You Can Kill Somebody

October 7, 2012

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.


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.