Food Engineering

Editor's Note: Product quality: Strange coincidence or harbinger?

June 1, 2011
OK,  readers, what’s going on out there? I am very surprised to report four food and beverage quality issues that occurred on consumer purchases I made in the past six weeks.



This morning, I discovered a 12-can fridge pack of carbonated beverages I purchased at a major supermarket chain contained one empty can.

A box of popsicles I purchased last week at Walmart displayed the normal nutrition panel, but the area that’s supposed to contain calories and nutritional percentages was blank.

A box of crackers I purchased recently at Redner’s Warehouse Markets that normally has two sleeves of crackers contained only one sleeve.

I found several pieces of empty foil material in the bottom of a package of chocolate foil-wrapped Easter eggs I brought at Genuardi’s in late April.

I began to wonder if my recent thrifty shopping habits at the discount chains had anything to do with the errors. Then, I noticed several non-food household items (paper towels for example) I purchased at a discount store seemed to have lower quality than the same brands I had purchased at Genuardi’s or CVS for years.

My nonscientific research shows slightly more than half of the defective or lower-quality items came from a discount chain. Everyone knows Walmart would not allow subpar performance from its suppliers, and I doubt the other retailers would either. Of these four food or beverage items I purchased, three were made by processors on the world’s top 100 food and beverage companies list.

Are budgets being stretched too thin? Are these companies short-staffed? Are operations moving too fast? Is operator performance a problem? Are processors sacrificing accuracy for the sake of food safety?

After receiving decades of quality products from the food and beverage manufacturing industry, I have to wonder what is happening. I hope this is just a strange coincidence and not a harbinger of quality problems. What do you think?