Product and Food Safety
Product and food safety is a core requirement in ethical business practice. As companies and big business ventures move towards globalization, significant focus should be given to product and food safety. Increased cases of deaths and illnesses related to product and food safety is a major drawback in the global trade. Notably, the array of ethical concerns related to product and food safety is quit extensive. A lot of uncertainty and lack of trust on locally and imported food products as a result of increased scandals affecting consumers has significantly affected the business paradigm. Consumers want to associate with organizations and manufacturer who exhibit highest standards of business ethics.
However, in the recent past, more confusion has emerged because even the leading multinational companies have engaged in unethical business conduct. Increased unethical conduct among Multinational Corporation has increased consumer sensitivity of various aspects affecting product and food safety (Hemphill 157). Big corporations such as Volkswagen (Germany), Toyota (Japan), OSI Group (USA), McDonalds (USA) and Tnuva (Israel) have feature with different scandal ranging from food poisoning, adulteration, counterfeit products, false labeling, contamination and misleading the consumers through false information. Such scandals have put great economies and multinational corporations in spot light and have compelled reasonable basis to create better approach in product and food safety. Many who are trapped in the unfortunate situation would ask if it is possible to attain certainty in the product and food safety. Also, the consumers, who are directly affected by such unethical conducts seeks assurance on a sustainable approach that would permanently address the worrying trend. Therefore, this research seeks to explore vital information and facts related to product and food safety in the effort to correct the shortcomings in this area. Through application of good data collection methods, it is expected that the research will play a significant role in providing vital information toward addressing various issues affecting product and food safety.
Recently, there have been reports, both in the local and international media, on Product and food safety crisis. Invariable, much attention tends to focus on the manner in which the crisis is handled by the government and relevant law enforcement agencies. Toyota recall crisis, McDonald’s food scandal and the most recent Volkswagen scandal, and many others scandals are sufficient reason to create a more focus attention on product and food safety. For example, in 2009, Toyota engaged in first recall that was meant to correct a possible incursion of a wrong or out-of-place front floor mat on the driver side into the foot pedal well, which can cause pedal entrapment. That was a potential hazard for all of the drivers and loyal customers of Toyota. It is the responsibility of the manufacturers to ensure their products do not pose threat or danger to the customers in any manner. Manufacturing companies are not relieved once their products are sold out because they still bear liability even when their products leave the factory.
Therefore, this research seeks to address various issues affecting product and food safety. The research explores major ethical concerns on product and food safety. The research captures major issues affecting the product and food safety, with most recent examples explored in order to provide relevant finding which can be used to address unethical business practice in the current era.
Theoretical Foundation of the Research
Theoretical foundation of my work is business ethics. They are various theories in business ethics that try to explain why organizations engage in unethical practices such as Classical theory, Marxism theory, anthropological theory and psychological theory. These theories will lay a significant foundation in understanding different unethical practices related to food and product safety. Also, the theories will provide significant basis in creating better approach to address such issues.
- What safety problems does the society have? (The Cases)
- Why do manufactures have lots of the safety of product or food problems?
- How do manufactures balance the profits and ethics?
- What should government do for protecting the customers’ benefit?
Major scandals that have marked food processing industries have raised serious legal and ethical concerns for nations and health organizations. Israel’s largest milk producer; Tnuva, raised serious ethical concerns between 1993 and 1995 when it manufactured and supplied more than 13million liters of UHT(ultra-high temperature) milk consisting DMPS (silicon)components (Jiang and Ying 603). The DMPS components were added to the milk to overcome certain technical problems during the production process. Because of adding this component, Tnuva saved $400, 000 by not having to replace its equipment. However, the consequences of the addition were regrettable. The company did not indicate in the milk box the presence of DMPS and never reported on the same to then Ministry of Health. Worst enough, the company denied inclusion of DMPS in their products when it was subjected to prosecution despite the Ministry identifying it. The scandal saw the company and its managers convicted and prosecuted in a criminal trial and consequently sued in a class action for the breach of consumers’ autonomy (Jiang and Ying 604). Though there was no concrete damage established from the discovered DMPS, the Ministry of Health expressed concerns on possible health complications that might occur on the long run, especially among the young children who consumed the milk. At the end, Tnuva was found liable and obligated to make a compensation of $55 millions. The court decided to divide the compensation to three main purposes: financial donation for research and scholarships in areas related to nutrition and food; benefiting consumer by lowering the cost of the milk, and provision of free milk for those in need by public organizations (Jiang and Ying 604)
German milk company, Humana, was also involved in food safety scandal. An investigation carried out by the ministry of health in Israel discovered that the milk imported from Humana contained ten times less vitamin B1 than indicated on the milk label. Investigations by the police found that Remedia Food Corporation based in Israel was responsible for importing the baby milk though it was aware that the producers had stopped including vitamin B1 in their product but did not give a report on this. As a result of this scandal, the defendants were accused of negligent breach of responsibility that led to death of three children and spread of disease and also misleading the public (Jiang and Ying 604). The ministry of health had identified three case fatalities and 17 more children suffering from developmental disease as a result of using the milk. The case led to prosecution of the managers and the owner of Remedia Food Corporation, the head of the national food service and four import inspectors in Israel who were on duty when the scandal encroached.
