When mass food recalls hit the news, the public is sharply reminded of the chances they take when they purchase goods from a store. Even trusted brands may see their revenues plummet if they find themselves caught up in a scandal. We'll look at common food disasters, why they happened, and how they might have been avoided.
In 2018, Rose Acre Farms recalled nearly 207 million eggs after a Salmonella alert. These eggs affected multiple brand names and where sold to a variety of restaurants. A total of 45 illnesses were reported across 10 states and 11 people needed to be hospitalized. After the farm was inspected, it was found that the bacteria strains of the ill and those found on the premises were a perfect match.
This is certainly not the only incident of widespread illness. A number of threats, including E. coli, listeria, and Campylobacter, can cause serious issues for both the healthy and the immunocompromised alike. Micro-organisms have a tendency to appear when there's poor environmental control. Tools like proper ventilation, pest control tactics, and stringent hygiene practices can go a long way when it comes to keeping everyone safe from illness.
Most people have seen labels meant to alert a consumer that a product was made in a facility that also manufactured a common allergen. For example, a bag of pretzels that was processed alongside a bag of peanuts. But in 2016, the US Department of Agriculture noted that 34 out of 122 of recalls were due to undeclared allergens, a sharp increase in the percentage of total food recalls from previous years.
Tens of thousands of people are rushed to the ER every year due to food allergies, and many of these incidents can be avoided through proper labeling and better preventative measures. Inspectors typically trace these recalls back to machinery cleaning practices, as it's easy for minute allergen residue to cling to equipment (even after visual confirmation that all debris has been cleared away).
While our other examples focus on the relatively invisible forces at work during a recall, this disaster is a touch more substantial. Foreign materials, such as metal, wood, plastic, and insects, can end up in mass-marketed foods (sometimes in notable quantities). In 2012, there were 107 reports of physical contamination with metal, pests, and glass/plastic being the top three offenders.
Foreign materials often end up in products due to human or equipment error. If a piece of machinery malfunctions and a tiny part breaks loose, it could end up in one of countless pounds of meat, jars of sauce, or cans of vegetables. X-rays and metal detectors can potentially prevent some of these problems, but there are few guarantees in the case of foreign materials. These disasters are often traced back to the raw materials, meaning the problem was already present before the final product.
There's no doubt that food disasters are a nightmare of epic proportions. After public health is accounted for, the act of recalling multiple brands and packages is a logistical problem that few can solve without expending endless resources. FreshByte Software was designed for wholesalers to trace 100% of their products easily and accurately. If you're interested in how we can help you prevent a food disaster, contact us for more information today.