WTF? Keep food safety out of AIB, Kansas State proposal

A former colleague at Kansas State University asked me yesterday if I would deliver my annual talk with summer public health students despite being unceremoniously dumped last year.

I said sure, I’ll always talk with students: they shouldn’t have to suffer from administration incompetence (I pre-record the talk, send a bunch of background material and then skype in for discussion; works for most of the world, just not Kansas administrators).

mr_peanut_warningBut I also had to wonder when Kansas State announced they were proposing a $60 million partnership with AIB International (that’s the American Institute of Baking, also in Manhattan, Kansas) to create a Global Center for Grain-based Foods.

What marketing geniuses come up with these names?

“We are looking at our shared expertise to help enable the grain-based food industry, both from a learning/technical application, and from a food safety perspective,” said Andre Biane, president and CEO of AIB International.

Having AIB and food safety in the same sentence should shock anyone.

AIB is the third-party auditor that approved salmonella-tainted peanut paste that killed nine and sickened 600, gave DeCoster egg operations a “superior” rating and “recognition of achievement” in June 2010, just as thousands of Americans began barfing from Salmonella in DeCoster eggs, and a big thumbs-up to Veggie Booty before Salmonella started making people sick.

As has been documented, although AIB considered the Peanut Corporation of America  plant ‘Superior,” Nestlé twice inspected PCA plants and chose not to take on PCA as a supplier because it didn’t meet Nestlé’s food-safety standards, according to Nestlé’s audit reports in 2002 and 2006.

I also wonder when KState administratium goes on about its Australian ties and clearly knows nothing about the culture here, even with two former KState profs sitting here.

Keep believing your own press releases: it’s what universities are good at.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Food executives holding board positions at auditor AIB ‘could be a conflict’

One of the sidebars to the Bloomberg Markets Magazine piece about auditors and food safety led by Stephanie Armour, focuses on AIB International, the auditor involved in some big-time screw-ups, like the Peanut Corp of America outbreak that killed nine and sickened 700 and the Wright egg Salmonella outbreak that sickened almost 2,000.

Turns out, AIB Chairman David Murphy is president of Mother Murphy’s Laboratories Inc., a Greensboro, North Carolina, flavoring company that uses AIB to vet its factories. AIB Vice Chairman Donald Thriffiley Jr. is a senior vice president of Flowers Foods in Thomasville, Georgia. Flowers, which makes Tastykake desserts, uses AIB audits.

AIB’s previous chairman, Daniel Babin, is vice president of supply chain strategy at Bimbo Bakeries USA Inc. in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Its parent, Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo SAB, the world’s largest breadmaker, with brands such as Arnold bread and Thomas’ English Muffins, is audited by AIB.

Spokespeople for Bimbo and Mother Murphy’s said there was no conflict and these relationships didn’t affect audits of their operations. Flowers Foods says Thriffiley works to ensure that audits are independent and impartial.

“We do not believe that serving on the AIB board would in any way influence the outcome or quality of the inspections,” says David Marguiles, a Bimbo spokesman.

The American National Standards Institute, a group that oversees private auditors on behalf of the Global Food Safety Initiative, hasn’t cited AIB for any conflicts, says Maureen Olewnik, AIB’s vice president for auditing.

ANSI’s vice president for accreditation, Lane Hallenbeck, says he didn’t know that executives at food companies held posts at AIB; he plans to investigate.

“It sounds likes this could potentially be a conflict,” Hallenbeck says.

Did Bambi soil the nuts? Hazelnut packer declines FDA request for grower list

The Capital Press reported yesterday that an Oregon hazelnut packer has refused to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a list of its farmer suppliers the agency requested as part of an investigation into an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened seven in the U.S. and apparently two in Canada.

The statements by the growers and packers involved with producing hazelnuts were textbook examples of what not to do when foodborne illness is linked to a food product.

Polly Owen, manager of the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board, said most producers would prefer not to be visited by regulators from the FDA, but the decision whether to turn over supplier lists is ultimately up to handlers, adding, "We’re not going to try to tell any industry packer what they need to do.”

Isn’t that what producer organizations are supposed to do – provide decent advice to growers so they can limit their loses during an outbreak and use the attention to build consumer trust?

