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Disgruntled employee puts needles in strawberries in Australia

tampring metal detection

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#1 Scampi

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Posted 12 November 2018 - 04:09 PM

https://www.cbc.ca/n...edles-1.4901672

 

So we often hear about recalls, but we don't often hear about the court cases

 

https://www.cbc.ca/n...edles-1.4901672

 

I would also like to add that no SQF/BRC plan could ever account for this kind of malicious behavior. The alleged assailant clearly is a boderline sociopath.....clearly wasn't concerned at all about the people that could get hurt in her revenge plot against her employer


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#2 Andy_Yellows

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 07:28 AM

What on earth do you put in your apology letter to your customer after that?! My standard line of 'we have strict controls in place to minimise the chance of contamination of this kind but unfortunately on this occasion these don't appear to have been enough' probably wouldn't do the trick!


Farke's on a horse


#3 Lesley.Roberts

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 08:55 AM

This is a really difficult situation to handle.

There was a baked goods supplier in UK some years ago with very bad employee relations & syringes were found in their product (disgruntled employee) – it was in all the press & did not help sales.  

With BRC 8 & renewed emphasis on food security I would raise this with HR department as they also have their part to play in food security & safety.



#4 Scampi

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 02:20 PM

But this sort of thing is out of our hands....................you cannot police morality no matter the controls we try to implement. 

 

Yes, HR needs to be much more involved in the food safety process than they currently are. its a challenge for sure, so many food manufacturers have a revolving door of employees. 

 

I find it hard to believe no one at the company knew her state of mind......


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#5 pHruit

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 02:34 PM

But this sort of thing is out of our hands....................you cannot police morality no matter the controls we try to implement. 

 

 

I think this is the uncomfortable truth - whilst the modern world would like everything to be 100% safe, 100% of the time, it isn't actually achievable in reality.
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep striving for it, and food in general is certainly very safe these days, but it is not possible to control everything.

Even if we go to 100% automation it doesn't remove the opportunity for human influence - it's just passed to the people writing the software rather than those handling the food directly.

Fully agree that HR should be more involved, but again there are limits - when you have a site with several thousand employees, a lot of short term / temp labour it's still going to be nigh-on impossible to achieve enough depth of knowledge on all the staff to be able to identify who may really pose a risk. Having said that, there is certainly room for significant development in this area, with potential progress towards managing and lowering risk, even if not eradicating it completely. I'm not able to provide specific details for obvious reasons, but I can readily think of two incidents of malicious contamination (both thankfully caught before reaching consumers) where the individuals concerned could probably have been identified in advance as potentially posing a higher risk, through use of an HR-based risk assessment process.

 

As for the state of mind, you'd be quite surprised how adept people can be at hiding their true intentions and/or a fairly significant degrees of mental illness...



#6 Lesley.Roberts

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 03:16 PM

Yes pHruit

 

Completely agree with you on this & the people issue is always difficult to control - although controls are becoming increasingly more rigorous (eg. CCTV in abattoirs & potential for disciplinary action has become a huge dis-incentive to treat animals inhumanely if there is a big chance you have been caught on camera).

 

As BRC 8 now demands continual improvement in the food safety culture - including

Defined activities involving all sections of the company (which would involve HR)

An action plan indicating how the activities will be undertaken and intended timescales

Review of the effectiveness of completed activities

 

It is not unreasonable to expect HR to improve their processes & procedures in line with these requirements.

 

For me BRC 8 is a big step forward from the 1980s position on quality/food safety ie. "we have quality department to deal with all that" to a situation where every department recognises the part they play in safe, good quality food.

 

Obviously a rotating cast list of temporary workers is not desirable & would be risk assessed (in the same way that other hazards are) to ensure that there is more control in these areas (eg. working with a permanent member of staff or other controls).  Working with humans is never going to be risk free, but I believe risks can be reduced & that HR have a part to play in deciding & implementing appropriate controls.



#7 FSQA

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 05:35 PM

How many checkpoints can be placed? This should be a criminal offense and should be dealt as-is. Truly a nightmare for the company involved to justify and regain customer confidence, after an individual act of stupidity and craziness.

 

However, on the flip side of it, due to Food Safety awareness, social and other media influence, trace-ability and Food Safety Agency's enforcement these issues are detected earlier and mitigated much quicker than it could have been in the past, restricting the damage to the general public.

 

Think about about how many recalls we use to have prior to this decade (i do not have data available right now)?

However, IMO now Food companies (not all) have started to think of Food Safety as a value rather than a cost (P.S: I partially disagree to my own statement :giggle: ).



#8 Scampi

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 05:44 PM

I agree FSQA, I think the charge should have been aggravated assault. She knew what she was doing when she repeatedly put pins inside berries.

