Note: This report is not for public release.
After a thorough investigation into the 371 food-safety incidents documented last quarter, I’m relieved to report that not all of our customers’ complaints were valid. Most of the incidents on the list did not precisely fit our industry’s newly adopted definition of the term “rancid,” and therefore no action was necessary.
Several items on the list, however, prompted immediate action from the company’s operations team:
1) On the dates of 8/03/01, 8/05/01, and 8/13/01, order numbers L8966, L9153, and L9901, lot number 14: A warehouse supervisor in from QuickTime Food Stores, Albuquerque, reported approximately 45 cases of Thorsen ground beef product to be rotten.
Probable Cause: Although the meat had an unusual tint, it was not, as described in the warehouse supervisor’s report, rotten. The greenish color came from oil-based paint.
Corrective Action: Team leaders have sent letters to our regional managers detailing new painting procedures within warehouses and packing plants. Spray-painting operations in particular will no longer be allowed during production cycles. Incidentally, much of the embarrassment this caused both QuickTime Food Stores and Thorsen Distributors could have been avoided had the warehouse supervisor made the effort to smell the ground beef rather than base his entire report solely on its hue.
2) On the date of 7/17/01, order number L9994, lot number 10: A customer in a Keller Super Mart found a metal object embedded within one of our Value Flesh sausage links.
Probable Cause: The metal object most likely came from one of our technicians’ late-model sedans. The object appears to be a spark plug. The technician in question admitted to giving his car a tune-up during his shift and said the spark plug inadvertently slipped from his lab coat pocket into the hopper as he leaned over the packing machinery to inspect the casing twists. He chose not to report the incident.
Corrective Action: The employee has been transferred to Fleet Maintenance.
3) On the date of 7/22/01, order number A0087, lot numbers 17 through 30: A district manager at Nature’s Way Healthy Foods, Inc., noticed a toxic vapor rising from 13 boxes of our company’s Daniels Farms Homestyle Cheese.
Probable Cause: We believe the origin of the vapor to be formaldehyde. Maintenance logs reveal that over the course of the past year, metal fatigue in the formaldehyde delivery system of the coroner’s laboratory on the 2nd floor of our Dallas building developed into multiple slow leaks that affected the District 19 staging dock on the 1st floor. Technicians are still investigating the incident.
Corrective Action: Ingredient list for Daniels Farms Homestyle Cheese amended to include “industrial preservatives.”
4) On the date of 8/03/01, order numbers G4090 to F2002, lot numbers 3 through 100: Warehouse inspectors from several customers nationwide reported a suspicious white dust covering the hundreds of cases of our company’s Fresh Grown avocados.
Probable Cause: Terrorist activity in the west coast region. Accounts from foreign migrant workers on 17 farms in south and central California indicate repeated flyovers by small, contrail-generating aircraft. The flyovers occurred regularly during a two-week period in August.
Corrective Action: We have modified our complaint process to include an automated telephone menu system.
The past year has seen tremendous improvement in the safety of our food products. Intensified quality-assurance efforts by company agents, increased scrutiny by federal investigators, and several consumer litigation actions have greatly enhanced our company’s awareness of product safety. We in Product Compliance now believe Thorsen products, with a few exceptions, are safe for general consumption. Our competitors’ customers should be so lucky.
— Walter J. Simms, Product Compliance Manager.