The FDA requested the information after hazelnuts packed by the George Packing Co. of Newberg, Ore., were voluntarily recalled in connection with several illnesses from E. coli bacteria, said Shaun George, a principal of the company.

"I think what they’re really interested in is the farmers. They’re concerned because they’re picked up off the ground.”

The company has refused to turn over the supplier information because it’s proprietary and because hazelnuts haven’t been proven to be the cause of the E. coli outbreak, he said.

Now the hazelnuts have been proven to be the cause of the outbreak, with a standard of proof lacking in most other outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Yesterday, lab testing in Minnesota confirmed E. coli O157:H7 contamination of in-shell hazelnuts (also known as filberts) collected from the home of one of the seven people so far confirmed sick – same genetic fingerprint. The contaminated hazelnuts are part of a multi-state recall announced last Friday, March 4, by DeFranco and Sons, a California-based nut and produce distributor. DeFranco and Sons is a re-packing company in Los Angeles, Calif., said Jerry DeFranco, a principal in the firm. All of the hazelnuts were bought from George Packing Co., he said.

"It’s not like we’re chopping them up or doing anything with them here," said Defranco. "We’re just passing them along."

Owen, of the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board, said E. coli O157:H7 is believed to originate in ruminant animals, so growers do their best to keep orchard floors clean, adding, "It’s not economically feasible to keep deer out of every orchard."

Is that an indirect admission that deer could be the source of this latest outbreak and that hazelnuts are not immune to nature?

And though DeFranco says it just passes nuts on to others, their food safety program efforts earned a gold star on the forehead from the American Institute of Baking (AIB) based in Manhattan (Kansas). AIB also gave a big thumbs up to Peanut Corporation of America before the salmonella-in-peanut-crap outbreak that sickened 800 and killed nine beginning in 2008, and DeCoster Eggs, source of the salmonella-in-eggs outbreak of 2010 which sickened almost 2,000.
 

Lousy food safety auditors put public and brands at risk

The voluntary quality control system widely used in the nation’s $1 trillion domestic food industry is rife with conflicts of interest, inexperienced auditors and cursory inspections that produce inflated ratings, according to food retail executives and other industry experts.

I’ve been saying that for a long time, but this is the Washington Post version, published this morning. I especially like the pictures of the Montgomery Burns Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, courtesy of AIB, the Manhattan, Kansas-based audiots that gave a stellar rating to PCA and Wright Eggs just prior to terrible food safety outbreaks and revelations of awful production conditions (see below).

The system has developed primarily because large chain stores and food producers, such as Kellogg’s, want assurances about the products they place on their shelves and the ingredients they use in making food. To get that, they often require that their suppliers undergo regular inspections by independent auditors. This all takes place outside any government involvement and without any signals – stamps of approval, for instance – to consumers. (That’s four-year-old Zoe Warren, right, of Bethesda, who was hospitalized in 2007 after contracting salmonella poisoning after eating a chicken pot pie. The photo is by Susan Biddle for the Washington Post.)

The third-party food safety audit scheme that processors and retailers insisted upon is, in many cases, no better than a financial Ponzi scheme. The vast number of facilities and suppliers means audits are required, but people have been replaced by paper.

In fact, most foodmakers, even those with problems, sail through their inspections, said Mansour Samadpour, who owns a food-testing firm that does not perform audits. "I have not seen a single company that has had an outbreak or recall that didn’t have a series of audits with really high scores.”

Third-party food audits, like restaurant inspection, are a snapshot in time. Given the international sourcing of ingredients, audits are a requirement, but so is internal food safety intelligence to make sense of audits that are useful and audits that are chicken poop.

Industry experts say some "third-party" inspections can be rigorous. Those that audit using internationally recognized private benchmarks "are much more thorough," said Robert Brackett, former senior vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. "But they’re less likely to be used because they are much more expensive."

Audits, inspections, training and systems are no substitute for developing a strong food safety culture, farm-to-fork, and marketing food safety directly to consumers rather than the local/natural/organic hucksterism is a way to further reinforce the food safety culture.

