The author of A Game of Thrones is quoted as saying “most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it”. Quite frankly this is the position we keep putting ourselves in, the latest of which is the incident involving the cocaine in fruit juice cans from Trinidad. While on the surface the facts about the source of the drugs and the instigator are at this time indeterminate the truth is that we are not facing reality.
The core issue is the gaping hole in the supply chain system of our factories. This system is responsible in large measure for the safety of our food supplies. In the melee, nobody is speaking on this issue yet if there was a secure system there would be no discussion at the moment.
Modern manufacturers ensure control of product flow from the raw materials stage to the distributor/retailer. They do that via careful selection and monitoring of suppliers and vendors plus internal controls.
Every ingredient is tracked and accounted for. More than just preventing unscrupulous people putting drugs in containers, the focus is the protection of the consumer. Unlike the US who has put into train a legislative framework to protect their consumers, we have not bolstered our own agencies or stepped up the game in general to deal with the demands of the modern times.
A few simple questions for everyone involved:
1. Seeing that this particular can is only (from my observation in the retail trade) used by the specific manufacturer, how secure is the supply chain at this other local supplier? On the issue of contract, were there guarantees re exclusivity in place between the two companies?
2. Seeing that labels are involved, the same questions have to be asked in relation to that supplier.
3. Has any agency, private or governmental, done preparatory work on the supply chain of any local manufacturer to upgrade us for the long expected US export rules? Has one been done for or by this manufacturer? How many TTMA members are ready for the implementation of the Food Safety Modernisation Act? On what grounds can we as consumers be assured of the safety of products and the good conduct of manufacturers locally?
4. Can anyone speak to the supply chain line of command in this specific instance that will assure us as consumers that the products made do not run the risk of contamination?
5. Did the company’s US distributors at any time alert the local manufacturer of rogue products in their market? This would have been a red flag that should have signaled a leakage of finished product from the local market. If as is being proposed, local manufacturers are being targeted then it seems to me that they ought to track when their local sales are going to non-routine customers or when rogue products appear. This would have been noted by an active export and local sales department.
Instead of issuing statements I urge all to move to safeguard us and brand T&T. We all have to face the fact that in these times the bar has to be raised with respect to the integrity of the supply chain and good manufacturing practices.
My mother used to say “Harden children bound to feel”.