Product safety

Consumers trust us to provide them and their families with products that are safe and of good quality. All of our products and processes are designed to be safe for their intended consumer or customer end use.

Safety comes first

Our Code of Business Principles sets out our commitment to provide branded products and services which are safe by design and to innovate on the basis of sound science, applying rigorous standards of product safety. The safe and sustainable design of our products and manufacturing processes is core to our approach to responsible innovation.

We have a long-established Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) which assures the safety and environmental sustainability of our products, and the processes used to manufacture them. See Consumer safety for more.

Unfortunately 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 mislabelling of ingredients. If this happens, protecting consumers' safety is our number one priority. 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 through the supply chain in order to prevent a recurrence.

During 2013 Unilever had 17 A and B incidents globally, a 29% reduction on 2012 (24 A and B). In 2012 we saw a 27% improvement on 2011 (33) and 2011 saw a 62% improvement on 2010 (63).

Continued focus on quality

The reduction of A and B incidents has been due to our continued focus on quality as an integral part of our business agenda. We have been putting programmes in place to improve the rigour of our processes – from sourcing and manufacturing to customer and consumer satisfaction with our brands. We will continue to drive for further improvement in 2014 including the full external certification of foods and refreshment manufacturing sites to FSSC 22000, a scheme fully recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

The Food Safety System Certification 22000 scheme – FSSC 22000 – has been developed for food manufacturers that process or manufacture animal or perishable vegetable products, products with a long shelf life and food ingredients such as additives, vitamins and bio-cultures. For more on FSSC 22000, see the External link. We are developing a similar approach for home care and personal care manufacturing sites.

Some consumers are concerned about the presence of particular chemicals in our products. 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.