PEOPLE UNFAMILIAR with the U.S. and global food supply chains and food safety systems might be surprised by the annual volume of food recalls that emanate from various government agencies, growers, and responsible processors. Additionally, you might be shocked to learn how much these recalls — all done for the cause of good public health — impact the U.S. economy.
Recalls can result from a wide variety of situations — from a simple accident (like a blown light bulb that showers glass in a food-processing facility) to improper labeling, or due to poor sanitary conditions (leading to food contaminations by E. coli and other harmful bacteria).
Just recently, Kraft Heinz Foods recalled approximately 2.1 million pounds of turkey bacon products because it could spoil before the “Best When Used By” date. In another case, Denver’s Lombardi Brothers Meats recalled 26,975 pounds of tenderized steak and ground beef products because it might have been contaminated with E. coli. In a much-broader-reaching situation, U.S. agencies issued a warning that several cumin powder spice products had tested positive for a peanut protein and were not labeled as a potential allergy danger.
When a recall is issued, every operation in the food supply chain must immediately check its records to determine if the recalled product is or has been through its facility. If the product is found to be on site, the operation must act very quickly — typically within two hours — to segregate and secure the recalled product(s) and report to the appropriate regulatory agencies. From our perspective, we also must identify and account for all outbound shipments of the recalled product.
In August 2015, the FoodSafety.gov website reported a total of 25 recalls, plus the cumin alert. Consider that number against the 94 recalls — and 18.7 million pounds of recalled products — the U.S. government reported for all of 2014. By conservative estimates, food-related recalls cost the U.S. economy about $7 billion each year in wasted products, wasted productivity, lawsuits, and damage control.
Food safety is an expensive, bureaucratic, and time-consuming enterprise, but it’s the price we have to pay to have confidence in the products we buy and consume.
column by BEN ADAMS, JR.
BIO: Ben Adams, Jr. is an owner and president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC, in Auburndale. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His facility incorporates 200,000 square feet of multitemperature warehousing, with an extensive expansion project currently under way.