Jeff Koeze's Blog Good Food, Good Business, and the Good Food Business

5Feb/090

The Peanut Corporation of America Recall

As an owner of a company that makes peanut butter, this hardly seems the opportune time to begin blogging.  On the other hand, having worked with public official officials for nine years before entering the business world, I can see this crisis from both sides.  Three thoughts, doubtless to be revised as more information comes forward:

First, all of our public health system, including food safety, is chronically underfunded and understaffed at both the state and federal level.  This has been true for decades.  Money for inspectors and ongoing training should be the top priority moving forward.

Second, there are voices calling for the creation of a new food agency combining USDA and FDA functions.  I have yet to see evidence that this contributed to the current situation or would improve things going forward.  From what I've seen, government improvement re-organizations rarely fix much of anything, but they are excellent political cover if you have no intention of coming forward with money.

Third, there seems to be a lot of energy for enhancing the FDA's power to order recalls.  I'd tread cautiously here.  In the PCA case, it may come out that action on the recall was slowed because of a lack of cooperation on PCA's part.  Certainly King Nut's and Kellogg's reactions in this case were more responsible that PCA's.  But I think in most cases the food supply chain moves with urgency to determine which products are subject to recall.  That can be a bit of puzzle in many cases while receiving records are matched to manufacturing records to shipping records.  I'm familiar with one situation in which a few hours delay and some careful research turned a potentially large recall into a minor issue.

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