I first alerted Supply Chain Matters readers to a new outbreak of human infections involving salmonella in a posting on January 8th.  At the time, federal investigators had not been able to determine the specific source of the infections and I urged risk management professionals and product managers to be very diligent to the ongoing CDC investigation.

In an update posting of January 15th, I alerted to the fact that the U.S. CDC and FDA agencies  had begun to link the infection to peanut butter, specifically production originating from a specific Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) manufacturing plant in Blakely, Georgia.  We sounded the alert that since the contamination was suspected to have involved institutional and bulk-packaged peanut butter products, that the concern for potential contamination would echo through various food production supply chains and indirectly impact consumers and brands. I also applauded The Kellogg Company for being the first to take proactive action to place a precautionary hold on the sale of a variety of its peanut butter cracker products.

In this post, I observe that the implications of this contamination have indeed been working their way through food production supply chains.  As of this morning, over 125 products have had to be recalled, and my unofficial count would indicate that at least 27 brands, both public and private, have also been impacted.  The products that have been recalled include peanut butter, crackers, cookies, candy, fruit and vegetable, snack food, and other products.  It also now includes certain pet-food productsIf you would like to search the complete list of products, here is the link to the listing on the FDA website.  The latest CDC update also indicates that the count of infected persons is now 486 within 43 states.  This qualifies for the term of nationwide outbreak.  Infections may have contributed to six deaths, according to the CDC. 

While the frequency of illness may be waning, the implications of this incident will continue to impact each of the companies involved. Almost all national and local media outlets are reporting the story of contaminated peanut butter. Both the CDC and the FDA now urge manufacturers to inform consumers about whether their products contain peanut butter or peanut paste acquired from PCA.  These agencies also urge institutions, food service establishments, as well as retailers to not serve or sell specific recalled products.  While these same agencies continue to clarify that the contamination does not involve retail-based peanut butter, consumers who have been constantly hearing of unsafe products are sure to be very wary of consuming any form of peanut butter products. 

Similar to the last year’s salmonella incident involving tomatoes and peppers, the dollar-impact to brands and brand equity are yet to be quantified. For the time being, supply chain risk management teams involving any of these recalled products will need to move from reactive to proactive means to deal with this incident.  Visibility to inventory throughout the supply chain, as well as alternative sources of supply will prove invaluable. While Kellogg was proactive in its response, these other impacted manufacturers are most likely in react mode, attempting to not only insure recalled products are accounted for, but also mitigated for any long-term impact.

Yet another reminder that a supply chain risk event that may initially seem small in scope, can echo itself through many impacted supply chains.

 Bob Ferrari