As Marada explains below, recalls are a part of being a safe food business. If you subscribe to multiple FDA recall mailing lists like I do, you start to realize that most notifications you see are recalls prompted by labeling errors, and undeclared allergens.
As someone who’s picked up some food allergies recently myself, I’m all on board with the importance of labeling. But here’s the difference between industrial food production and small-to-mid scale production: with one of our producers, if I have any questions about what’s in a product, they know. They made it.
If I call a big plant with the same question, they’re going to refer me to their food safety specialist, who will read off to me from their plan what’s supposed to be in that product, and explain the controls they’ve designed to make sure that stays true. And while that’s great, and a good system, I’m not going to get the line worker who made the product that I’m holding in my hands in my kitchen.
One of the pieces of work ahead of us as a local food practitioners is to mature our traceability. When we’re selling things straight from our cooler at the farmer’s market to our favorite home cookers, the batches of product are small enough that we can reasonably say which lots of ingredients went into which batch. But as we grow and expand our markets, we need to make sure we’re growing and expanding our transparency and record keeping too. That’s what keeps us able to say what is actually in the food we make and eat.
Not a popular opinion, I know, but it’s what allows us to live in the middle ground of a sanely scaled food system, and still be able to reach from making the food to the person using the food within one armspan.
More to follow on this …
This originally went out on April 24, 2014.
Where have all the wieners gone?
Turns out they were cheese dogs!
Click here to learn about a food system bigger than you and I can easily fathom:
I like to read the Food Safety News. For one, I take healthy pleasure in witnessing the crumbling of the industrial food system. I ALSO happen to like the sensation of ‘is this is what normal people consider normal?’ you can experience when an article starts off with:
“About 96,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners were recalled Sunday by Kraft Foods Group Inc. of Columbia, MO, because of a packaging error.”
Now. We are in the food business. Several of them in fact. And yes, packaging errors happen. Whether the ‘classic’ Oscar Meyer wiener in question is a cheese dog or hot, it is a classic tale of a food system so large we can barely imagine it.
I’ll help you out. (Turns out I like that part, too!).
96,000 pounds of wieners would fill 48 x 2000# pallets or 2 tractor trailer trucks.
96,000 pounds of wieners would give every public school kid in Maine 2 hot dogs.
96,000 pounds of wieners is roughly 548.5 pigs.
That’s more than a few little piggies that DIDN’T get to market.
Since I’m all about alternatives, let me tell you what that recall would look like at Crown O’Maine. We, in fact, do occasionally conduct recalls. And one year, although I wouldn’t even feed Oscar Meyer wieners to my dog, we had a recall involving some locally made ‘dog food’.
We were notified that the labels were not compliant with FDA/State Regulations. We ran a sales report. We called the customers, and retrieved the product. All documented. It took less than an hour. None of those products were out in front of the public, waiting for poor Fido to have an allergic reaction or Mom & Pop Grocery to be involved in a food poisoning outbreak. Small agriculture, small farms, small stores, and small markets for local foods – all add up to a very understandable, very sensible system.
Best part is, less than 1/10th of a cow had to die to no purpose due to a faulty label.
Take that, industrial ag.