Barbados News Media Fails To Print Credible Letter About Serious Public Health Issue
The Barbados Advocate
On Friday the 27th.June 2008, an item of news was aired at 5.30 pm on the radio, which dealt with the recent recall of milk and ice-cream products manufactured by BICO. The chief executive officer of BICO Mr. Edwin Thirlwell, down played the incident and commented on the fact that, testing of the products was done at one of the polyclinics, whereas, in fact, testing ought to have been done at the government laboratories. The inference given was that, the polyclinics were not validated by the located authorities to do such tests. I want to correct the misconceptions which Thirlwell have been disseminating to the listening public.
First of all, let me disclose an interest, since the environmental officer with responsibility for the area, was trained by me in HACCP at the Barbados Community College and as recent as November 2007, under went an intense training course sponsored by the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization, over a two-week period. I was the course instructor for the training program, which dealt with HACCP and Food Safety Auditing. Included in the program was a section dealing with food recalls. Examples of recalls from the USA were obtained from the Institute of Food Technologists daily news bulletin board for the period July-November 2008 and where appropriate, as far as 2007.
Contrary to what Thirlwell would like the consuming public to believe, a product recall is a serious indictment about the food safety standards of a food processing organization. This is especially so, if as in the case of BICO, the food establishment is HACCP certified. According to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA): food Recalls: Distributor’s Guide. September 14th. 2007 page 2: “Sometimes, for many different reasons, a product may be manufactured and sold which may make some people ill or injure them, or is in violation of food safety legislation. When an unsafe or violative food has left the control of manufacturer…you must recall the product. If you choose not to conduct a recall, the regulatory agencies must order a recall.”
In the case with which we are dealing, testing was done on five appropriately labeled samples of each of the suspected contaminated products at about three different local facilities. Batch numbers, name of product and manufacturer as well as dated manufactured were noted. Positives results were obtained. The products were found to be contaminated with E.coli, Klebsiella spp.and other enteric organisms. In some cases, colonies were to numerous to count (TNC). BICO then voluntary recalled the defective products.
The organisms found are associated with fecal contamination and are indicative of the fact that, standard sanitary operating procedures (SSOPs) either have broken down or are non-existent.
Two samples of products were then sent by BICO to the Diagnostic Laboratory for further testing. These samples were not coded for batch number, date of manufacture and time of manufacture. These samples passed inspection.
The questions the consuming public must ask itself are: when were these samples taken? Were they taken subsequent to the instructions issued by the environmental officer that, equipment used for milk production, should be stripped, cleaned and sanitized before being used for ice cream manufacture? Were the samples taken from the same batches that were sampled by the environmental officers, or were the samples obtained from newly manufactured products? Also, the consuming public must also ask, was the sampling done statistically, according to methods outline by the American Public Association’s Compendium for the microbiological testing of foods?
It would appear that good manufacturing practices (GMP’s) were not in effect. The condemn products are to be dumped.
Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.
July 1, 2008
Barbados Free Press Comments…
To our knowledge, none of the unethical lapdog Barbados news media printed this very credible letter that calls into question the capabilities and willingness of BICO to maintain healthy standards for the public.
Should BICO wish to communicate their side of the story with our readers, we would be pleased to prominently publish their letter unedited as it is received.
Barbados Free Press