Do you ever wonder how life in the food and beverage industry got so complicated? Just after our industry suffered one of the largest beef recalls in history during the Topps incident last fall, not too many of us would have dreamt an even more immense recall would be underway because of an easily controllable action: cruelty to animals.

Whether the animals in question were truly disease-laden downers or injured in transport, the law clearly states that an FSIS veterinarian must be called in to assess the situation when an animal cannot walk on its own.

While the recall may be a non-event for many consumers, the incident will increase the responsibility of food and beverage processors and retailers to not only have complete knowledge of their supply chain, but to have total control over it.

Of course, you know what this means: more dollars spent on staffing, equipment and software to keep food safe and consumers confident in the food they eat. 

I think the recent events at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company call out for many things to change:

1. The efficacy of our government inspection systems

2. The great need for employee training

3. The improvement of track and trace systems.

Of course, a little bit of training and proper supervision would have saved the packing company. It’s pretty simple stuff.

The lesson learned here? Ignoring the simple stuff is how it all got so complicated.

Note: It’s that time again. Food Engineering’s 31st annual Plant Construction Survey is now underway. Early research is already showing that 2007 was a banner year for new projects. We’d like to hear about yours. Please visit to complete a survey form or email me directly for one. Our goal is to compile a list of all food and beverage plant projects of $1 million or more completed, planned or underway during 2007. New plants, renovations or expansion projects will be included, with the final report published in our June issue.