Food Safety / Regulatory Compliance

Editor's Plate: Recent Reasons To Stay Vigilant Over Food Safety

Recent recalls by Tyson, Kellogg and Blue Bell are reminders you can never take food safety for granted.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

In every survey we take, if there’s a selectable answer about food safety, it always ranks highest. That certainly is the appropriate answer, the correct thing to do. But does it really keep you up at night?

I liken food safety to the health and welfare of my own children … and, more recently, my grandchildren. I would quit my job, mortgage the house, move next door to the Mayo Clinic if it meant saving their lives. But it doesn’t keep me up at night. Thankfully, things seem to be on autopilot, so I easily get my seven hours.

But there were several food safety incidents in late September that, if they don’t keep you up at night, should at least make you think hard about the subject.

Tyson recalled 130,000 lbs. of chicken nuggets mostly sold at Costco locations nationwide because “a small number of consumers … found small pieces of hard, white plastic in the nuggets.” Not good, but probably not life-threatening.

A little more serious: A week earlier, Kellogg recalled 10,000 cases of Eggo Nutri-Grain waffles because they potentially had listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses were reported. The recall was the result of routine tests the company conducts, which makes it sound like Kellogg was in front of this incident. As of this posting today, Kraft Heinz is recalling its Lunchables while Nestlé is recalling its Drumsticks for possible listeria contamination.

And then there’s Blue Bell Creameries. The Texas ice cream company seemed to be putting the 2015 listeria incidents, which included three deaths, behind it when, on Sept. 21, it announced a recall of ice cream over (again) listeria concerns. This time, the culprit appeared to be the supplier of the chocolate chip cookie dough, Aspen Hills Inc., rather than Blue Bell’s Sylacauga, Ala., plant, which produced the ice cream. In this case, like Kellogg’s, no illnesses were immediately reported.

“Blue Bell identified a potential problem through intensified internal testing and notified Aspen Hills,” Blue Bell said in a statement. “Aspen Hills then issued a voluntary recall of the products supplied to Blue Bell. Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test and hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution.”

Blue Bell does not appear at fault in this recall, but the company was culpable in 2015 when FDA inspectors found food safety problems at three Blue Bell plants and listeria in two of them. The company nearly went bankrupt and had to be bailed out by Texas billionaire Sid Bass.

You don’t want Sid Bass as a partner, do you? Recheck your food safety systems.