Three days in Washington at the 2012 Food Safety Summit had us scouring the exhibition floor for innovations, innovators and food safety news worth spreading, and taking in as many workshop sessions as possible.
A standout was a panel of lawyers presenting on “How To Protect Your Company with an Effective Food Liability Program.”
“Food litigation is the new tobacco,” said Joseph Fasi, one of the speakers. “Litigation is starting to explode,” he continued, “and lawyers can smell the money. They’ll be digging through your records for gold nuggets.”
Which was why there was considerable discussion about how recordkeeping has the potential to bury a company or save its life.
Emails are forever, so negative off-the-cuff comments about the quality of a company’s safety responsibilities is verboten. Communications showing that a company has undertaken only a minimum level of preventative controls will be taken to mean that it doesn’t care adequately about food safety.
Litigation lawyers and their teams will pounce on any comments showing a culture of callousness or admonishments for ineptitude or any expression of employee disregard. Any statements making reference to trimming costs is particularly dangerous.
Conversely, what you don’t say is as important as what you do say. If your company has taken extra preventative or regulatory-sanctioned activities, you should say so in your communications.
The other subject that sent some chills down the spines of company representatives in the audience was the warning that, if a company has been hit with damages for a food safety issue where the culprit was an imported product or ingredient, the company should not expect to recoup damages from the exporter, because the exporter may not have sufficient assets.
In a case where the exporter does have the resources, jurisdiction could be a hindrance. An exporter could refuse to pay because the other country doesn’t recognize the verdict.
A domestic company is ultimately responsible for all imported food. “A company wants the right to decide the rigour of certification based on risk,” summarized Fasi.
Tina Brillinger, President
Global Food Safety Resource
HOW YOU KEEP RECORDS IS VITAL. ELECTRONIC RECORDKEEPING IS SAFE AND SECURE.
What system are you using?