This morning, Phyllis Entis of eFoodAlert.com posted an interesting article on the Montefiore Cheese Salmonella recall that has occurred in Austrialia, Tazmania, and New Zealand. Ms. Entis’s issue with the conduct of the recall seems to be delays in product testing that revealed the contamination, and dissemination of that critical information to the food-consuming public. The article, titled Montefiore Cheese Plays Recall Hopscotch With Salmonella, asks:
It took more than three weeks for Montefiore to complete its Salmonella tests, in an era when Salmonella tests can be completed easily within 48 hours. What took so long? And why, with rapid testing so readily available, would Montefiore not follow a test-and-hold policy – an approach that would have vastly reduced the risk of contaminated products entering the food supply.
Another example, according to the article, of slow and inefficient action that lead to an outbreak occurred in Canada in 2008. Ms. Entis states:
I would refer Montefiore’s management to the 2008 experience of Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods. That company initially recalled just two batches – produced two weeks apart – of ready-to-eat deli meat, after those batches were found to contain Listeria monocytogenes. The recall quickly expanded to include additional production dates and deli meat varieties. Ultimately, the entire production facility was shut down for extensive cleaning and sanitation, and several months worth of ready-to-eat meats were recalled. Fifty-seven illnesses were linked to the contaminated deli meats. Twenty-two people died.
Though insightful and always worth emphasizing, this is not new stuff. Timely testing and reporting are critical to ensuring the safety of our food supply, and when contamination does occur, ensuring that people don’t get sick. As I have reported before,
whether it appears in a statute or not, recalling companies have an obligation not only to announce the recall but also to act aggressively in (a) identifying what retailers or other companies may have received the contaminated product (b) identifying what consumers may have purchased the contaminated product and (c) using all means necessary to make the important details of the recall (e.g. what products are included) known to retailers and consumers alike.
Ms. Entis ultimately concludes, as we both have before, "A bit more transparency would be helpful here." I still agree wholeheartedly. Consumer health and safety demands it.