Here I am, harping on food safety again, although not from the standpoint of the necessity of it, but the government's role in managing the problem. Is government oversight needed? Yes. I've worked in a food plant or two, and have more than one degree in food science, so I certainly don't minimize the importance of food safety. But, will increased government control save us all, or will it just cost bakers and ultimately consumers a lot of money?
I've seen the statistics and read the news. Peanut products contaminated with salmonella reportedly sickened more than 700 individuals and killed nine people during the past several months. Now, several brands of pistachios are being recalled because of salmonella contamination.
Still, I believe food manufacturers are ultimately responsible for their own plants. Even without additional government oversight, this weighty responsibility can consume a lot of time, effort and capital investment. And, it does require a certain degree of knowledge about food regulations and food safety.
When I visited Piantedosi Baking Co. this month (see this month's Operations Feature, p. 12), I had an opportunity to speak with Mike Frazier, the bakery's vice president of compliance. Frazier has worked in the baking industry for 40 years. Although his background is in production, Piantedosi needed someone to handle compliance of local, state and federal regulations, and Frazier stepped up to the plate.
Some of Frazier's responsibilities extend beyond food safety, but others, such as labeling, allergen compliance, food defense, HACCP record keeping and facility and equipment sanitation inspections, do fall under the food safety category. “There is so much more involved these days. It's a challenge to keep up with all the new laws,” Frazier says.
After my conversation with Frazier, I thought about the vast area of responsibility encompassed by food safety, but at the same time, I was impressed with the ownership Piantedosi Baking had assumed for the responsibility. It was obvious to me that the bakery takes food safety and security very seriously, and is not waiting for a government inspector to knock on its doors before taking action to protect its employees and customers.
While President Obama has already made strides toward improving the FDA and will reportedly ask for $1 billion in new funds for added inspectors and laboratory modernization, food manufacturers shouldn't wait for the inspector to arrive.