A Case for Food Safety Investment
In 2009, a single processor in the peanut industry caused one of the largest food recalls in US history. The following recollections of the case by William D. Marler, Esq., a well-known foodborne illness litigation lawyer, pointedly address today’s issues faced by CEOs.
“...Let’s start with the human toll, which is what I know best. My firm represents over 100 people who were sickened by the Salmonella and two families who lost a family member to it.”
“One of my good friends in the food processing industry estimates that the peanut recall will cost well over $500 million. It’s impossible to assign precise numbers, but you can start with the costs of tracking down, retrieving and transporting millions of items, most of which have already found their way onto retail shelves and kitchen cabinets.”
“...Then there are the lost sales—not just of the tainted products themselves, but also of related peanut products that may be completely safe.”
“...Let’s not forget the costs of advertising and public relations aimed at restoring consumer confidence.
“...And, then there are the losses to stock prices. One major food processor lost $1 billion in stock value following an E. coli outbreak.”
“...Is anyone keeping track of the math? Let’s call it $1.5 billion—just because of the actions of one small player in the peanut industry. The likely costs of compensating their sickened customers are a tiny part of that number; virtually none of the rest of that $1.5 billion will be covered by insurance.”
As a result, the FDA has reached out to the industry to work in partnership to define the “leading practices” to ensure food safety. The FSMA 2016 seeks to enact prevention rather than cure and to hold people accountable. CEOs know that imparting the seriousness of recalls has to be a trickle-down mantra. Every employee has to be on board and be invested in food safety protection.
The Importance of HACCP
The development of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) has provided a systematic way to identify and reduce the risk of food safety hazards in foodservice environments.
From a food processor’s point of view, refrigerated storage is one of the most widely practiced methods for controlling bacterial growth in perishable foods because pathogen growth is reduced by colder temperatures.
From a grower’s perspective, controlling and monitoring temperature and relative humidity will enable a grower to maintain optimum conditions for maximum storage life of the crop.
Karen L. B. Gast, Extension specialist at Kansas State University states , “Once a crop is harvested, it is almost impossible to improve its quality. Losses of horticultural crops due to improper storage and handling can range from 10 to 40 percent. Proper storage conditions—temperature and humidity—are needed to lengthen storage life and maintain quality once the crop has been cooled to the optimum storage temperature.”