Lettuce, spinach, peanut butter and pet food are part of many Americans’ daily lives. As ordinary as these products may seem, we have all seen in the past year how extraordinary circumstances can suddenly put processors in a very unwanted spotlight. If your company finds itself on this world stage, will you be ready to handle the recall, trace the source of contamination swiftly and then recover financially?

Last Fall Taco Bell’s produce problems hit the Northeast hard. Stores were shut down and some customers stayed away. To be quite honest, until a few weeks ago when Food Engineering featured a speaker from Taco Bell at its annual Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference, the 2006 problems at this QSR slipped my mind. The week before the conference, I was working late and considered making a fast-food stop on the way home at Taco Bell. At the last minute, I decided to make due with what I might find at home in the freezer. If someone this close to the food industry can forget about recent problems, so can many other consumers.

My point is not to single out any one company. Product contamination can happen to any processor or restaurant chain. The point is to learn from your colleagues by watching out for leaky roofs, roosting birds, using trusted sources of incoming raw materials, performing extensive testing and implementing frequent audits of your operations.

Most manufacturers have implemented best practices to protect the public from harm, but continuous improvement in food safety and sanitation is essential for the well-being of consumers and the financial health of the food and beverage industry.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Now is the time to take extraordinary measures to continue to keep the world’s most abundant food supply in check.

One final note: Food Engineering’s strategic manufacturing solutions event, ProcessTechnologyXchange, will take place this summer in Park City, UT. Now in its fourth year, PTX is the perfect venue to uncover the latest technologies to meet your pressing manufacturing needs. From energy savings to recall prevention and improving plant efficiencies, we can customize private meetings for you with the industry’s technology experts. Attendance is by invitation only. Please call 952-736-9373 or see page 15 in this issue for more information.