Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

According to blow the whistle both on PCA’s

According to a Los Angeles Times’ interview, ex-employees confirmed and described the poor working conditions while working at PCA facilities. Unfortunately, all of them kept silent until PCA hit the news and the outbreak happened. James Griffin, a cook at the plant, recounted this simple rule: “I never ate the peanut butter, and I wouldn’t allow my kids to eat it.” James who worked in the shipping area said that the employees often talked among themselves about the conditions, but most workers did not complain to management because they wanted to keep their jobs. Even PCA’s own workers did not believe in the product that they were producing and did not feel safe in consuming them. People felt a sense of moral wrongdoing, yet they were unable to stand up and voice their concerns. Employees should not feel this sense of fear and jeopardize their moral compass, yet in PCA’s case, none of the employees felt safe to speak out because of the company culture. Standing UpHowever, some people before the outbreak arose did speak out. In contrast to those who did not stand up for their beliefs, Kenneth Kendrick, an assistant plant manager serving at the PCA plant from July 2006 through November 2006, worked with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the consumer group, STOP Foodborne Illness, to blow the whistle both on PCA’s dangerous practices. “I knew it was a train wreck and something unethical and bad was about to happen,” he said in an interview He addressed the lack of timely responses from executive and officials who were supposed to be safeguarding the food supply. Even though he suffered enormous retaliation and faced some negative aftermath because of his speaking up, he commented that he would do it all over again if confronted with the same situation. Employees like Kendrick and the actions that he took, are model examples of how someone should act when faced with situations like these. Before Kendrick worked with GAP, he kept anonymously sending numerous public health code violations he was witnessing to the Texas Department of Health and to federal officials. Unfortunately, he did not get any responses. Texas officials commented to ABC News that they searched through their database and found no record of any e-mails from Kendrick. A possible reason was that state and federal offices were unaware about the existence of the PCA Plainview plant, since Parnell probably deliberately did not register it. An important consideration is that the FDA did not have standards, clear guidance, or ways to properly regulate food production safely. Throughout history, the state and federal government have faced dilemmas on whether they should set certain regulations to govern business practices. However, to address these issues, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.  Measures like these illustrate that the government and society are taking food safety issues more seriously and really watching companies.Third Party Decisions Most of PCA’s customers were food manufacturers and food distributors. According to the court filings, one of PCA’s customers, a multinational food product manufacturer, continuously found that PCA failed to meet their microbiological specifications, but they kept ordering products from PCA. Some of the companies that had to recall products said that they only relied on third party audit reports instead of doing their own inspections of the plant. While these companies were the victims of PCA’s negligence and ethical failures, they should not be excused from fault. Because at the end of the day, they also neglected the food safety of their own products and jeopardized their customers. According to ABC News, Nestle a worldwide food company based in Switzerland, sent their own inspectors and did their own testing. They found rodent droppings, beetles, dead insects, along with other issues, which at that point, the company refused to do business with PCA. Nestle understood as a company that it could not take anything at face value and took measures to protect itself. The company prioritized safety, accuracy, and health as their main objective and in the end, did not have contaminated products out in the market. How the Issue Could Have Been Avoided or Properly Handled Addressing a foodborne illness on such a large scale is not something that can be fixed overnight. Running a good business requires external governance and oversight, but more importantly, constant monitoring of internal diligence and controls as well.External Government OversightAn easy solution one could say is that the FDA should have exercised more power in regulating food safety, especially in PCA’s case. Additionally, more stringent regulations could have been pushed through the legislature to address food adulteration and sanitation. Over the years, state inspectors noted the problems which required follow-up, but the state never closed the PCA facilities or penalized them.  As a result, since the business never faced any consequences from its unprofessional practices and poor management, PCA did not feel compelled to correct the problems. There was no external incentive or motivation, which led to problems that would not be corrected, compounding the issues over the years. Furthermore, sometimes the FDA never inspected the PCA plant but instead delegated the duty to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. However, due to lack of resources and experience, they unfortunately, did not test the factory or the peanut products for salmonella.  