Monthly Archives: October 2012

Through a Customer’s Eyes: Being Ready for Food Safety Issues

Recently here at Nelson-Jameson, we had an employee deal with a food safety issue where they had purchased a compromised food item. Though not a pleasant experience, the process of dealing with the incident has become a learning experience for those of us at Nelson-Jameson that work on food safety. As we discussed the person’s ordeal over several weeks, one issue came up repeatedly in our conversations. More than anything, communication was key for this individual. The most reassuring times for them came when the company effectively communicated with them about the process and their efforts to rectify the situation. The most frustrating points came when the customer was continually referred to others (i.e. vendors, retail outlets, producers, etc.) in the production/distribution process to find answers. To the customer these conversations became frustrating where they, “began to feel like the middleman…keeping all of these people on the same page and in communication.”

Prevention is often the focus of many operators. This definitely should be the case, but it is also important to consider how your operation would react to a food safety issue once the product has reached the consumer. There are federal laws and procedures that dictate what a company should do in a recall situation, but a company shouldn’t count on outside parties to come in and clean up all of their messes. The fundamental need for communication within your company is as important as your communication to outside parties or regulators. Good communication is a compass that can help steer your operation through rough waters.

Say, for instance, a customer found a piece of a glove or a band-aid in their food… What are you going to do when that customer calls to complain? Who will speak to them? How will you rectify the situation? Do any authorities need to be alerted? