‘Multiple little failures add up’ and cause outbreaks

This is a food safety story with no dead bodies, no sick people, and a company responding appropriately to questions raised by inspectors.

Mike Hughlett writes in tomorrow’s Chicago Tribune today that,

When food-safety inspectors called on Panera Bread Co.’s Chicago dough plant earlier this year, they found a host of manufacturing deficiencies.

For instance, a worker was spotted welding near a batch of bread dough — a contamination risk — while some dough was observed in dirty containers.

Panera’s records also indicated that in just over a year, the Chicago plant, which makes bread dough for 124 outlets in four states, fielded 10 complaints from consumers who had found foreign objects, mostly metal, in their food, including a washer discovered in a whole-grain bagel. …

The lesson is: Deviations from good manufacturing practices, which are at issue at Panera’s plant, often are at the heart of food-safety fiascoes. Companies either learn from the errors, as Panera said it did, or the risk increases that the next incident will be more serious.

Doug Powell, a food safety expert at Kansas State University, said,

"It’s multiple little failures that add up; these are warning signs.”

Martin Cole, who heads the Illinois Institute of Technology’s National Center for Food Safety and Technology agreed, adding,

such failures are "fairly common, I’m afraid."