The Fed steps up enforcement, and food producers scramble for better safeguards.
Washington is sinking its teeth into the food industry through criminal charges, fines and convictions levied against food and food service companies, and these companies are being held increasingly more accountable for widespread contaminations.
Spotlighting the concern was ConAgra Foods Inc., which paid a record $11.2 million fine and pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a 2006 salmonella outbreak. The case marks the fourth such conviction in just two years – the same number of food-related charges handed down by the DOJ since 1988.
By all accounts, the food industry is on alert and rethinking its approach to food safety. There are several new takeaways: Improve safety standards; understand all risks throughout operations, vendors and supply chain; and have a detailed recall plan in place. That plan should include partnering with a qualified food and beverage risk management expert who can audit operations for best practices; provide regular updates about changing regulations; and develop an insurance program that addresses specific liabilities.
Nearly half of all food companies inflicted with a contamination recall never recover. One ice cream company in the southwest indicated that the business interruption during and after its listeria contamination resulted in its largest loss ever. It’s a liability many food-business insurance policies don’t adequately address yet it could be critical for financial success.