The Obama Administration Could Do Something Monumental For Food Safety

September 2, 2012

According to the Obama administration, as they cut off the funds to the Microbiological Data Program, that program that finds salmonella and listeria on produce saving thousands of people from getting sick and possibly hundreds from dying, the core mission of the USDA is to facilitate the competitive and efficient marketing of agricultural products.  That being said, this administration now has the opportunity to do something monumental for food safety and possibly save some money at the same time.  Take all responsibility for food safety that the USDA has and give it to the FDA.  The FDA is already responsible for the safety of 80% of food products.  Make them responsible for 100%.  It’s all about focus.  Let the Department of Agriculture focus on improving and promoting agriculture.  Let the FDA focus on the safety of our foods and drugs.

Every administration wants to save money.  The FDA and the USDA each get about a billion dollars for food safety.  Save 500 million dollars, give the FDA $1.5 Billion and do something monumental for food safety.



Is Writing An Audit Report Overlooking Servere Food Safety Issues A Criminal Offense?

August 5, 2012

Last week Bill Marler had a post asking whether the Jensen brothers should face criminal charges for the deaths and illnesses caused by their listeria tainted cantaloupes.  The post includes the report from the FDA’s investigation.  The place was an absolute disaster.

 This brings another question to mind – is writing an audit report overlooking severe food safety issues a criminal offense?  The Jensens had been audited by Primus and none of the significant food safety issues found by the FDA came to light.  Did the auditors just miss the issues?  It’s possible.  Or did the auditors intentionally fail to report the food safety issues?  Intent in the future could separate the incompetent from the criminal.  Right now we are seeing auditors being pulled into the same liability litigation as those they audit.  Is it possible that in the future will we see auditors before the same court as their clients.


Food Safety Incidents and Their Collateral Damage

June 16, 2012

We read about the number of people that get sick and the tragic deaths coming from food safety incidents.  This is about the damaged lives of the food safety and production professionals who were the troops on the ground at the time of the incident.

In 1985 Jewel permanently closes it dairy that had been supplying 25% of Chicago’s milk.  Their salmonella outbreak had sickened 18,000 people in 6 states.  One of the dairy’s production managers after a year out of work finally found a job on the sanitation crew of a juice company.  Two of his sons had to drop out of college.  With over twenty years of production management experience he had become a pariah as far as the dairy industry was concerned.

 In 1996 a little girl dies and several become ill drinking E coli O157:H7 contaminated apple juice from Odwalla.  Ten years later, the guy that was their Quality Assurance Manager is still stumbling around trying to find a real job.  Things did not go a whole lot better for this guy’s boss.    

 In 2005 Orchid Island, a small juice company in Florida makes 11 people in Michigan sick with Salmonellosis and there’s a recall, lawsuits etc.  The QA Manager is out looking for a job but of course no one is hiring.

 All of this could have been written with moral outrage.  These innocent or maybe not so innocent food safety and production professionals weren’t calling the shots, approving the budgets, setting the policies, etc.  It’s unfair that their lives were damaged but no one says things must be fair.  This wasn’t written to discourage people from food safety careers or to get those in food safety roles to get out.  It was written as a thing for consideration for all those food safety and production professionals at the crossroads between championship and complacency.

Further Food Safety Budget Cuts

June 9, 2012

When is the Federal Government going to put their money where their mouth is?  Or more aptly when are they going to put our money where our mouths are?  The 2013 budget for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is $996 Million down $9 Million from 2012.  The FDA’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition hold their own at $866 Million, same as last year.    Using the government’s own numbers, the Center for Disease Control says 48,000,000 get sick, 128,000 go to the hospital, and 3,000 die because of food-borne diseases.  Budget cuts, what are they thinking?

Is Food Safety A C-Position

May 20, 2012

2008, before Listeria, 22 deaths, massive recalls, Maple Leaf Foods executive team included public relations, six sigma and stockholder liaison but no quality or food safety expert.  I read once that change can only come through a significant emotional event.  Michael McCain. Maple Leaf’s CEO is on TV, tears streaming down his face.  2012, Dr. Randal Huffman has been Maple Leaf’s Chief Food Safety Officer for three years.

 Most food companies are like the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods, the responsibility for food safety rests with a manager that is a part of manufacturing.  They have to audit and report on their peers to a common boss.  If they are really into their job, generating long lists of non-compliances and required changes they are not a team player.  If they let everything slide and an issue result then they are shown the door.  Most just report enough to make like they are doing their job but never report something that can’t be quickly and cheaply repaired or corrected. 

Food Safety must have the ear and the support of the CEO.  They must be an equal to the head of manufacturing, of sales, of finance.  There must be a Chief Food Safety Officer.

Was Jensen Farms Fooled By Stellar Audit Reports?

December 3, 2011

Before the massive recall, people at the Peanut Corporation of America knew things weren’t right and they were flirting with a real disaster and I am sure that at Wright County Eggs someone realized it’s not good to have mountains of chicken poop all around.  They weren’t fooled by their good audit reports from AIB.  Is it possible that the people at Jensen Farms truly believed the stellar audit reports from Primus?  Two years in a row they received reports that they had everything under control and were doing an excellent job.  The FDA comes in a finds significant causes for concern.  We will never know for sure, but this may have been a big surprise to the Jensen Farms people.

Food Safety At The Store Level

November 6, 2011

Food store management should be trained regarding food safety issues.  They should know what to do if a customer returns spoiled product to the store, the questions to ask if a customer thinks a product made them sick, etc.

 Yesterday, my daughter purchased some salsa from the produce section of the Safeway in Herndon VA.  The salsa was bubbly and obviously fermented.  I said I would return it for her.  My concern was that there might be more on the shelf and someone else might not be as observant as we were.  The person at the customer service counter was way more concerned about receipts, whether we wanted the money put back on the credit card, etc.  I mentioned to her that she might want to get the produce person to check the rest of the salsa on the shelf.  There was absolutely no comprehension of what I was talking about.  She was way more focused on being sure my receipt was properly marked; mine was on making sure that someone didn’t get sick from fermented salsa.