Will Daniels, who oversees food safety for Earthbound Farm, the folks who brought E. coli O157:H7 in bagged spinach in 2006 that sickened 199 and killed four, said, Earthbound regularly received top ratings in third-party audits, including one exactly a month before the tainted spinach was processed, adding,

"No one should rely on third-party audits to insure food safety."

“… if the incentive is to pass with flying colors, it creates a disincentive to air your dirty laundry and get dinged and lose a customer over it.”

After the E. coli outbreak, Earthbound put in place an aggressive testing and safety program that includes outside audits but also requires Earthbound’s own inspectors to show up unannounced to check suppliers. The company tests its greens for pathogens when they arrive from farms and again when they are packaged.

Too bad Earthbound didn’t figure all this out after the 28 other outbreaks involving leafy greens prior to the deadly 2006 outbreak.

Cost is another factor.

Food companies often choose the cheapest auditors to minimize the added expense of inspections, which range from about $1,000 to more than $25,000.

The foodmakers can prepare for audits because they often know when inspectors will show up.

And auditors have a range of experience and qualifications, from recent college graduates to retired food industry veterans. They sometimes walk through a plant, ticking off a checklist to produce a score, Samadpour said. Basic inspections do not typically include microbial sampling for bacteria.

In a written response to questions, Brian Soddy, AIB‘s vice president of marketing and sales, said company audits are intended to give food manufacturers "guidance and education for improvement."

Producers have the ultimate responsibility, he said, adding that the audits are voluntary and not intended to replace any FDA regulatory inspections.
AIB said last week that it is reevaluating its "superior" and "excellent" rating systems because they "have led to confusion in the wake of recent incidents," Soddy wrote.

Some retailers include inspections as just one piece of their safety programs.

Costco, for example, has its own inspectors but also requires its estimated 4,000 food vendors to have their products inspected according to a detailed 10-page list of criteria. Private auditors must X-ray all products for "sticks and stones, bones in seafood – anything you can think of that might be in hot dogs, baked goods, outside of produce," said Craig Wilson, Costco’s assistant vice president for food safety and quality assurance.

Costco maintains an approved list of about nine audit firms. The list does not include AIB.

Wal-Mart requires suppliers of private-label food products sold in its stores and Sam’s Club to be audited using private internationally recognized standards.

In addition to conducting its own product testing, Giant Food requires its vendors to be audited from a list of about a dozen approved firms.

Third-party food-safety audits fall under intense scrutiny

I spent the morning hanging out with a couple of visiting food safety types from Jordan. What was striking was how much we agreed that arguments about government turf, the inadequacy of audits, and the failure of food safety messages with consumers and other humans was a global phenomenon.

Beth Weise writes in tomorrow’s USA Today that if you’ve never heard of a third-party food-safety audit, you’re not alone. Few Americans know or care what they are. To the companies that produce much of our food, they’re an important tool to make sure it’s safe and wholesome — but critics say the certificates the auditors issue often aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Recent foodborne illness outbreaks have raised questions in Congress and elsewhere about the effectiveness of these audits and the impartialness of the process.

Auditors are the eyes and ears of a company buying food from a producer. A frozen-pizza maker hires an auditor to make sure the company it buys tomato sauce from has a clean, safe and well-run plant. But many problems — including dead chickens, rats, manure and salmonella — can fall through the cracks of their visits.

Last year, the Peanut Corp. of America, whose products sickened over 600 and may have killed as many as nine, got a "superior" rating at its Texas plant even as it was churning out peanut paste tainted with salmonella.

And last week Congress showed that one of Wright County Egg’s egg-packing plants got a "superior" rating from the same company on June 8, just two months before Wright became part of the largest known egg recall in the United States.

The company, AIB International (of Manhattan, Kansas, sigh), lists five standards on its website that inspectors expect to see in a "facility that maintains a food-safe processing environment." They are: ensuring that raw materials are safely stored and handled; equipment, buildings and grounds are properly maintained; cleaning and sanitizing is adequate; pests monitored and managed; and staffers are working together to deliver a safe final product.

When FDA inspectors actually went into Wright County’s henhouses at its Galt, Iowa, plant, they found vermin, filthy dead chickens and manure oozing out of doorways. More than 1,600 people were sickened in a salmonella enteritidis outbreak linked to the farm, and over 550 million eggs were recalled due to contamination at this plant and at nearby Hillandale Farms, where lesser problems were found.

