The Past Sins of Conagra

I realize that there is a possibility that any salmonella outbreak is likely to fall into that small percentile of probability where coincidences occur, and bad stuff sometimes just happens. There is no such thing as a perfect system, and there’s no way to manage mistake-free workplaces. As anyone who works in the Quality and Safety industries can assure you, even in the best of environments, sometimes bad things happen.

Now, that being said, let me put out the following pieces of information:

  • July, 2002 – ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled 19 million pounds of ground beef and beef products nationwide after at least 16 people became ill with E. coli bacteria-related diseases from eating meat packaged at the company’s Colorado plant.
  • December, 2002 – ConAgra voluntarily recalls approximately 36,000 pounds of fully-cooked, frozen chicken products that may be contaminated with plastic.
  • June, 2003- ConAgra Poultry is recalling 129,000 pounds of chicken due to fears that a number of products may contain glass.
  • December, 2005- Almost 3,000,000 pounds of 2.6-ounce packages of Armour Lunch Makers Cracker Crunchers made with ham, bologna, turkey, and chicken are recalled when it is discovered they may be contaminated with listeria. Conagra owns these brands.
  • February, 2007 – That’s right, just this past Tuesday ConAgra recalled more than 400,000 pounds of pasta and meatball meals that may have been underprocessed.
  • February, 2007 – Conagra recalls peanut butter that contains salmonella.

My question is thus: At what point does the above behavior describe a negligent corporate culture rather than simple “bad luck”?

My Second question is: At what point do we, as consumers, start punishing companies who have these issues? And I don’t mean simply stop buying Peter Pan peanut butter (which will occur anyways, by virtue of the recent salmonella news stories). I mean the collective “we” figuring out “Well huh, these guys kinda suck when it comes to producing safe food for consumption. Not only will we stop eating their Peter Pan peanut butter, but also their Orville Redenbacher Popcorn, their Reddi-Whip Whipped cream, their Slim Jim’s, ad infinitum and (literally) ad nauseum.

Sadly, I don’t think the answer to the second question is “soon”. Most people probably aren’t even aware of Conagra, let alone the products they sell.

tags technorati : Food Safety, Conagra

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