People in Portales, NM are beginning to fear the nation’s largest organic peanut butter plant might not have a future in their community. Their politicians are beating their drums about saving the plant and saving the jobs that go with it.
The fear may be justified. A food safety crisis ending in bankruptcy or the wholesale termination of a business or brand is not that unusual. There’s a permanently closed peanut butter plant in Plainview, Texas, less than 100 miles from Portales.
Peanut Corporation of America, Topps Foods, and Jensen Farms—just a few examples of companies that saw their food safety crises end in financial ruin. Easy to see how a town can get nervous.
Failures to apply science and technology are usually seen as the root causes of food safety meltdowns like the one at New Mexico’s Sunland, Inc. One question we are almost always asking ourselves that seems never to get answered is: “What were they thinking?”
I’ve begun to conclude that the people who own and manage food manufacturing plants might just get themselves into food safety troubles because of normal human foibles and emotions.
For example, I was for a brief moment an NFL fan or at least a Tim Tebow fan and I neither like nor have the knowledge to understand football.
When the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback last season started out on the bench of the Denver Broncos, I knew nothing about him. Then I kept hearing the name as this enormous controversy erupted. Some thought Tebow should be the starting QB, but some did not.
Those who did not seemed to know the most about NFL football.
I did not care, but could not help but watch when after going only 1-4; the Broncos put Tebow in charge. And then—and this was the fun part—Tebow won a string of games with his shaky and unpredictable play mostly in the last two minutes of the game. It was a thrill. They even won the first playoff game. Every time, they just barely made it. Wow, talk about excitement.
And then it was over. The Broncos’ adult management does not want excitement, but certainty. Nothing left to chance. They wanted a QB with machine-like efficiency. The Broncos got Peyton Manning, and while the winning continues like clockwork, the thrill of the victories is not like it was. It’s too predictable. It is too expected. How fun is that?
The Bronco fans are happy, but just not giddy like last year. Tebow is now a New York Jet, waiting for another chance to thrill. Denver knows it’s lucky to have Manning, fans at the stadium even sit down and shut up when he tells them to do so. The adults are in charge. How much fun is that?
So which food safety management style would you like to practice: Tebow or Manning? Is just barely making it enough or should you do everything possible to ensure success? How much living on the edge should you do?
Whenever we are doing the obituary on some company responsible for food safety disaster, it always seems at some point it is obvious they knew they were dancing on the edge and just never expected to fall over it.
All of us Tebow fans know what that feels like. But it’s not something we should bet the business on, is it?
© Food Safety News