//A Little Salmonella May Not Kill You, but it May Kill your Economy

A Little Salmonella May Not Kill You, but it May Kill your Economy

2017-10-07T22:39:38+00:00

Quality processes affect more than business. When it involves a country’s ability to maintain and regulate safety, poor quality management can damage the entire economic infrastructure of an industry, even a nation.

Quality & Economics

The question of quality runs far deeper than business. When quality fails at the societal level, we fail each other. Then the real danger is that we fail to govern efficiently and fairly.

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Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

After salmonella was discovered in a flavor-enhancing ingredient, a wide range of processed foods were recalled including soups, snack foods, dips and dressings, the result of poor quality control.  Food and Drug Administration officials noted that the ingredient, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, was used in thousands of food products. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no illnesses or deaths have been reported – so far.

Currently the recall only involves Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc.  The FDA collected and analyzed samples at the Las Vegas facility after one of the company’s customers discovered the salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children and others with weakened immune systems. The FDA confirmed the presence of a strain of salmonella in the company’s processing equipment.

While there are currently no deaths or even illnesses attributed to this recall, the economic impact can be felt in the millions of dollars Basic Food Flavors Inc. has to spend on the recall.

According to the FDA, hundreds of thousands of food recalls per year, again reflecting the impact of poor quality control.  While there are currently no deaths or even illnesses attributed to this recall, the economic impact can be felt in the millions of dollars Basic Food Flavors Inc. has to spend on the recall.

An impact like this leads to less spending in other areas, such as product development or workforce expansion.  The company’s reputation often takes a hit.  These all have a negative impact on the economy.

Add on the class action suits that generally result after a large recall like this and the impact becomes even greater.

More than 2.1 million drop-side cribs by Stork Craft Manufacturing were recalled, the biggest crib recall in U.S. history.  In a 2008 scare, milk from China laced with the industrial chemical melamine led to the deaths of six babies and sickened 300,000 others who had been fed baby formula made from the tainted dairy.  Lack of adequate quality programs led directly to these defects.

By paying attention to quality, fewer cases of food borne illnesses arise, and fewer injuries from defective consumer merchandise occur.  This means fewer dollars spent correcting problems, and more resources made available for product development.

Where’s Your Talent?

The Challenger space shuttle disintegrated in mid-air, killing all seven astronauts. It was later found that a $900 O-ring was to blame. Years later, the Space Shuttle Columbia was torn apart during re-entry. This time, it was “unexpected consequences” of large chunks of ice that hit delicate wing parts during launch.

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar. Solar panels that are expected to have a 25-year life span are failing. Coatings are disintegrating and other defects have caused fires. Worldwide, the reports are coming in. The $77 billion solar photovoltaic industry is facing a quality crisis.

A Tale of Two Countries

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Subir Chowdhury Fellowship on Quality and Economics at Harvard University

Expanding the outreach of Subir Chowdhury's global call for quality throughout society - at all levels - a Fellowship on Quality and Economics has been established at Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The goal: to explore the impact of quality and economics in the United States.