reasons, the most common of which centers on companies' lack of knowledge about their own products. Many companies lose sight, or never know, the formulation and manufacturing details of their product. Because of this, necessary information about trace elements, contaminants, shelf-life, and contamination source issues are often unknown or unconsidered. Through deformulation and product testing an item can be broken down into its basic ingredients down to the parts per million to see the exact chemical make-up. This process, along with other analytical testing services, is the most comprehensive way to gain the necessary answers to questions of trace ingredients, contaminants and more. In addition, hiring an analytical laboratory to conduct failure analysis testing can prevent or rectify mis-labeling.

Failure analysis or product defect testing enables a company to see what current or potential failures their product could experience and encourages problem solving before an issue escalates. If this analysis is performed after a failure has already occurred, the analysis can pinpoint the problem and provide the information necessary to quickly fix the issue and return the adjusted product to circulation. If failure analysis is performed prior to product release then these issues can be mitigated before they ever create a real problem. This approach provides valuable information regarding potential allergy warnings, unknown contaminants, and other likely misfortunes.

Whether looking to prevent recalls or trying to rectify a product failure, extensive chemical analysis performed by a knowledgeable laboratory is the best way to identify the root of the problem and devise a solution. Companies who employ the necessary pre-market testing are equipped to correctly label and promote their products. Companies who use testing after recall or batch failure, will be able to quickly find solutions and construct quality control measures to prevent future troubles.

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Dr. Shri Thanedar, Ph.D, is the CEO and Chief Chemist at Avomeen Analytical Services. He has over 20 years of experience serving as chief scientist or expert witness on over 20 litigation support projects involving chemical analysis, product failure analysis, reverse engineering, and polymer and rubber analysis.

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