 

This echos my opinion that we need more government oversight, not less. I am appalled at the # of food manufacturers where a government employee never sets foot..............we do not like when other industries where peoples lives are at risk to regulate themselves, so why is it OK for the food industry to do so?

 

So many of the recalls that are still happening are in the largest portion of our food manufacturing with the least government inspection.......


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#9 Lesley.Roberts

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 06:29 PM

I agree FSQA, I think the charge should have been aggravated assault. She knew what she was doing when she repeatedly put pins inside berries.

 

This echos my opinion that we need more government oversight, not less. I am appalled at the # of food manufacturers where a government employee never sets foot..............we do not like when other industries where peoples lives are at risk to regulate themselves, so why is it OK for the food industry to do so?

 

So many of the recalls that are still happening are in the largest portion of our food manufacturing with the least government inspection.......

 

 

Very good point Scampi

 

I suspect after the huge press involvement following Pret a Manger allergen incident & allergen death (Just Eat) in UK

 

https://www.theguard...lawfully-killed

 

 

there is likely to be an increasing focus on penalties for shady manufacturers in UK  - especially where customers get ill?.

 

 

It would be good if all food manufacturers & suppliers of food products had the same regulation as other industries?.


Edited by Lesley.Roberts, 13 November 2018 - 06:31 PM.


#10 liberator

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Posted 14 November 2018 - 09:03 PM

This was a huge issue down under and impacted strawberry growers for many weeks with hundreds of tonnes of product being dumped. When the first contamination was found the comments from the industry was "disgruntled employee." Unfortunately the publicity seemed to result in many copycat cases.  There were two farms initially implicated but this spread to many other farmers/supermarkets as for some reason people seem to get something out of being a copycat - this is something I don't understand.

 

In reality we as food manufacturers need to have in place ways and means to control deliberate contamination by our workers - but how do you do that? Unless you have completely enclosed systems, fully automated etc there will always be an element of risk. You could have an employee who's been with your company for many years who for what ever reason suddenly turns on your company. Police screening, health assessments etc can help but can't or won't stop someone determine to do harm. If your GFSI aligned then you have to have processes in place to minimise food tampering and this process typically just looks at your ingredient supply chain. Very rarely will you look inwards at your own manufacturing process and your people for potential food tampering.

 

Our biggest risk however is the supermarket chains - the last link before the customer. It has happened many times before where someone has tampered with product within the supermarket which had resulted in the injury or death of a customer. A case back in 2000 saw a person lacing Panadol with strychnine as an extortion attempt (Admittedly it looked like the persons poisoned were in fact the culprits.)  However extortion attempt resulted in all headache remedies being pulled from the shelves and the manufactures worked on making their products packing tamper evident.

 

At the supermarket we're very vulnerable at this point in the supply chain but we have no control over it other than tamper evident packaging. But where it comes to fruit and vegetables how do we protect them from tampering? People complain about the excessive use of plastic packaging but that's all we have right now to protect fresh fruit and vegetables.

 

Someone with nefarious motives can easily contaminate these products without being noticed this is an area that need a lot more work to ensure the safety of our customers.



#11 CBMRMBOWER

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Posted 14 November 2018 - 10:14 PM

One thing that will be interesting to highlight in this case was the lack of controls around the use of metal detection as a minimum requirement for pre-packaged produce, tamper proof/evident packaging and traceability systems to reduce the risk of blanket wide withdrawal of products from supermarket shelves across the country. I would be interested to know if the packing operations had been audited to either a Freshcare, SQF or supermarket quality system and what requirements for these systems to have been in place. From reading in the press there appears to have been a rush to put some of these basic systems in place throughout the industry by growers and packers.

 

Obviously bulk unpackaged produce will always be more difficult to manage throughout the supply chain as was evidenced in the case of the recent rockmelon recall across the country but for products that are packaged and labelled in punnets etc. you should expect there should be no reason for the quality and food safety systems that are required in the production of all other packaged FMCG products.

 

Overall definitely a sad state of affairs for the whole of industry and certainly the strengthening of penalties in the cases of malicious food tampering and adulteration of any food products is required.



#12 Ruthie1

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Posted 14 November 2018 - 11:13 PM

I do not work in the fresh produce industry, are there no metal detection policies at these facilities? The article states that it was a field supervisor who is to blame, so how was nothing found at any of the packing facilities? 



#13 CBMRMBOWER

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Posted 14 November 2018 - 11:21 PM

Ruthie likewise not involved in fresh produce but one would expect that major packing operations throughout fresh produce industries do have systems in place to inspect as a minimum for metal, check weighing etc.

 

Unfortunately does again highlight a company can have the best systems in the world but you can be undermined through simple human actions hence why we are seeing an increase in food defence risk assessment processes to help identify risks to our food supply chains.



