April 27, 2021 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Food Safety Incidents: Why Do They Occur So Often?

food safety

Why do food safety incidents occur so often?

Many of us enjoy the convenience of buying pre-washed spinach, lettuces, and other delicious buy-and-serve greens. However, it seems all too often that the news informs us that a favorite salad green is recalled due to being the culprit of a foodborne illness.

In 2018, reports of a flare-up of E. coli infections went nationwide, affecting 84 people across 19 states, resulting in the hospitalization of 42 people. More than a half-dozen of the hospitalizations reflected persons affected with a type of acute kidney failure. The outbreak was tied to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona, even though investigators weren’t able to pinpoint the exact origin of the outbreak.

Why do food safety incidents keep happening?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) highlights the frequency of foodborne illness: “Foodborne illness is a major cause of disease in the United States. Each year, 31 known foodborne pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and parasites) cause an estimated 9 million illnesses and unspecified agents account for an additional estimated 37 million illnesses, for a total of 48 million illnesses.”

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Instructor Kevin McManus says, “I’ve been teaching, facilitating, and leading process improvement efforts for over 40 years. I have only known about the TapRooT® RCA process for less than half of those years.  I spent eight of the first 25 years of my career as a production manager or plant manager in two different food plants, where our goal naturally was to improve our processes on a regular basis. 

“We achieved a lot of process improvement success at these two locations, in spite of using the more traditional, opinion-based root cause tools (such as Five Whys, fishbone diagrams, and fault trees). I can say, without hesitation, that use of TapRooT® as our food safety root cause analysis methodology would have led to even greater benefits.

“Food companies should be hungry for TapRooT® RCA, just as other highly regulated industries such as medical device sterilization and energy production. I believe that any process, in any type of organization, can benefit from the design and systemic advantages that are inherent to the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis approach. Food companies, in particular, should have embraced this approach more than they have to date.”

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Accident, Root Cause Analysis, Safety
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