China’s 2008 tainted milk scandal was one the most notable food safety incident that lead to death of six infants and an estimation of 300,000 babies hospitalized for the same reason (Shumei 725). The chief culprit of this scandal was Chinese largest dairy produce, the Sanlu Group. Milk and milk products were contaminated with melamine; a toxic industrial compound used in manufacturing of plastics and fertilizer (Shumei 725). Once melanin is consumed by human beings, it can lead to kidney stones and kidney failure and other potentially fatal conditions, especially among the children. The fact that the contamination had occurred raised great concern in both China and overseas about the ethics of Chinese business practice. The scandal not only dealt a great blow to booming domestic dairy industry but also damaged the reputation of Chinese exporting companies (Shumei 726). The extent of damage was also felt by pets in the United States which suffered deaths and illnesses as a result of the contamination in the milk products.
Some of the recent scandals involved care manufacturers Volkswagen and Toyota. In 2009, Toyota made the first recall to rectify a possible incursion of an erroneous or out-of-place front driver’s side stepping mat into the foot pedal well which could cause pedal entrapment (Wallace 1). In 2010, Toyota engaged in the second recall to correct the mechanical problem that could cause unexpected acceleration of the automobiles. The Volkswagen scandal which is currently on headlines of several media is incident that would see the company loose $4.8 billion in a recall involving millions of cars fitted with false device (Bremmer 14). The multinational automobile manufacturer installed software that could give wrong impression about their emission test, making their products appear cleaner than they actually are (Bremmer 3). Many business malpractices of such magnitude are conducted out of ignorance and poor ethical culture in the organizations.
In order to tackle issues related to food safety, Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by WHO (World Health Organization) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) to develop vital food standards, guidelines, codes of practice, and other significant recommendations related to food production and food safety (Halabi 407). This commission brought out Recommended International Code of Practice (General Principle of Food Hygiene GHP) which has undergone several revisions along the years. In 2005, The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) in support Codex Alimentarius Commission brought about ISO 22000:2005 (Kim 142). This initiative globally harmonized food management systems and established vital requirements for any organization engaged in the food chain. The primary objectives of the established safety standard include;
- Ensuring food and food products are safe and suitable for human consumption.
- Ensuring fair trade practices in the food business.
- Lay needful foundation for ensuring food hygiene.
This commission created a vital guideline called Codex Alimentarius. Codex Alimentarius is a comprehensive collection of all globally adopted food standards and their correlated text and present in sequential and uniform manner (Halabi 407). These food standards and their related texts were created with the intention of safe guarding consumer’s health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. This important document is publicized with the aim of promoting and guiding the establishment and elaboration of requirements and definitions for foods to help in their harmonization and consequently facilitate international trade (Halabi 412). All principle foods, whether raw, processed or semi processed, meant for distribution purposes to the customers are included in the Codex Alimentarius. The Codex Alimentarius includes provisions in respect to food hygiene, contaminants, ingredients, food additives, food elements, residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs, import and export certification and inspection, labeling and presentation, , and methods of sampling and analysis (Halabi 408).
Food safety is defined as the guarantee that the food product will cause not cause infection or harm to the consumers when it is taken or eaten according to its intended purpose (Sperling 268). Normally, food quality is graded by a third audit party through the use of objective measurements based on different physical attributes in the food such as taste, appearance, nutrition, odor, and flavor (Jiang, Qijun, and Ying 602). Though safety is considered a component of quality, it greatly differs from many other quality attributes because it is often difficult and costly to observe its outcome (Halabi 410). For example, from general observation, a product may appear to be of high quality but unfit for human consumption due to contamination with undetected toxic chemicals. On other case, food product labeling can indicates elements and ingredients in the food product which may not be present. Therefore, through physical observation it is not easy to determine the state of food substance.
Food safety policy is a fraction of larger effort used to protect and enhance the public health (Kim 143). Food safety policy is part of the necessary efforts expressed to enhance and protect public health. This policy is normally based on risk analysis focusing on three main components (Van der Veer 289). The first component is risk assessment, which basically involves the scientific evaluation of the potential or known adverse health effects emanating from human exposure to foodborne hazards. The second constituent is the risk management process that incorporates the weighing policy and available technology in order to reduce, accept, or minimize the assessed risk and implement the best option (Stuart and Michelle 255). This process significantly relies on scientific experiments. The third and the final stage is risk communication which includes the exchange of options and information among several risk assessors, risk managers and other involved parties, not excluding the public. It is vital that in all the three stages of risk analysis, ethics should take the center stage. Ethics enables valuable judgment in the entire process of food safety risk analysis.
