Do retail companies have an extended risk window from the sale of tainted foods?

December 12th, 2008

Beyond the obvious social costs associated with responsibility and culpability in the sale and consumption of tainted foods

Beyond the obvious social costs associated with responsibility and culpability in the sale and consumption of tainted foods, the potential for huge litigation costs can put any company at risk for years after an incident actually happens. How traceable is your data?

In a recent issue in the The Arizona Republic there was a short article included in the week in review section titled Girl’s tainted-food death brings $13M settlement. This unfortunate incident actually occurred eight years ago at a Sizzler restaurant. The settlement was with the company’s meat supplier and others according to court records. Evidently, Brianna Kriefall did not even eat meat. She actually ate watermelon that had touched the tainted meat and passed away a week later. Additionally, one hundred and forty (140) other people became ill from the outbreak in two sizzler locations.

Today there continues to be an ongoing lawsuit where the national Sizzler chain and an insurance company are suing Excel Corporation a meat producer that is a subsidiary of Cargill Inc.

Beyond the settlement listed, additional costs such as the actual legal and related expenses associated with this case may never be known, but with retail industry net profit averaging about 3.4% you can bet the impact on earnings to be significant for some company.

In 2008 there have been more food borne illness scares worldwide than most of us can remember. Occurrences of salmonella caused illness, listeriosis, e.coli caused illness and illness associated with additives that don’t belong in consumable products like melamine have all occurred. And for those not in the consumables businesses there are other issues such as lead in toys. Who to fault is a longer discussion, but we can be sure of one thing. The first place a consumer will look is to the retailer that sold them the tainted product.

It is important to know where your products come from with a clear trail to the original source of supply, and what your suppliers are doing in the way of certifications such as GFSI and SQF to insure the quality of the food chain for retailers and their consumers. SafeSourcing is working to provide that information. If we do not have inforamtion readily available, suppliers go through a specific vetting of more than thirty (30) specific safety and environmental certifications to insure a greater level of traceability while also indicating a level of diligence on the part of a retailer that may mitigate some legal exposure.

As always, we look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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