Karla Cook writes in tomorrow’s New York Times that the Peanut Corp of America-linked Salmonella outbreak’s reach has not been limited to multi-national companies:
Small businesses in all corners of the United States bought potentially tainted peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America and are now part of one of the largest food recalls ever in this country. There is the chef in Las Vegas, for instance, who used them in protein bars, the packager of nuts and dried fruits in Connecticut, the cannery in Montana that sold chocolate-covered nuts and the ice cream manufacturer in New York State.
While big companies like Kellogg, Kraft and General Mills have the experience and staff to handle recalls, many small businesses have never had to deal with anything like this.
Some have had to keep employees on overtime or hire additional help to handle the recall-related work — records have to be searched to identify and track products, and replacement products manufactured. And company officials say they are spending a lot of time reassuring their customers.
“It’s not our fault this recall went through,” said Tom Lundeen, who co-owns Aspen Hills Inc., in Garner, Iowa, which makes frozen cookie dough for fund-raisers. “We do everything correct and we have an incredibly high level of quality control, and we still have to pay for the mistakes of P.C.A.”
Yep, exactly – this outbreak has demonstrated the complexity and interconnectedness of the food system — which has largely been built on trust in suppliers or the results of their third-party audits.
Jenny Scott, a microbiologist and vice president of science policy and food protection for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group in Washington, said small businesses need to know their suppliers’ food safety culture and practices, and whether the suppliers are capable of doing the right thing. Last week, she helped teach a Web seminar for 60 participants, “The Ingredient Supply Chain: Do You Know Who You’re in Bed With?”
Like it was straight out of the pages of barfblog — although trying to assess the food safety culture and supplier practices is difficult, it’s not impossible. Creating and fostering the openess and transparency of food production through marketing food safety, with companies opening their doors can help buyers make decisions.
Benjamin Chapman, food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, went further. “If you’re in the peanut butter industry, you need to be thinking about salmonella,” he said. Learning about suppliers is challenging when the supplier is not local, and the layers of the national food system are difficult to pierce.