By now, all of you must have read about the salmonella outbreak, at Peanut Corporation of America’s plants. The NY times reports that, the company now says that its plant was inspected by “private” food safety inspectors regularly who gave them “an overall superior rating”. Some other inspectors apparently gave the plants ‘meets or exceeds audit expectations (Acceptable-Excellent)” ratings.
The NY times report further says that Federal officials have begun a criminal inquiry of the peanut company after learning that it knowingly shipped products that had tested positive for salmonella. The outbreak has caused more than 500 illnesses and eight deaths. More than 1,000 products have been recalled, including pet food, ice cream and brownies.
Wow! Is this not eerily similar to all the A++ and AA++ ratings, given by the ratings agencies to the junk financial instruments, floated and traded by various banks at the heart of the financial crisis? Taking a wider worldview of the situation, it is now apparent that self-regulation cannot be the answer. This is equally applicable to financial institutions or to industrial/food/aviation companies. Private audits, inspections and investigations are fine, BUT they have to be complemented by government agencies and inspectors, else, the consumer will get shafted. It does not matter, whether you are a consumer of financial instruments, peanut butter or anything else. You as a consumer (and voter), should insist that the apparently cozy relationships between these perpetrators and inspectors, should come under the harsh glare of the government.
It is high time that consumers upped the ante-else be prepared to lose your savings, get sick or be exposed to other as yet unknown hazards. Wake up!
Another point-until now, it was always though that only those faraway plants in China or other countries ship these defective/toxic/dangerous products (remember the melamine, toys and other scandals). Plants in the US of A were supposed to be better and safer. What now? Nothing seems so sacred or obvious anymore.
Either consumers should band together and pressurize their legislators to implement stricter norms for government supervised inspections, or they should themselves insist on inspections by say, consumer associations.
It is the only way.