7 steps your organization can take to prepare for a recall
So Cheap, It's Sick
As consumers demand cheaper food, growers, manufactures, and food retailers can be pressured to cut safety corners. While this can drive prices lower, they also come with a higher price - the risk of food contamination. A study by the Pew Charitable found that the total economic impact of foodborne illness on those contaminated costs $152 billion annually in medical bills and lost wages. Such incidences can also be nightmare for any business involved - the public relations, litigation and logistics involved with stemming the problem can be enormous. For example, in 2007 Topps Meat was shut down after recalling millions of pounds of meat allegedly at risk of being tainted with E. coli; and in 2003, a Chi-Chi's restaurant customer contracted hepatitis in an outbreak traced to green-onions, later receiving a liver transplant and a $6.3 million settlement.
One way the industry drives down costs is by buying food from overseas. About 20 percent of the food consumed in the United Sates comes from other countries - often where regulation is looser. In recent months U.S. inspectors have identified Chinese exports including wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine and monkfish containing life-threatening levels of pufferfish toxins. In 2008, jalapeno and Serrano peppers from Mexico caused at least 1,329 cases of salmonella food poisoning in the United States and two confirmed deaths.
As the Federal Food and Drug Administration struggles to finance adequate oversight of food safety - it inspects just 2 percent of imported food - industry, too must balance fierce competition with safety costs. And even when business is not to blame for contamination, it can still pay the price. This can include brand damage by allegations and plant closures and business interruption for investigations.
Both general liability and food-specific insurance coverage can be invaluable in the case of foodborne illness allegations. But the best practice is to be a Boy Scout, and put safety first.
Do you think the public's demands for cheap food is to blame for foodborne illness outbreaks?