This raises the question about what should be primarily tested on in regard to foodborne illnesses and contamination when inspectors conduct their inspections. According to a CDC report, salmonella is one of the top five germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the United States. Investigator should have been aware of the biggest risks, and should have been vigilant in testing for them.Moreover, regulators should think about the frequency of reviewing the existing inspection processes and checklists to ensure that inspections are more thorough, effective, and updated through the years. Additionally, companies are not required to disclose internal tests to federal or state regulators. This could be an area where there should be more transparency, especially when dealing with food safety. As a result of this lack of oversight, no one outside of PCA knew about the problem until 2008-2009 when the outbreak was traced back to the Blakely plant.However, the fact is that companies cannot and should not rely on the government to protect and regulate them. It is impossible for the government to manage every single business that exists and be on top of them, making sure that they are doing the right thing. There must be some internal motivation and diligence from within the company, making sure that they are doing the right thing for their customers and stakeholders. External Third-Party IssuesFor PCA, the company was both a direct and indirect supplier to many different food manufacturers. Those food manufacturers should have conducted mandatory supply audits to ensure that their vendors followed the industry best practices, like Nestle did. In some companies, manufacturers will hire third party inspectors rather than doing the inspections themselves. This causes less concern about the company’s motives, efforts, and effectiveness. It also keeps the company accountable, knowing that an outsider is watching them and knows about the results. According to a New York Times report, Kellogg, a food industry giant, hired Eugene A. Hatfield, a private inspector to inspect the PCA plant in southwest Georgia to make sure that its chopped nuts, paste, and peanut butter were safe to use. Mr. Hatfield was not aware that peanuts were readily susceptible to salmonella and concluded that the PCA facility was at an acceptable safety level, only by spending less than a day checking the entire plant. As a food safety consultant said, “the contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education.”  Third parties, in this case the product producers and manufacturers of peanut products, should have more stringent regulations and procedures themselves. They should not be blaming their suppliers for their negligence if the company itself is negligent. When it comes to food safety, the end consumers health and safety should be checked at each level of the production process. Internal Diligence and Solutions Despite government control and third-party checks, there is no doubt that a better-quality control process should have been implemented internally by the company. PCA was a large food producer and knew that they were dealing with food products. Whenever food is involved, companies should be more aware and diligent of their food handling procedures. Food is a serious matter because people ingest it, which can have serious effects on a person’s health and wellbeing. The company should have implemented more diligent cleaning procedures and maintenance of its facilities. Additionally, employees should have been more concerned about the state of the facilities and done more to ensure that the products they were producing were safe for consumption. Procedures should have been in place for employees to constantly, on a daily basis, check the food, sanitize equipment, clean production areas, repair issues, and much more to maintain a clean work environment. However, in PCA’s case, none of this was done, or at the very least there was minimal effort. Employees should have felt compelled to take more pride in their work and the products that they were delivering to customers. However, they did not, and did whatever they could to stay employed instead. In a normal scenario, employees would have been fired or reprimanded for not following procedures and cleanliness. In PCA, no punishment existed for employees who did not clean or maintain the plants. Furthermore, transparency of the lab testing reports would have been another important way to address issues early on. PCA intentionally hid the poor testing results and fraudulently reported that everything was fine. This should have been a clear red flag to anyone in the company or anyone looking. PCA hired private laboratories to test salmonella and coliforms in its products.  Then, PCA combined the testing results and generated their own Certificates of Analysis (COAs) to customers. This was clearly a move to deceive customers. Since customers cannot confirm the results directly from the lab or see the lab report directly, there were opportunities for PCA to commit unethical business decisions by falsifying the lab results. Additionally, the lab tests were conducted by a private company and hired by the vendor, which may have raised serious concerns. Not to say that private labs are unethical or of lower quality, but it could have been possible that the lab may have sacrificed accuracy or truthful reporting to maximize its own profits, telling its customer what they wanted to hear. A possible solution to this would be to use customer certified labs or an external third-party vendor that the FDA approves. Also, promoting transparency to customers, whereby they could assess reports directly and compare with the supplier’s internal tracking documents to ensure food safety. 

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