Management problems cited in botulism case

Julie Schmit reports in USA Today today that,

Last July, Food and Drug Administration officials issued a rare warning to U.S. consumers: Botulism toxin was suspected in hot dog chili sauce made by Castleberry’s Food.

The botulism outbreak, which would eventually sicken eight and lead to a recall of tens of millions of cans of food, was the first in a U.S.-made canned food in 33 years.

The day before the warning, FDA investigators had begun an inspection at a Castleberry’s plant that set off alarms within the agency.

A previously undisclosed report from FDA that USA TODAY obtained from a congressional committee concluded:

• two 10-foot-tall cookers may not have heated cans enough to kill all bacteria, including those leading to botulism toxin;

• the cookers had broken alarms, a leaky valve and an inaccurate temperature device;

• the FDA criticized Castleberry’s for failing to correct problems, but those problems went undetected by FDA inspectors at the plant five months before the outbreak and by Department of Agriculture inspectors who were in the plant weekly; and,

• the cookers in the Augusta, Ga., plant showed "poor maintenance," and management failed to "correct ongoing deficiencies" in the plant. "Failure in management was ultimately the reason for the … botulinum toxin in the cans," according to the report.

Donald Zink, a senior FDA food scientist, says in the story,

"When you have a firm that fails so badly that they produce cans with Clostridium botulinum … there are invariably multiple process failures, multiple violations … and failed management systems.”

They call me…Tater Salad.

Mmm…nothing starts off the semester like a well-charred burger and a heaping pile of tater salad. But like Ron White, this tater salad should not be out in pub-lic.
I was recently a guest at a “welcome back” picnic along with about fifty other students. A few of the dozen or so faculty in attendance grilled up a box full of beef patties and tossed them in a pile for us all to assemble and consume in traditional picnic fashion. I looked them over, picked a luke warm specimen out of the bunch and threw it on a bun with ketchup. But was it done? It certainly looked done, but charred as it may appear, color is no indicator of doneness.
The star of the show, however, was really the five tubs of Kroger brand Mustard Potato Salad lying open on the adjacent table. “Poop Salad" as it was recently dubbed by a ColumbusING blogger from Columbus, Ohio, where E. coli O157:H7 was found in the salads during a routine safety check.  This was after the product was distributed and sold, of course. (That’s just the way these things work.) So Kroger did the socially responsible thing and issued a recall in attempt to remove the possibly tainted salad out of the refrigerators of innocent people and dispose of it properly.
So how does a recall happen? The information goes out: newspapers are picking up the story, TV news crews are spreading the word, satellites in outer space are linking up… but people are sitting around eating recalled potato salad like there’s just a little guy in a booth tapping Morse code and sad little beepings just can’t keep up.
It’s sad that it seems so true. Somebody out there is not keeping up. But who? During the recent  Castleberry chili recall people were still eating the stuff, not knowing there could be a botulism toxin inside, weeks after the recall was announced.
How do we get people to care about the safety of the food they eat? “I was tainted on a production line (possibly),” the tater salad cries. “You threw me…in-to pub-lic.” But the public isn’t paying any attention.

Casey Wilkinson is an undergrad research student at iFSN, and she loves her mom’s tater salad.