BALTIMORE — Retailers and third-party auditors should be held liable in foodborne illness outbreaks along with growers and packers when circumstances show they dropped the ball, according to an informal poll at the 16th annual Food Safety Summit.
During a panel discussion session on hot topics, 150 of the more than 250 audience members logged their views via electronic devices similar to television remote controls.
Session moderator Will Daniels, chief integrity officer at Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bastista, Calif., asked attendees the following questions. All of the vote percentages are based on 150 votes.
- Should liability assignment go beyond the current standard of manufacturer only when a foodborne outbreak occurs? Yes: 50%, No 43%, Undecided 7%
- Should retailers be liable, under appropriate circumstances such as failing to hold food at the correct temperature, when a foodborne outbreak is linked to food they sold? Yes: 80%, No: 10%, Undecided: 10%
- Should food safety auditors be held responsible if an outbreak is traced back to issues that weren’t noted as problems during a food safety audit? Yes: 55%, No: 30%, Undecided: 15%
- Has auditor competence improved in the past 5 years? Yes: 50%, No: 35%, Undecided: 15%
- Should companies pay for food safety audits, or should that be the responsibility of some other entity? The company being audited should pay: 70%, Some other entity should pay: 30%
- Should finished product testing be mandated for foods defined by the Food and Drug Administration as high risk? Yes: 75%, No: 25%
- Can finished product testing enhance your food safety program? Yes: 90%, No: 10%
- Should smaller operations be exempt from FSMA requirements? Yes: 20%, No: 80%
- Will companies decrease the number of their third-party audits because of the reporting mandate imposed on auditors by the Food Safety Modernization Act? Yes: 25% No: 70% Undecided: 5%
- Has the number of food safety audits decreased with the introduction of GSFI certification? Yes: 30% No: 40%
- Should we be concerned about norovirus? Yes: 100% No: 0%
- Do you think the most frequent introduction route of norovirus into the supply chain happens at the raw materials stage, the manufacturer/grower stage or at retail? Raw materials: 18% Manufacturer/grower: 22% Retail: 60%
Alchemy Systems LP, Austin, Texas, used the session as a demonstration tool for its food safety training product, Alchemy Sistem, used by Fresh Express, Earthbound Farms and Val Verde Vegetable, said Tara Guthrie, Alchemy spokeswoman. She said the Sistem product allows employers to engage employees in their training while verifying immediate comprehension.
Presenters during the session were Patricia Wester, former food safety auditor and president of PA Wester Consulting; Bill Marler, a personal injury attorney specializing in foodborne illness outbreaks; Lee Ann Jaykus, a professor and researcher in the food science department at North Carolina State University; and Joan Menke-Schaenzer, former vice president for food safety at Wal-Mart and currently global chief quality officer for ConAgra Foods Inc. and board member for NSF International.