So far, 2009 has been a pretty bad year for peanuts, pistachios, cookie dough, and by proxy, the FDA. The meat industry, at least, has managed to avoid any spectacular food safety failures, but the industry’s track record is far from flawless.

From January through June, FSIS has announced 32 recalls. The focus on food safety for processors has been on E. coli O157:H7, yet there were just seven recalls related to that pathogen, totaling 527,136 pounds of meat. I don’t write that to say that E. coli is no longer a serious concern. Rather, there are many other issues that need to be monitored at all times, and no company can afford to forget about them.

There were eight recalls due to undeclared ingredients, such as wheat or sulfites, for more than a million pounds of food. To my non-processor mind, these recalls simply shouldn’t happen. There has to be something in a company’s HACCP plan that would cause staff to know exactly what product is being processed at the time, what’s in that product, and what label needs to be slapped on the package. Right? Then again, some of the companies that recalled products due to undeclared allergens include Pilgrim’s Pride and Sara Lee, so even the big corporations are struggling with this.

Four recalls were due to foreign materials in the finished product, totaling almost 940,000 pounds of product. In every case, the problem was noticed when customers started calling in with complaints of finding plastic, bone, metal clips or even pebbles in their meat products. Again, this seems to me to be something that proper usage of metal detectors and X-ray equipment should help eliminate. There’s a significant cost involved in purchasing the right equipment and upgrading when necessary. A recall, though, has many costs, and not all of them are monetary in nature.

The Indie Awards return

Last year, we debuted the Indie Awards as a way to give special recognition to three very deserving processors. We are bringing back the program again this year, with the winners to be announced in the December issue of the magazine.

Please go to for information on the categories and how to enter your company, your products or a colleague into the awards. Last year, I heard some great stories about companies and their noteworthy 2008 accomplishments. I’m looking forward to hearing about more good news and success stories from 2009.