#14 liberator

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 12:12 AM

There was an article in The Australian about the use of metal detectors for these types of issues, noting that it was most probably impracticable, small extract below

 

Harry Debney, chief executive of Australia’s largest fruit and vegetable company, the Costa Group, said that although it was feasible to heat-seal plastic berry punnets to make them more tamper-proof, it was impossible for growers to completely guarantee that their fruit was safe when it passed through so many hands, trucks, warehouses and supermarkets before being bought and eaten.

“It’s a long supply chain and just how you secure fruit at every stage to stop this type of irresponsible behaviour that we are seeing now is really difficult,” he said.

“We already run a metal detector over all fruit on (sorting and cleaning) lines in our packing sheds to make sure no machinery parts or fragments have fallen into the fruit, but strawberries are different from the rest; they are the one fruit where most farmers pick their strawberries and put them into (retail) punnets directly in the field, so how would a metal detector or X-ray machine help there?”

 

 

Full article link here: (not sure if its paywalled or not)

https://www.theaustr...bee5b555aa52338

 

Even if these metal detectors do work and are installed to prevent tampering or contamination at the farm and packing stages - whats done to protect the product once it leaves these facilities, once it gets to the supermarket? Like I'd noted earlier, this is where food products are at their most vulnerable. There is very little in place at this stage other than tamper evident packaging - which most fresh produce (fruit and vegetables - not pre-packed) doesn't have.



#15 pHruit

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 10:20 AM

If your GFSI aligned then you have to have processes in place to minimise food tampering and this process typically just looks at your ingredient supply chain. Very rarely will you look inwards at your own manufacturing process and your people for potential food tampering.

 

BRC 8 added the "inward" looking bit - the HACCP section of the standard now includes malicious contamination (and also fraud) as hazard types that must be included in the analysis, in addition to the separate existing sections on the more traditional externally-focussed VACCP/TACCP, so I'd expect similar will start appearing in the other GFSI schemes in the not too distant future.

In any case incidents like this should hopefully encourage more of us QA/technical folks to start considering this now because it's necessary (and roping in other departments for proper engagement ;) ), rather than waiting for a standard and/or regulatory body to tell us to do so!

 

The point about the retail end of things being one of the most vulnerable has puzzled me since long before VACCP/TACCP - for many years we've been asked to ship (completely sealed) product in vehicles that aren't allowed to carry any nuts, or any glass etc. And then at the retail distribution level they stick it all onto mixed roller cages with both food products and e.g. household cleaning chemicals, and then put it out on shelves next to open net bags of mixed nuts...
 



#16 Scampi

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 02:25 PM

pHruit, i love your last comment..................the very business that insist on flawed schemes like BRC and SQF are the folks who handle our product last (and do the most damage) but hold us to a state of almost sterile food so their bottom dollar is not affected

 

My local grocery store stockroom is appaling............and as far as I can tell............the only inspections received are from the Health Unit............really?  At least provincial government level is responsible for food manufacturing facilities but health inspectors who also check daycares and nail salons are qualified to identify the risks in a grocery store back room where food is also being prepared?  Oh the humanity and dichotomy

 

We are farm to fork.........nothing is field packed BUT our season is incredible short (6 weeks x 2 if we're lucky) so the ROI on a metal detector would be 20 years which just isn't financially feasible. As well, we also ship to grading stations.............so while we do everything possible to ensure our produce is safe, we are not the only hands to touch it. Also, at least in Canada, most fresh produce is auctioned off............whereby it goes to a food terminal where people breath, sneeze and handle the produce from all over the world................so many hazards it makes me shudder

 

Having said all of that, there are so many instances of people not caring and no one who witness' them doing nothing for fear of losing ones job

 

Man pees all over production line at Kellogg factory and (this is news to me) a pork production line

 

https://www.charlott...e220149970.html

 

https://www.theguard...l-investigation

 

https://globalnews.c...spitting-pizza/            

 

Are these separate causes or more of the same?  


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#17 veruca

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 03:46 PM

As for metal detection in fresh produce, it's not typically industry standard especially in pack house and field ops. In PrimusGFS it calls out metal detection where automated cutting is used. There is some noise also about fine metals/ long slender metals that may be missed if the orientation or set up is off. It's not something I have tested myself but something I have been cautioned about since the beginning of time it seems.



#18 CBMRMBOWER

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 07:42 PM

As for metal detection in fresh produce, it's not typically industry standard especially in pack house and field ops. In PrimusGFS it calls out metal detection where automated cutting is used. There is some noise also about fine metals/ long slender metals that may be missed if the orientation or set up is off. It's not something I have tested myself but something I have been cautioned about since the beginning of time it seems.

