A Single Supplier: An Overview of PCA
The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) peanut recall of 2009 demonstrates the impact that a single ingredient supplier can have on the food system – even a small ingredient supplier such as PCA. Though PCA first issued the recall back in January of 2009, companies were still issuing recalls related to the peanut ingredients purchased from PCA or someone they supplied into April of 2009. This demonstrates the importance that food establishments have a good, verified traceability system.
PCA, as a manufacturer and supplier of ingredients, did not receive the attention needed in supplier approval and management process. In this case, the manufacturers who used PCA products as an ingredient within their own products, many relied on third party audits as part of the supplier approval process. The third party audits as well as the state inspections graded this plant as satisfactory. These audits did not sufficiently identify the microbiological risk associated with this peanut product. Therefore, here are some things to keep in mind:
It is imperative that food establishments understand the risk associated with their ingredients, as well as manage their suppliers to control those potential risks.
Even small suppliers can affect a large amount of product and thus reach an even larger amount of customers.
Third party audits do serve a purpose but, because of how most are completed today, the ability to properly identify microbiological risks is limited.
Companies need to have adequate insurance for food borne illness liability and recall. For example, with numerous lawsuits being issued, PCA has filed bankruptcy leaving state and federal agencies to handle the recall process. If companies are counting on recovering their losses through suing a supplier such as this, it may probably never happen.
Unlike most, if not all of the other major food related outbreaks over the last few years, it is important to note that this case was more than an oversight, it was an intentional act to ship contaminated product. This demonstrates the need for food safety education, especially if it can be directed to the decision makers within food establishments.