Though the use of peer reviewed journal and articles, the researcher was able to identify some product and food safety cases which are very popular in the society, and analyzed the cases from a social group perspective. Journals were significant sources that provided vital information on why manufactures have many safety problems and the response of the public on the same.
The research has involved a series of case studies covering issues related to product and food safety in China, United States, German and Israel. These countries were chosen because major scandals on product and food safety have featured in their territories for the last two decades. Despite economical superiority in these countries, unethical business conducts have posed great challenge to product and food safety.
Majority of multinational corporations take advantage of slack food safety regulations and enforcements in some countries to conduct unethical trade (Michaelidou and Louise 167). This is a clear indication of lack of corporate social responsibility among many multinational corporations that take advantage of the unfortunate situation in some countries to exploit the consumer. The fact that most unethical conducts go unnoticed is a dangerous indication of possible tragedies that might manifest in future (Sperling 276). There is need to embrace better approach and strategies to counter the unethical business practice from the foundation level.
The public health policy asserts that the majority or maybe the powerful minority accept their fair share of responsibility of guarding the minority threatened with death (Curlo 42). The virtue of ethics plays a central role in ensuring zero cases related with product and food safety (Kim 740). If at all every food manufacturers would observe total commitment to business ethic, consumers would be assured of healthy products. However, there are cases which might result for unexpected incidences. For example, formation of toxic compound in food products because of environmental condition changes. In such a case, quick measures of risk communication should be taken in order to reduce the chance of spreading the risk further. Ethics plays a significant role in ensuring proper risk communication is always done (Kim 736).
Creating awareness is a significant measure that can be used to support product and food safety (Sperling 277). Awareness can be created in two levels. The first level included the key participants in manufacturing and production level (Michaelidou and Louise 163). It is important to train employees about product and food safety and elaborate their responsibility in protecting the rights of the consumers. Training on PRP would significantly support quality approach to manufacturing and enable companies to eliminate or minimize instances of contamination, errors, and mix-ups (Stuart and Michelle 242). The management should play a leading role in ensuring proper record keeping, sanitation, cleanliness, equipment verification, process validation, and personal hygiene.
The second level of awareness is public focused or consumer awareness (Michaelidou and Louise 164). It is the role of manufactures and regulating bodies to ensure that customers are conversant with product and food safety. Customers should be provided with vital information on the food and products they receive from suppliers and manufacturer. Correct labeling is a requirement that all manufacturer should meet to enable the consumer make appropriate choices.
Food labeling is a significant step that enables the consumers chooses the product in the market display (Hemphill 143). However, majority of the manufacturers make labeling without considering the consequences that can be result from misleading the public (Stuartand Michelle 254). There are numerous cases of food manufacturer who gave false information on their product labels. However, the government checks such cases through the labeling law to ensure true details are given to the consumer.
In order to create a firm foundation of food safety, it is important to engage vital processes. This includes ensuring good infrastructure and hygiene, high quality raw materials and production process, safe storage, good packaging, and safe delivery of products. Regular improvement and maintenance practices are significant in encouraging food safety. Also, in order to curb unethical business practice, it is important to establish strong PRPs (Pre-Requisite Program) within the organizations (Kim 739). PRPs includes good production practices (GPP), good hygiene practices (GHP), good trading practices (GTP), good distribution practices (GDP) and manufacturing practices (GMP).
Significance or Expected Contribution of your Study
Whatever the manufactures have product safety or food safety, the customers have the right to know and the government should supervise the manufactures. The contribution of this study is to provide vital knowledge on how the public treats the product and food safety issues and how companies balance their benefit and the safety of products. The research provides significant exploration of ethical concern in product and food safety that can be relied upon in policy developments.
As the world becomes more globalized because of cross border trade, there is need to enforce strict legal measures in order to protect consumers from unethical manufacturers. Controlling foodborne diseases has been one of the main objective public health. Despite increased efforts to fight unethical business conducts, increased cases of unethical manufacturing practice have posed a great challenge to the business world. Foodborne diseases have continued to cause serious damage on the health systems.
Despite the challenged involved in the global trade because of increased competition, it is important for the companies to balance the benefits (profits) and business ethics. Creating a strong ethical culture is a great advantage to the business because it increases customers’ confidence on the business services and products.
In order to create a firm foundation of food safety, organizations must prioritize good production practices, good hygiene practices, good trading practices, good distribution practices and manufacturing practices. Significant input is required to strengthen the structured created to monitor and regulate product and food safety.
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