Monday, September 10, 2007

Write it down, will ya?

Having written policies and procedures are crucial to any company’s long-term success, right? That has always been my experience. I am actually looking at the binder on my shelf at work right now that I was given when I hired on at Land Line Magazine more than a year ago. I don’t use it every day, but it is a handy reference tool to have in front of me if needed.

However, if you are a produce hauler, you are more than likely flying by the seat of your pants most of the time, which has been the case in at least two incidents in the past year involving recalled produce found to be contaminated while in transit.

After the fall 2006 E.coli outbreak in bagged spinach left many truckers “holding the bag” with recalled product on their trailers and no answers as to what to do with it, another recall – this time linked to possible salmonella contamination – has truckers asking the same question again: “What do we do?”

And while shippers in both incidents say they “verbally” communicated to get their message out about what to do and where to take the affected product, neither company has decided that having written procedures in place for truckers to follow when a recall is issued is smart business? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

If you sell a product that could potentially make people sick, and possibly kill them, if it gets into the marketplace and is contaminated – wouldn’t you want to dot all of your “i’s” and cross all of your “t’s”?

I talked recently to a Metz Fresh company spokesman who said communication with truckers was key in the containment of more than 90 percent of more than 8,100 cases of bagged spinach, which tested positive for salmonella after the product had been loaded onto trucks in late August.

However, the Metz Fresh spokesman said the company never directly communicated with the truckers – the Metz Fresh customers did, but not in writing – so who knows if the communication was accurate and consistent. It wasn’t written down.

If their verbal procedures were so effective this time, shouldn’t they want to write them down in case it happens again? I hope so – and I bet produce haulers everywhere would agree.