The 2nd largest food borne illness outbreak in decades and it’s only been six months since the previous record.

January 29th, 2009

During today’s travels while waiting and waiting in Airports to travel east from Ohio

During today’s travels while waiting and waiting in Airports to travel east from Ohio, I had the opportunity to read several interesting articles related to the supply chain that retailers and suppliers need to pay close attention to.

SafeSourcing focuses on procurement optimization with an emphasis on people, processes and tools. While we ultimately drive cost compression that result in significant bottom line improvement through the use of world class business to business negotiation tools. With that in mind it is important to mention that we are also dedicated through this process to providing these results to companies while also insuring a laser like focus on product safety.

The first article referenced above appeared on the front page of the of the USA TODAY Money section by Elizabeth White and Julie Schmitt and was titled FDA: Salmonella detected before. To summarize the article, the most recent Salmonella out break may be a result of a company that sells products not complying with regulations that are in place to protect consumers. In the article, the FDA reports that there were records of 12 instances in which the company found Salmonella in finished products and shipped them anyway. Over five hundred people have already been taken ill during this outbreak and unfortunately as many as eight people have died.

This poses a consumer related question. As a consumer would you like the companies where you shop to buy their finished goods from suppliers or wholesalers that use these companies’ raw materials? You might need to bet your life on it. How would your retailer know not to buy finished products that contain tainted ingredients? How would their wholesaler know not to buy products from a manufacturer that used products from the producer whose products were tainted? How would the manufacturer know? The harsh reality is that takes to much process to trace the outbreak to its source of origin and ensure safety to the rest of the population.

This author has long been an advocate of safety in the supply chain and a traceable database with safety certifications in place by all supply chain members back to the source of origin and supported by a process that vetts suppliers for adherence to those certifications. In a July post I offered the following, “According to the CDC as of July 10th 2008 the number of those taken ill as a result of the St. Paul Salmonella outbreak had raised to more than 1000 people in forty two states and Canada. According to federal officials at the time, this was now the largest food-borne illness outbreak in decades”. Well here we are just 6 months later with over 500 people in 43 states affected and eight dead. So will this be the 2nd largest outbreak in decades or are we not done counting yet? This time we only had to wait six months for another large outbreak versus decades. This is scary stuff. It taxes our medical community, strains our federal agencies, and negatively impacts productivity in the work place.

At the end of the day, who is culpable when some one dies from one of these outbreaks? It certainly seems to me that consumers would hold every organization in the supply chain that did not have proof of direct efforts to ensure safety in their procurement process responsible.

This author has offered a number of practical solutions to this problem during the last year that are proactive and make common sense. I’d appreciate your comments as to any new ideas that we might collaborate on. Our supply chain and consumers deserve our best effort.

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