"Superior" clearly doesn’t mean much, says Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. "How many dead mice do you have to find in your food before you get an ‘Excellent’ rating?"

Third-party food audits, like restaurant inspection, are a snapshot in time. Given the international sourcing of ingredients, audits are a requirement, but so is internal food safety intelligence to make sense of audits that are useful and audits that are chicken poop.

The third-party food safety audit scheme that processors and retailers insisted upon is no better than a financial Ponzi scheme. The vast number of facilities and suppliers means audits are required, but people have been replaced by paper.

Audits, inspections, training and systems are no substitute for developing a strong food safety culture, farm-to-fork, and marketing food safety directly to consumers rather than the local/natural/organic hucksterism is a way to further reinforce the food safety culture.

After the salmonella-in-peanut paste crap, Costco, a retail store, which previously limited AIB’s inspections to its bakery vendors, has now instructed suppliers to not use AIB at all.

“The American Institute of Baking is bakery experts,” said R. Craig Wilson, the top safety official at Costco. “But you stick them in a peanut butter plant or in a beef plant, they are stuffed.”

Or as Mansour Samadpour of Seattle said at the time,

“The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education.”

I asked weeks ago, who were the buyers of DeCoster eggs who used AIB audits to justify putting salmonella on grocery store shelves? Any retailers want to step forward?

And market food safety at retail so consumers can choose the poop they wish to purchase.
 

Food safety auditors can suck: Salmonella-in-egg producer got A-OK from same auditor that OKed salmonella in peanut paste

The same third-party auditor that approved salmonella-tainted peanut paste that killed nine and sickened 600 also gave DeCoster egg operations a “superior” rating and “recognition of achievement” in June 2010, just as thousands of Americans began barfing from salmonella in DeCoster eggs.

Beyond the theatre of yesterday’s House hearing about the salmonella-in-eggs outbreak that has sickened well over 1,600 was the revelation that DeCoster’s Iowa egg operations had been audited by the American Institute of Baking based in Manhattan (Kansas).

The N.Y. Times reports that documents released by the committee showed that Wright County Egg achieved a “superior” rating and “recognition of achievement” from AIB International, a private inspection company based in Manhattan, Kan., after a June inspection of its processing facility. That came just as the company was causing thousands of illnesses from contaminated eggs.

In 2008, AIB gave a “superior” rating to a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Ga., that was later found to be riddled with salmonella that caused a nationwide outbreak and the largest food recall in American history. A spokesman for AIB could not be reached.

Elizabeth Weise of USA Today reported today that Wright County Egg, one of the Iowa farms at the center of this summer’s recall of 550 million eggs, earned "superior" ratings for its facilities from a third-party auditor the past three years.

But the auditor was the same one that gave a superior rating to the Peanut Corp. of America, whose shipments were linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds a few years ago.

AIB International, of Manhattan, Kan., audited Wright’s egg-packing plant twice in 2008, four times in 2009 and at least once in 2010, and every time found it to be "superior," Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said during the hearing. … Calls to AIB were not returned Wednesday.

AIB International also gave the Peanut Corp. of America’s Plainview, Texas, plant a "superior" rating. An outbreak of salmonella linked to some peanut products shipped from that plant and another PCA plant in 2007 and 2008 sickened as many as 600 people and may have contributed to nine deaths.

This is beyond embarrassing. It’s criminal.

A Kansas State student wrote in 2009 that after a March 6, 2009 article in the N.Y. Times sorta shattered the myth of third-party food safety audits, he couldn’t get anyone at AIB to talk.

Since the release of the Times article, AIB now requires a minimum of two days or longer to complete an inspection at a food processing facility. AIB has also announced it will change the name of its Good Manufacturing Practices inspection certificates from “Certificate of Achievement” to “Recognition of Achievement.”

Is that like Homer Simpson winning the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence?

Apparently, the answer is yes, given the salmonella-in-eggs poopfest.

Third-party food audits, like restaurant inspection, are a snapshot in time. Given the international sourcing of ingredients, audits are a requirement, but so is internal food safety intelligence to make sense of audits that are useful and audits that are chicken poop.

