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What action can be taken for broken tamper bands and seals on a received honey tote?

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Posted 29 September 2022 - 01:17 PM



We receive in totes of honey that have tamper evident tape across the large screw top on the top of the tote, a foil seal over the spout, and a tamper tab by the valve. In the "usual" photos attached, we can cleanly remove the seal, find no honey in the spout, and the tab is properly seated, indicating that the valve has not been opened. We received in one tote, however, that is missing the seal, has residual honey in the spout, and the tamper tab is not seated (see "issue" photos), which suggests that the valve was potentially opened to some degree at some point. 


This honey comes from Mexico and is stored at a warehouse in Texas before it's shipped directly to us. We were told they verify the seals are in place as the totes are loaded onto the truck (I'm still waiting on documentation) and this is sent to us as a full truckload. Shame on us, we did not inspect the totes at time of receipt and only when we went to use this tote of honey in production. 


I interviewed the (very limited) employees who have access to the honey and it doesn't appear to have happened on the premises. 


Short story: we received a tote of honey with broken tamper evident seals and do not know when, why, or how it occurred.


Question: is there any way we can still use this honey? Is there any kind of testing that can be performed to provide peace of mind? Money is obviously not worth the risk to human health and our company's reputation, but we are a small business and this is a $$$ material. I just wanted to make sure I've exhausted all possible options before dispositioning as destruction. 


Thank you!




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Posted 29 September 2022 - 01:48 PM

If it did not occur with your employees, when was this noticed? Do you have security cameras that may have documented the activity near the tote?

If you accepted this I doubt you can send it back to your supplier...you could see if there a lab that would test this honey for any contaminations, and microbiological activity...And maybe split the cost with the supplier?

And develop a receiving inspection form as soon as possible!







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Posted 29 September 2022 - 01:49 PM

A) is the tote in question missing any measurable volume or is it over what's expected weight/volume wise?


B) you could send swabs from the spout and a sample to a lab for verification of what it is (is it only honey, or is there something measurable in it that shouldn't be there)  Compositional testing


C) unless the warehouse has photographic documentation of each tote that was shipped to you, there is no reliable documentation that would be absolutely bullet proof that is wasn't tampered with at their location


D) did border inspectors open that unit????  I'd be asking about that as well as it could be a reasonable occurrence of border inspections


E) are you buying directly from the processor or a broker?

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Posted 29 September 2022 - 02:10 PM

What is your inspection procedure at time of receipt?  If it is a straight out rejection of any tamper suspected product, then there is your answer.  Take the small financial loss now instead of the big financial disaster (potential) later.  Follow your program even if the tamper evidence was discovered after receipt, the product is suspect. 


If money is the issue being a small company and all, do a deep dive into your supply chain.  Do you trust your supplier, transporter, driver and do you think it was just a sealing error at the supplier's end, if so, reach out to them to see their records. Do a detailed risk assessment, perhaps send samples out for testing based on vulnerability assessment risk factors (i.e., substitution with an inferior product).  If after all testing and evaluation of supply chain reveal nothing of concern you may feel better about the decision to release the product for use.  At the very least you did all you could to ascertain the risks of receiving an unsealed raw material.


Additionally, I would review your receiving procedures to tighten up on the inspection processes prior to receipt of goods so that these expensive mistakes are caught.


Good Luck.


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Posted 30 September 2022 - 07:16 AM

Hi Steph,


Bit of a shame it wasn't spotted, it looks like an example of theft rather than malicious contamination?


I assume this outlet is at the bottom of the tote, so would it be possible to put something in the tote via that outlet or would the honey just run out preventing that?


Kind regards,




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Posted 11 October 2022 - 04:49 PM

I would still file a complaint with your supplier.  You can notify them of the missing seal and apologize it wasn't noticed at receiving.  They may take it back if you are a good customer.  


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Posted 11 October 2022 - 07:56 PM

Where is the drain spout typically located during shipping?  If they're always located at the bottom, I don't think it's unreasonable to say a drain spout was an unlikely source for material to be fed into the tote, gravity flow prevents material from entering the opened valve.  If there's no evidence of foreign substances being introduced to the tote, you can document that along with your investigation.


I think theft from the tote is a reasonable assumption, whether it happened in your plant or during shipping being a factor you cannot find.  Ultimately, many would prefer us to say the entire tote is compromised and discard it, but with proper documentation of the event and a lack of evidence that a problem is present, you could make the argument that it's okay to use.


Tough call, and I don't envy your position here.

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