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Food safety and quality

When a consumer drinks one of our brands, it should be safe, pleasurable, and produced to the highest standard.

Our approach

We aim to design and make products that are always safe for consumers to drink, and that meet their expectations in terms of taste, consistency, and presentation. By doing so we protect consumers, our customers, and the reputations of our brands and our business.

All our products go through a full regulatory review before they are launched, and although food safety legislation varies from country to country, we maintain consistency through global quality standards designed to match or exceed local market regulations. Our Global Quality Policy applies to all Diageo businesses. We also apply relevant quality standards to our third-party producers, who are contracted to comply with them.

Legal requirements for labelling vary from country to country: wherever we operate, we comply with the local requirements and include a ‘drink responsibly’ reminder on each of our bottles and cans, and a reference to

We are pleased to report that we recorded no food safety incidents in 2013 that resulted in a product recall. We want to maintain this record and ensure that we always strive for the highest quality for our products. To this end, all our manufacturing sites have improvement plans in place and are working towards a goal of zero defects in four main ways.

  • We analyse the root causes of quality defects and create improvement plans to address them – this has already resulted in a significant reduction in total defects across Diageo.
  • We are improving our management systems by working towards certification to ISO 9000 and FSC22000 at every site. The first site accredited was Bushmills, Northern Ireland, in December 2012.
  • We continue to engage our employees across the business to deliver ‘right first time’ quality.
  • We’re also building relationships with our customers through regular meetings to discuss their concerns. For example, we have piloted a new programme to develop customer feedback in North America this year that has improved our quality performance through activities such as a quarterly ‘scorecard’ review with each key customer where we share insights, highlight areas for improvement and track progress.


To maintain the best-tasting, highest quality products and packaging, we constantly measure our performance. We record ‘defects’ – any individual fault on a single product, that can be as small as a tiny tear on a label – and ‘incidents’, which usually refer to a defect that applies to a larger number of units. While the majority of the defects that we report on here are found before our products go to market, we also collect and respond to complaints from customers and consumers on any issue of concern to them.

This year we recorded a 62% decrease in total defects found before our products left our sites. This includes a 76% reduction in ‘critical’ defects (issues such as closure or cap damage, or an illegible date code). When defects such as these occur, we respond by holding the stock and carrying out a full root-cause analysis to prevent it happening again.

These decreases are the result of quality improvement programmes at all our sites. We have seen encouraging progress, for example, from a programme designed to address the challenge of packaging defects in Africa. Since it was introduced in 2011, we have reduced defects in Africa by 74%. In North America, we have invested in new packaging, coding, and labelling equipment which has resulted in a 87% reduction in defects this year.

We have also built quality into the design phase of our innovation process, which has helped reduce defects: for example, we expect the redesigned labels for Johnnie Walker Red Label and Baileys Irish Cream to reduce minor defects by 42%.

We have continued to gather and act on customer and consumer concerns through our consumer care lines and in‑market companies, and we aim to respond to any concern within five working days. We are enhancing our network for consumer care services in markets in Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Africa; and consumers can also reach Diageo through their retailers or our website. In total, this year we received and responded to 33 customer complaints per million units sold (a unit being one case of nine one‑litre bottles), which primarily concerned taste, or leakage from damaged containers.

Quality performance (2013)
Quality issue Description Improvement
on 2012
(% reduction)
Total defects1 Individual defects identified on isolated products 62
Critical defects1 Unsafe or illegal defects 76
Internal incidents2, 3 When an incident is identified before the product leaves our plant 30
External quality incidents2, 3 When an incident is identified by customers or consumers 14
Customer and consumer concerns Gathered through consumer care processes 9
  1. A defect refers to an individual fault on a single product unit. We define a critical defect as something that is unsafe or illegal. For example, an illegible product code is a critical defect.
  2. An incident relates to an entire batch. The possible causes of a quality incident vary, but might include: inconsistent taste; particles visible in the products; or incorrect labelling.
  3. External quality incident: an incident that has resulted in a product recall from the customer.

Reporting frameworks in this section

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