The third-party food safety audit scheme that processors and retailers insisted upon is no better than a financial Ponzi scheme. The vast number of facilities and suppliers means audits are required, but people have been replaced by paper.

Audits, inspections, training and systems are no substitute for developing a strong food safety culture, farm-to-fork, and marketing food safety directly to consumers rather than the local/natural/organic hucksterism is a way to further reinforce the food safety culture.

After the salmonella-in-peanut paste crap, Costco, a retail store, which previously limited AIB’s inspections to its bakery vendors, has now instructed suppliers to not use AIB at all.

“The American Institute of Baking is bakery experts,” said R. Craig Wilson, the top safety official at Costco. “But you stick them in a peanut butter plant or in a beef plant, they are stuffed.”

Or as Mansour Samadpour of Seattle said at the time,

“The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education.”

Who were the buyers of DeCoster eggs who used AIB audits to justify putting salmonella on grocery store shelves? Any retailers want to step forward?

Coincidentally, Enreco Inc., a maker of flaxseed flours, bragged in a press release yesterday they had earned a “superior" rating from a recent AIB inspection at its Wisconsin production facility.

Enreco president Sean Moriarty said, “We are absolutely pleased to have achieved AIB’s highest rating for four consecutive years now, even while incidents of food product recalls in the last two years have caused AIB to toughen their inspections considerably."

Sean, you may want to rethink that PR.

Are third party food safety auditors as effective as financial ratings agencies?

I used to go on this annual golf trip that originated out of Guelph and ended up somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina about this time of year because it was relatively warm to people from Ontario and ridiculously cold to people in the south.

We got cheap rates.

I don’t golf much anymore. I like my wife.

One of the guys I used to regularly golf with worked for one of those financial ratings companies. He gave everyone golf balls. He was a bit tense last year, what with the financial meltdown and my endless taunting.

I thought of that person watching this bit from The Daily Show last night where Jon Stewart attempts to explain the underpinnings of the U.S. financial crapshoot.

And I couldn’t help think about the role of third-party food safety auditors in some of the spectacular (and tragic) outbreaks of foodborne illness in the past few years.

In the video below (takes a few minutes to get into it) use the words “food safety auditor” instead of third-party financial rating whenever it comes up.

Substitute money with safe food.

The Consumer Protection Agency is like the proposed single-food inspection agency; do people in Washington, D.C. really just play shuffle the chairs?

Substitute Peanut Corporation of America for Lehman Brothers, and Jimmy for AIB.

Sigh …

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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Broken links in food-safety chain hid peanut plants’ risks

Julie Schmit of USA Today has written another excellent overview documenting the multiple failures – bad inspections, bad audits, bad people — that led to the peanut paste crapola that sickened 700 and killed nine.

Below are just a few of the highlights:

•Deibel Labs, which ran more than 1,600 salmonella tests for PCA’s Blakely plant from 2004 through 2008, found almost 6% positive. It was so many that Deibel sent PCA’s samples to a separate part of its Chicago lab to lessen chances that they’d contaminate other products, Charles Deibel, the firm’s president, said in an interview. For roasted products such as peanuts, a positive rate above 1 in 10,000 would be high, Deibel said. Proper roasting kills salmonella with heat. PCA never asked Deibel to look into the issue, Deibel said.

•Nestlé audited the Blakely plant in 2002 and rejected it as a supplier. Nestlé’s audit report said the plant needed a "better understanding of the concept of deep cleaning" and failed to adequately separate unroasted raw peanuts from roasted ones. Having them in the same area could allow bacteria on raw nuts to contaminate roasted ones, a risk known as cross-contamination. The plant wasn’t even close to Nestlé’s standards, auditor Richard Hutson said in an interview. Hutson, who now heads quality assurance for several Nestlé divisions, said he shared his concerns with PCA officials at the time, but "they didn’t pursue it" further with Nestlé, he says.

• To win customers, Parnell "extolled" the fact that an auditor, AIB International, had rated the plant as "superior," said King Nut CEO Martin Kanan at a congressional hearing. King Nut sold peanut butter under its name that was made by PCA. That rating also satisfied Kellogg, which began buying PCA’s peanut paste for sandwich crackers in 2007.

