“They called me crazy at Masters and Johnson. But I’ll show them.”
The demented Dr. Bernardo from Woody Allen’s 1972 film, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).
A week ago I asked, with all the recalled products related to Samonella in peanut paste, what problems did the third-party auditors uncover and what was done about such problems?
A few weeks ago, Chapman and I wrote that,
Third-party audits are an incomplete form of verification that provide a limited view of a producer’s facilities and documentation but do not effectively reduce risk. …At some point, folks will figure out that all these outbreaks of foodborne illness – like Salmonella in peanut butter – happened at places that passed so-called independent audits.
Ten years ago, I told the Ontario greenhouse tomato growers they should have their own in-house food safety expertise to help farmers produce safe product and to market the program, with test results, to buyers and consumers.
They said I was crazy.
This morning, the N.Y. Times and USA Today are reporting that Peanut Corporation of America, the Blakely, GA firm at the epicenter of the Salmonella shit storm, had “regular visits and inspections” of its Blakely, Ga., plant in 2008, not only by federal and state regulators but by independent auditors and food safety companies that made “customary unannounced inspections.”
Kellogg’s auditor, the American Institute of Baking checked out Peanut Corp. of America’s Blakely, Ga., plant in 2007 and 2008 and gave it superior ratings both times.
"That’s frightening," says Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.
Andrew Martin of the Times writes that,
Peanut Corporation of America’s statement was released as food manufacturers and public health officials tried to determine how so many inspectors missed what some have said were obvious problems at the plant, including improper sanitation procedures, live roaches, mold and slimy residue on floors and equipment.
Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Kellogg, said,
Had Kellogg known of the problems at the plant that the Food and Drug Administration detailed recently, “we would have discontinued the relationship with P.C.A. immediately and would not have accepted any ingredients from them.”
Jim Munyon, president of AIB International, based in Manhattan, Kan., said the company would not have received a superior rating if his auditors had seen the filth the federal government described.
“It would mean that we didn’t see it on the day we were there. What goes on the rest of the time, we don’t know.”
He did say that AIB wouldn’t see internal test results unless PCA shared them. "They show us only what they want to show us," he says.
Doug Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University, said the salmonella outbreak at Peanut Corporation of America showed the “fallacy” of independent audits, which are commonly used to verify food safety, animal welfare claims and organic production methods. While the intent might be good, he said, the results are usually withheld from the public.
“Companies say they do all this testing. Great. Show us the data. They won’t. Given all the outbreaks, why should we believe them?”