One Year AgoAugust 24th, 2009 by Michael McCain
It was a year ago on August 23, 2008 that some of our products were linked to the death of 22 Canadians and made many others very ill.
This tragedy was a turning point in our history. It’s very important that we always remember the impact of what happened on the people affected and their families and friends, and what that meant for us as the company responsible.
We make food to feed thousands of people every day and that places an enormous trust upon us. We thought we had very good food safety practices before this tragedy. We thought we were doing the right thing by going way beyond government requirements of us. Clearly we were not doing enough, and our failure had terrible consequences.
We have gone to great lengths over the past year to address gaps in our food safety system and progress well down the path of true leadership in this area. We have step changed our food safety program, from testing to sanitation to incorporating new technologies like Ultra High Pressure and antimicrobial ingredients. We have a level of food safety vigilance that is demonstrating excellent results, even in the face of imperfection. It involves people at all levels in the organization each and every day. And we have detailed the further actions required to move from best in Canada to global leadership.
Today we are a significantly stronger company. We have a deeply rooted commitment to excellence in food safety – it is what we must do to honour the lives lost and people affected by the tragedy of last year. It is never easy being a leader…the two subsequent recalls we have had this year in our packaged meats business have proven that. No matter what we do, we will never be perfect; nor is anyone else. But holding ourselves to a higher standard means we will act more quickly and more assertively when there is a potential food safety concern – even a small one.
We are not going to deviate from this commitment to excellence. My greatest hope is that we will be known as the company that remembered history and learned from it, and as a result sets the gold standard in food safety.