• AIB also draws criticism from a former food-industry official. Its audit of PCA was "superficial," said Jim Lugg, former food-safety chief for bagged salad maker Fresh Express, who reviewed AIB’s audit of PCA at USA TODAY’s request. One example of "shallow treatment of a big issue," Lugg says, is that the audit notes that PCA had a written program to evaluate suppliers and had an approved list. But AIB did no further checking of the suppliers. Years ago, Fresh Express stopped using AIB audits because it found them inadequate, he adds.
 

Audits do not enhance food safety culture

“After the PCA (Peanut Corporation of America) plant, you had all the employees saying [the PCA facility] was a dump. It would have been nice for them to say that before nine people died.”

That’s what I told a student reporter for the Kansas State Collegian in this morning’s issue.

The reporter, Tyler Sharp, has been working on a story about Manhattan’s own American Institute of Baking, the auditor at the center of the PCA Salmonella fiasco, for weeks, and had trouble finding anyone to talk. After a March 6, 2009 article in the N.Y. Times sorta shattered the myth of third-party food safety audits, Tyler figured the homegrown story would be a no-brainer. Except he couldn’t get anyone to talk.

Since the release of the Times article, AIB now requires a minimum of two days or longer to complete an inspection at a food processing facility. AIB has also announced it will change the name of its Good Manufacturing Practices inspection certificates from “Certificate of Achievement” to “Recognition of Achievement.”

Is that like Homer Simpson winning the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence?

I told Tyler, the reporter,

“Third-party food audits, like restaurant inspection, are a snapshot in time. They are not indicative of what happens day in and day out. It doesn’t really tell you much. There are some audits that are OK. It depends on the auditor. My concern is that — and I have done a lot of work with farmers and producers and companies — what you really want is to help people become better with food safety, whereas an audit is just a checklist that penalizes people. That doesn’t necessarily help people get better with food safety.”

The third-party food safety audit scheme that processors and retailers insisted upon is no better than a financial Ponzi scheme. The vast number of facilities and suppliers means audits are required, but people have been replaced by paper. Audits, inspections, training and systems are no substitute for developing a strong food safety culture, farm-to-fork, and marketing food safety directly to consumers rather than the local/natural/organic hucksterism is a way to further reinforce the food safety culture.

Costco, a retail store, which previously limited AIB’s inspections to its bakery vendors, has now instructed suppliers to not use AIB at all.

“The American Institute of Baking is bakery experts,” said R. Craig Wilson, the top safety official at Costco. “But you stick them in a peanut butter plant or in a beef plant, they are stuffed.”

Or as Mansour Samadpour of Seattle says,

“The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education.”

Nestle says Peanut Corp. sucked; Kellogg’s says, how the hell could we know?

David Mackay doesn’t look like Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall fame.

But Kellogg’s CEO Mackay did an outstanding impersonation of McDonald’s, “How the hell should I know” skit (below) in front of a U.S. Congressional committee today.

“When you look at Kellogg, we have 3,000 ingredients and 1,000 suppliers, I think it’s common industry practice to use a third party.”

Not common enough for Nestle North America, which rejected Peanut Corporation of America’s Blakely plant as a supplier in 2002 after it found the plant had no plans to address hazards like salmonella.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that in January 2006, Nestle also rejected the company’s Plainview, Texas, plant after finding dozens of dead mice rotting in and around the plant, dead pigeons near a peanut receiving door and live birds roosting inside the plant.

Congressional types also heard today that auditors AIB — also known as the American Institute of Baking based in Manhattan (sigh, Kansas) — were hired and paid by Peanut Corp. of America, notified the company in advance when they were coming, how to prepare for inspections and then gave its plants glowing reviews.

An inspector with AIB wrote to the manager of Peanut Corp.’s Blakely, Ga., in a December 2008 e-mail produced today by the committee that,

“You lucky guy. I am your AIB auditor. So we need to get your plant set up for any audit.”

Mackay told the committee a version of, “how the hell could we know?” and that AIB is the most commonly used inspector by food companies in America.

Not for long. And for a company to say it meets industry standards ain’t so great when 700 are sick and nine dead.