At the beginning of March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a form of salmonella had been found in hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) which was being supplied by Basic Food Flavors of Las Vegas. No reported illnesses or deaths have been traced to the subject HVP thus far, but the FDA and individual food companies need to insure end-products that include this recalled HVP incorporate production processes that involve a certain process of cooking to kill the bacteria.  Otherwise, according to the FDA, the end-products should be recalled.

An initial New York Times article reported that thousands of processed foods, from soups to hot dogs, contain the HVP that is suspected of being contaminated with salmonella.  Our initial Supply Chain Matters commentary on this ongoing incident noted how potentially widespread the effects of this recall may be across food related supply chains. We also again stressed the critical importance that supply chain traceability and risk mitigation have become required process capabilities, and how important technology helps in supporting such capabilities.

The first major food manufacturer to quickly respond to this incident was Procter and Gamble, that manufactures and distributes Pringles brand potato chips. P&G voluntarily recalled two specific flavors of Pringles which were affected by the HVP recall.

As I pen this posting, there are currently 159 different products listed on the FDA web site as under voluntary recall, and the list is growing every day.  The categories are broad, ranging from bullion and gravy mixes, to sauces, soups, ready-to-eat and processed food products.  Thus far, product brands include well-known names, such as Dean’s, Durkee, French’s, Herbox, McCormack, Pringles and others.  Private label brands are not immune, including CVS, Kroeger, Publix and Trader Joe’s.  Institutional brands sold to restaurants and food service customers are also included.  In other words, when the dust does settle, this will be a far-reaching disruption involving multitudes of different product supply-chains, because the source ingredient is included in so many different products.

Consumer product companies now have to deal with even more negative perceptions by consumers on the overall safety of the food supply chain.  Just queerying any search engine on the topic of HVP recall will bring together a collage of visual images of food brands that are part of this recall.  This of course is not the way companies want their brands represented, and to make matters even more interesting, information is now being disseminated regarding what HVP really is.  A posting on the Good for You blog on MedBroadcast notes that HVP is the disguised version of monosodium glutamate (MSG), to which many people are extremely sensitive.  The composition of MSG in HVP is such that the existence of MSG does not have to be noted on the product label.

As with previous incidents, this large-scale recall involving HVP will continue to unfold in the coming weeks and months. Brands and supply chains will again be tested.  Supplies will be purged and brands will have to reinvigorated with higher profile marketing.  If there is one key takeaway, there should be no excuse for any consumer products oriented company not to have an active supply chain risk awareness and mitigation plan in place.

Bob Ferrari