Monday, December 14, 2009

Salmonella: In A Pig's Ear!

Third-Party Audits – Worth The Paper They're Printed On?

On June 29, 2009, Pet Carousel (Sanger, CA) achieved a 96.4% score in its Food Safety Systems and Sanitation Audit, conducted by Randolph Associates, Inc.

Wow! 96.4%! That sounds as though Randolph conducted a very thorough and detailed audit inspection. How else to account for the decimal point?

"So," as my father would have asked, "where did Pet Carousel lose the remaining 3.6%?"

Could it have anything to do with FDA's findings less than three months after the independent audit?

In September, FDA conducted routine testing of pig ear dog treat products manufactured by Pet Carousel. The agency found Salmonella in pig ears packaged under the Pet Carousel and Dentley's brand names. A follow-up inspection – carried out later in September or in October – uncovered:
  1. Additional Salmonella-contaminated samples of pig ear and cow hoof pet treats
  2. Salmonella-contaminated manufacturing environment
  3. Manufacturing conditions that facilitated cross-contamination between products and between production batches.

Pet Carousel recalled all of its pig ear and cow hoof dog treats in early November, but chose not to advise consumers of the recall. The Company left it to retailers, such as PetSmart, to advise the public that these treats were potentially contaminated with Salmonella, and had been recalled. FDA did its share by issuing a Health Alert, advising consumers of the contamination.

On December 9th, more than one month after notifying wholesalers and retailers, Pet Carousel issued a public recall notice – "Out of an abundance of caution and concern for public safety..." – to advise consumers that all of its pig ear dog treats purchased after August 16, 2009 and all of its cow hoof dog treats purchased after September 16, 2009 were potentially contaminated with Salmonella.

Don't be surprised at that feeling of déjà vu. We've heard this audit song before, although the players have changed. Peanut Corporation of America "aced" its third-party audit while shipping Salmonella-contaminated peanut products to customers all across the US and Canada in 2008 and 2009.

Third party audit scores are meaningless. At best they represent a superficial snapshot of a manufacturing facility's operation. At worst, they provide a false sense of security to the manufacturer's corporate and retail customers.

Caveat emptorLet the buyer beware.

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