FOOD SAFETY: THE CASE OF BMI
Jose works as a clerk at the headquarters of Best Meat International, LLC (BMI), a US-based food processing company.
With a history of over 60 years, the company has established a global food-processing network that supplies meat products to some of the restaurant chains in the world. During the course of his work, Jose comes across documents that suggest one subsidiary company of BMI has actually been repackaging and selling chicken and beef past their expiry dates in some developing countries. Jose is shocked. He knows that the Food and Drug Administration in the United States has banned such practices. In the US, government regulations are very strict about the food production dates and their sell-by dates, but in some developing countries, whose quality assurance supervision is lacking or outmoded, some businesses are likely to explore such loopholes. Even though some expired meat products may not cause serious health issues, such practice presents great potential threat to public health in those countries.
Jose gathers the appropriate documents and takes them to his immediate superior, Maria. Maria says, “Look, I don’t think that sort of thing is your concern, or mine. We are in charge of record keeping, not making decisions about the product quality. I suggest you drop it.”
The next day, Jose decides to go one-step further. He makes an appointment and talks to Mike, the CEO of the subsidiary company. Mike is clearly irritated. Mike says, “This isn’t your concern. Look, these are the sorts of cost-cutting moves that let a company like ours compete with our global competitors. Besides, everyone knows that the regulations in the US are super cautious and these developing countries are not clearly prohibitive. There is no real danger to anyone who consumes such products. I consider this matter closed.”
Jose considers his situation. The message from his superiors was loud and clear. He strongly suspects that making further noises about this issue could jeopardize his job. Further, he generally has faith in the company’s management. They have always seemed like honest, trustworthy people. However, he was troubled by this apparent disregard for public health of people in other countries. On the other hand, he asks himself whether maybe Mike was right in arguing that the danger was minimal. Jose emailed an expert who is working for the food safety division of an international organization that he found via the Internet. This expert told him that there was mass public outrage in those countries toward their quality assurance administrations and toward foreign companies like BMI who are getting away with selling defective products in their countries.