Outbreaks happen all the time – some companies survive, others don’t. While employing a good food safety culture where folks in the organization know risks and value implementing safe risk-reduction practices doesn’t guarantee recovery from a crisis, it’s pretty hard to recover if the behavior isn’t there.
Snokist Growers, a 108-year old Washington State-based processing company filed for bankruptcy Wednesday after the fallout of a FDA investigation of illnesses linked to their apple sauce. In May, nine North Carolina kids reported vomiting and nausea after eating Snokist apple sauce. The FDA’s report detailed "nine major food safety violations, including dozens of instances of mold in containers of applesauce and puree that was later reprocessed for consumption."
The FDA also reported leaky fruit containers, pests (including bird feathers), and a lack of hand washing sites at the plant.
According to the Tri-City Herald,
The 108-year-old company cited orders lost in the wake of a critical federal Food and Drug Administration report and inflexibility on the parof its lender.
Snokist employs more than 600 mostly seasonal workers in its food processing plant in Terrace Heights and several warehouses across the Yakima Valley. The cooperative is owned by more than 150 growers who bring in their apples, pears, cherries and plums to be canned or turned into fruit cups, purees and juices.
Because apple and pear production is ending for the season, many employees were already in line to be laid off, said Tina Moss, the company’s local public relations representative from Enigma Marketing.
The company’s financial woes include a debt of almost $73.4 million to more than 2,000 creditors; its total assets are $69.6 million, according to bankruptcy documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The bankruptcy culminates a series of setbacks for the company, which was founded in 1903 and was once a powerhouse in the Yakima Valley.
As recently as 2002, Snokist employed up to 1,000 people at the peak of harvest season and worked with several hundred growers. But during the past decade, the company has cut employees and benefits and struggled with a massive strike, falling revenue and, most recently, the contamination complaints from the FDA that scared off customers and reduced sales.
Snokist said it determined that a malfunction of the applesauce cans could have caused spoilage and exterior damage. However, company officials at the time stressed that the FDA never established that the applesauce caused the illnesses.