Cone of silence popping up in botulism-risk soup recall

The Waterloo Region Record has an update on the botulism-risk, soup recall from Southern Ontario (that’s in Canada) that led to 9,600 litres of soup being pulled from shelves and estimated loss of greater than $100,000 to Barrie Bros. Local Food Company. The recall was initiated after indicator organisms were found in samples of broccoli soup processed by a co-packer/processor in Guelph. Health officials believe that the co-packer’s processing time for this product was inadequate.

Andrew Barrie, co-owner of Barrie Bros. Local Food Company talks about some of the challenges dealing with this type of a crisis:

“You can’t just dump it on the fields,” Barrie said. “You can’t pour it down the drain.” [Barrie] found a beef and hog operation in Wellington County that is able to feed waste food products like the soup to their animals, mixed with regular feed.

A cone of silence is starting to pop-up around who the copacker is. This information isn’t for finger pointing or laying blame (Barrie Bros. have already negotiated a deal with the processor to share the recall costs) but it is important information for other small business who currently (or would like to) use the facility for their products. Food safety risk reduction and business protection is  about making informed decisions about processes, inputs and suppliers. Without identifying the business at the center of the recall, and providing a forum for them to demonstrate how they’ve changed/fixed their process, businesses and buyers are in the dark.

In November 2006, Hershey Canada announced a major recall in Canada and shut down its Smith Falls, Ontario, plant for three weeks after Salmonella was found in their products. The contamination was linked to lecithin, an ingredient used in chocolate production. CFIA who was all over the national airwaves refused to release the lecithin supplier’s information – and left many companies wondering if their supplies were also contaminated.

Health officials and the co-packer in question are doing themselves a disservice by not going public. Take the Barrie Bros. Local Food Company lead and let folks know that there was a problem and show them how it’s being addressed.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.