Recent recalls of food products such as canned chili, stew, spinach, pet food and frozen meat in the USA demonstrated the various issues surrounding traceability in Food Safety.
Companies increasingly are paying others to make the foods we eat or to supply the ingredients in them. They then sell it under different brand names.
“If people cannot trace a product back to a supplier, the supplier has no incentives to keep their processes as clean and effective, in terms of food safety, as possible,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an US-based consumer group.
Outsourcing makes financial sense for companies unwilling or unable to establish or expand manufacturing operations. Outsourcing makes it possible for manufacturers to use excess capacity to fill orders for others.
Store-brand or private-label products account for much of the growth in the food outsourcing business. For supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, these store brands amounts to one in every five items they sell, according to the Private Label Manufacturers Association in the USA.
Critics of the outsourcing of production warn that it creates increased vulnerability of the food supply. The manufacturer no longer is directly accountable to consumers, but to the companies they produce the products for.
The difficulty of linking a product back to a particular lot or manufacturer has been a major problem in some food safety cases, say consumer advocates.
For instance, when salmonella contamination led ConAgra Foods Inc. to recall Peter Pan-brand peanut butter earlier this year, it also recalled Great Value peanut butter it made for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The FDA said at the time that other Great Value peanut butter, made by other manufacturers, wasn’t affected by the recall.
“Traceability is critical to ensuring processors use the highest standards of care,” DeWaal said. “When their identities are hidden behind multiple labels and poor traceability information, they can use whatever practices they want because they’re probably not going to get caught.”
Read the full articleÂ Outsourcing Complicates Food Recalls by Andrew Bridges of Associated Press