Salmonella is the last thing anyone should be thinking about when making a peanut butter sandwich for their child’s school lunch. As consumers, we should always feel that the food we give our family is safe, knowing that the company producing the product abides by good manufacturing practices (GMP) that includes sanitary conditions and quality control through every step of the process—from shelling the peanuts to shipping the jars to the shelves.
So it is no surprise that Sunland Inc., the manufacturer responsible for processing peanut butter products infected with Salmonella Bredeney, now must face the consequences for infecting 42 people across 20 states.
Last month the Food and Drug Administration suspended food distribution from the New Mexico facility, a result of an investigation at the processing plant that’s been ongoing since September. According to the FDA, a review of Sunland’s product testing records showed that 11 product lots of nut butter had the presence of Salmonella between June 2009 and September 2012. Under the new Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA has the authority to shut down any facility that has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals. Now it is up to Sunland to submit a corrective action plan to address the problems and implement a sustainable solution.
Sunland’s situation is serious, but not unique. Manufacturers in consumer goods, automotive, aerospace, life sciences, and high tech all face the possibility of product recalls. And, sometimes, if it involves car brakes or a pacemaker, for example, it too can be a case of life or death.
Now more than ever, companies are held accountable for every aspect of the manufacturing process, even if it is something they don’t have complete control over, be it an employee’s human error, or a partner’s supply problem. Now, manufacturers must exert total control for their global operations. As a result, end-to-end quality execution, management and product traceability becomes the cornerstone of good manufacturing practices. And, as Sunland executives are finding out, enterprise quality management is a corner office issue.
The cost of not having a bullet proof quality management plan is not just recalled products, but the potential for legal action, as well as a black mark on the brand.
If you are a manufacturing executive, ask yourself a few questions:
- Are quality processes synchronized across all business units?
- Are processes standardized across the global organization for consistency within the enterprise and outside the supply network?
- Is there a process management infrastructure in place for distributing best practices across the company?
- Is there a way to proactively monitor non conformance events within manufacturing and take corrective action?
- Is there visibility, accountability, and track and trace capabilities for all operations?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’ then it is time to submit your own corrective action plan to the company directors– before the government mandates it. The Sunland situation is just the latest example of quality out-of-control, but there will be others. Don’t let it be your company.