You Can Kill Somebody

Yesterday’s post by Bill Marler really brought home the idea that failing to do the right thing could kill somebody.  The attorney and food safety advocate made the  connection between the death  of a tiny baby boy and someone at a cheese company  not doing their job.  The baby had died from the complications of his extremely premature birth.  The premature birth was induced by his mother’s listeriosis infection.  She had eaten listeria contaminated cheese.

 When you read the FDA or CFIA report following a food safety disaster you find that somebody just didn’t do their job.  The FDA finds cantaloupes are left sitting in dirty water at Jensen Farms and hens and their eggs are surrounded by salmonella laden feces at Wright County Egg.  In Canada at Maple Leaf Foods, CFIA finds a slicer coated with listeria.  The procedure called for the frequent cleaning of this slicer.  Unfortunately no one was checking to see if this was being done and even worse no one knew how to take the slicer apart.

Never in these investigations does it turn out to be one employee or a small group, it’s always the company’s management’s failure to do the right thing – to put in systems to assure proper cleaning, systems to assure that equipment is properly inspected, systems to assure employees are trained properly.

 During the investigation the FDA or CFIA investigator asks to see the person that is in charge of food safety and then a middle aged, middle manager degreed in food science or one of the natural sciences is pushed out.  The only people, he or she has authority over is the small team of technicians they manage.  Never when the question is asked does the CEO step up and say I’m the one that is responsible for food safety her.  I’m the one that if they don’t lead this company in the right way it could make a product that kills somebody.

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