 

Veruca interesting comment on the fine metals/long slender metals being missed during detection. We have found that it is is possible even with a very small aperture metal detector with pharma level sensitivity to miss detection of very fine long strands of brass wire depending on the orientation of the wire when travelling through the detection head. This we understand to be caused by the way the head detection coil is wound and the field generated.

 

Since this discovery we not only run metal detection challenges using multiple standardised test pieces on production start up, every hour, change of product, end of shift run etc. as part of our normal CCP quality checks. We also now undertake a special challenge test of any detection systems including X-Ray systems with common or potential items you may find throughout the plant including, maintenance, office and staff areas as part of an six monthly detection systems audit.

 

One thing we have found from experience is that even with metal detectable plastics detection of these types of objects in product is still not easy as it is dependant on the size and length of the piece that is present in your product. Especially if it is a brush bristle with is more wire like.

 

As we all types of foreign material prevention is better than detection at the end of the line but in any operation an ever increasing challenge!



#19 CBMRMBOWER

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Posted 01 February 2019 - 03:11 AM

FYI for those interested there has been a media release today from FSANZ on this topic. I have also attached the pdf copy of the report issued post investigation and review.

 

Dear subscriber Below is a FSANZ media release. You can also access this release on our website.

 

This information can be reproduced in your newsletters or journals as long as you mention that it is reproduced with permission of Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Please feel free to distribute this information to others in your organisation who may be interested (or suggest that they may also like to subscribe to this service). If you no longer wish to subscribe you can remove your details via the FSANZ website under the Subscription Service. If you have difficulty doing this contact subscriptions@foodstandards.gov.au

 

Regards

 

FSANZ subscriptions

 

 

Strawberry tampering investigation report released

Date: 1/02/2019

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) today released its report on the strawberry tampering incident, with key recommendations focusing on the need for improved communication during incidents, particularly those involving criminal matters.

“The government has already acted in response to this incident by strengthening penalties for intentional contamination of food,  and helping FSANZ progress their review into high-risk horticulture sectors," Mr Booth said.

“The report's recommendations, once implemented, will help ensure an improved response to any future incidents. These improvements will support our growers and ensure Australians can continue to trust in our effective and responsive food safety system."

Mr Booth said several recommendations focused on improved communication in incidents involving criminal investigations, as well as a review of existing food incident protocols.

“I'd like to thank all of the stakeholders who contributed to the development of this report," Mr Booth said.

 

 

 

 

Attached Files



#20 Scampi

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Posted 01 February 2019 - 01:39 PM

Thanks for sharing this press release CBMRMBOWER

 

My takeaway is thus:

 

Produce will continue to be incredibly difficult to trace effectively, no matter the recall/withdrawal reason

 

More government oversight is necessary (not less and GFSI's were not really mentioned --except to point out there are growers who do not participate in traceability SHUDDER)

 

This was an intentional act of sabotage (and they have not made it clear if they were able to ascertain where in the supply chain these incidents occurred)

We should all return to eating seasonally like we used to, then our produce won't have to travel as far and we will know exactly where it came from

 

Police and governing bodies NEED to work much more closely together as supply chains become more and more complex

 

More education is needed to the general public and vendors (thinking of the poor child who died in the UK from the allergen containing bread)


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#21 Lesley.Roberts

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Posted 01 February 2019 - 02:12 PM

Thanks for sharing this press release CBMRMBOWER

 

My takeaway is thus:

 

Produce will continue to be incredibly difficult to trace effectively, no matter the recall/withdrawal reason

 

More government oversight is necessary (not less and GFSI's were not really mentioned --except to point out there are growers who do not participate in traceability SHUDDER)

 

This was an intentional act of sabotage (and they have not made it clear if they were able to ascertain where in the supply chain these incidents occurred)

We should all return to eating seasonally like we used to, then our produce won't have to travel as far and we will know exactly where it came from

 

Police and governing bodies NEED to work much more closely together as supply chains become more and more complex

 

More education is needed to the general public and vendors (thinking of the poor child who died in the UK from the allergen containing bread)

 

Ah well Scampi.... this debate is rumbling on, Pret a Manger claiming they followed the law re allergen labelling - strictly speaking they did for products made up on premises - but as they had 9 similar complaints on their log for the same issue (2015-2016)  the court reminded them of this & advised they should have taken action as they were already aware of the problem

 

There's a consultation on food labelling ongoing right now as result... but...............

 

Pret are a very large company with significant resource & they could have done more - looks like they chose not to - but they could still  be prosecuted under health & safety legislation - section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 obliges employers  to ensure that persons other than themselves or their employees are not be exposed to risks to their health or safety.

 

​(I have just written an essay on this so something currently close to my heart)


Edited by Lesley.Roberts, 01 February 2019 - 02:13 PM.






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