Sickening staples: Peanut butter recall highlights our need for a culture of responsibility

The story behind salmonella-tainted products from Peanut Corp. of America has resulted in consumer wariness for all peanut-based products. Could some of the losses resulting from this tragedy have been prevented via enhanced traceability? The answer is a resounding “yes,” as the retail industry has developed a set of standards for the traceability of various food products that rely upon EDI, data synchronization, bar-code labels, and RFID.<br/>

02/18/2009



Nine suspected deaths, 600 people sickened, and the possibility of 2,000 contaminated consumer products now hang in the balance following the most recent rash of food-borne illness in the United States. What’s more, a criminal investigation is ongoing as a black cloud hangs over peanut butter, a huge staple of the American diet.

The story behind salmonella-tainted peanut products from Peanut Corp. of America , which has now filed bankruptcy, sadly grew longer and longer as a sister plant in Texas was added to the investigation initially sparked by poor management at the company’s Georgia-based plant.

Today the result is consumer wariness for all peanut-based products.

Could some of these losses have been prevented via enhanced traceability and investigation on the CDC and FDA’s part? The answer is a resounding “yes,” as the retail industry has developed a set of standards for the traceability of various food products that rely upon a few key e-commerce technologies such as EDI, data synchronization, bar-code labels, and RFID.

But the problem is many of these technologies have yet to be adopted by major retailers and agricultural product manufacturers, rendering traceability models useless in their efforts to accelerate the recall of unsafe food products from the supply chain.

Rear-view reactions

Considering the money—and lives—lost due to the salmonella crisis, companies should begin investing in these e-commerce technologies now, before the next outbreak occurs.

Regarding the operations of Peanut Corp. of America, says Steve Wilson, a U.S. government food inspector and member of the board of the American Society for Quality ( ASQ ), “There’s a limited amount of information available because there’s an ongoing criminal investigation. But it appears that the quality system designed for [Peanut Corp. of America] wasn’t followed for reasons that haven’t come out yet. The problem with any quality management system is it has to be agreed upon and followed. This is a management responsibility issue.”

Among the well-established best practices for preserving the security of food quality in the supply chain, Wilson adds, is the rigorous Hazardous Analytical Critical Control Point ( HACCP ), a protocol developed by the Navy more than 30 years ago to ensure against contamination of food for astronauts in space.

“It’s a mechanism for identifying hazards and where they would be introduced in the supply chain. [It’s about] controlling them at that point through documentation and extreme process control,” says Wilson. “If the limit is exceeded, you immediately bring it back into control.”

It’s all about prevention, Wilson continues. “It’s near impossible to test defects out of a product,” he says. “You can’t rework it to make it acceptable.”

But readily available e-commerce technology can serve to better contain a potential health risk should contaminated product enter the supply chain.

“The technology is available, but not fully leveraged to identify the source and react faster if there’s a problem,” says Steve Keifer, VP of industry for B2B e-commerce specialist GXS . Data synchronization is essential for this, he says.


According to Steve Keifer, VP of industry for B2B e-commerce specialist GXS, data synchronization taps auto-ID technology such as bar codes or RFID to track shipments and view information about ingredients, processing locations and dates, and other critical supply chain data.

“Data synchronization allows manufacturers to share product catalogues with customers, distributors, and retailers of their products,” he explains. “Using XML, you can electronically send all relevant data associated with each individual SKU. If everyone had synchronized product data, it would be a simple exercise to go into the database and pull up all products to determine the universe of impacted SKUs.”

Data synchronization uses auto-ID technology such as bar codes or RFID to track shipments and view information about ingredients, processing locations and dates, and other critical supply chain data. The Global Commerce Initiative, a growing consortium of global manufacturers and retailers worldwide, is a leading proponent of its use—citing its Global Upstream Supplier Initiative ( GUSI ).

The central product of GUSI is its process model, known as the Upstream Integration Model ( UIM 2.2 ), which defines a range of common business processes and supporting technical standards and information flows for various scenarios. The model, built in a modular way, offers a collaborative approach to both supplier- and manufacturer-initiated ordering processes and addresses the most common variants

Event-management extra

Automated notification technology further capitalizes on the use of data synchronization, GUSI, and other best practices that span the affected supply chain from point of origin to end consumer with pinpoint accuracy—but in a matter hours rather than weeks.


Ken Dixon, executive VP of MIR3, a supplier of automated notification technology, says a growing number of retailers now have customer loyalty programs that record each item purchased by individual consumers—a step that facilitates safety notifications should tainted products or ingredients be discovered.

“With the push of one button, calls can be made to recall products from an OEM based on bar-code information, thereby pushing notification downstream all the way to the end customer,” says Ken Dixon, executive VP of MIR3 , a supplier of automated mass-notification technology.

Dixon says a growing number of retailers now have customer loyalty programs that record each item purchased by individual consumers, such that when coupled with a particular customer’s phone number, a call can be placed directly to them, notifying them whether a certain product sitting in their pantry is affected and should be returned–or is safe to eat.

“As the gatekeeper of that information, a local retailer can provide deliver a sense security to its customers, and convey the message that they care about them,” says Dixon.

MIR3 is serving more than 5 000 customers from six data centers. “It makes it possible to send out thousands of messages in a second, or make millions of phone calls in hours, explains Dixon.‘The customer gets the option of “pressing 1” to acknowledge they received the message, thereby mitigating any potential future liabilities.”







No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
The true cost of lubrication: Three keys to consider when evaluating oils; Plant Engineering Lubrication Guide; 11 ways to protect bearing assets; Is lubrication part of your KPIs?
Contract maintenance: 5 ways to keep things humming while keeping an eye on costs; Pneumatic systems; Energy monitoring; The sixth 'S' is safety
Transport your data: Supply chain information critical to operational excellence; High-voltage faults; Portable cooling; Safety automation isn't automatic
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Synchronizing industrial Ethernet networks; Selecting protocol conversion gateways; Integrating HMIs with PLCs and PACs
Why manufacturers need to see energy in a different light: Current approaches to energy management yield quick savings, but leave plant managers searching for ways of improving on those early gains.

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.