On February 13, 2009, the Peanut Corporation of America ceased all manufacturing and business operations, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, as a consequence of a Salmonella contamination event. This event triggered the most extensive food recall in U.S. history at the time involving 46 states, over 360 companies and more than 3,900 different products manufactured using the company's ingredients. It was also one of the most dramatic food recalls ever, as it resulted in 9 fatalities and over 714 people falling ill (many of them children) from food poisoning after consuming products containing contaminated peanuts. This devastating event also had severe implications for other innocent companies which had to bear the initial recall costs, with smaller ones struggling to survive. A similar event occurred in Germany in 2011, when an E.coli outbreak traced to fenugreek sprouts infected 3950 people and caused 53 fatalities. In China, milk and powdered infant formula tainted with the chemical melamine caused more than 300,000 injured and 6 fatalities.
A recent Swiss Re publication explored the current state of food safety and the reasons behind the growing number of food recalls. One of the key factors is population growth and the associated increase in food demand, putting pressure on our increasingly interconnected, globalised supply chains. In addition, consumers have more access to information and appear to be increasingly aware of food safety and related risks.
The economic consequences of getting food safety wrong can be very significant for the companies involved. However, an appropriate understanding of supply and distribution chains, as well as suitable risk mitigation and management measures, can greatly help companies manage their food safety risks.
On October 6, a panel of experts, from food producers, to food safety organizations, academic research and insurance organisations, will discuss how the food industry can intensify its efforts to ensure greater food safety and how the insurance industry can help to mitigate and manage food safety related risks. Here you can find the details of the topics and panelists.
Please join us at Swiss Re's Centre for Global Dialogue in Zurich and/or follow the event live on twitter using the hashtag #InsuringFoodSafety.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts as to how we can all work together towards a more resilient food industry, which you can add as comments below. Also, please add any questions or issues you would like the panelists to discuss during the event.
Category: Food security: Food industry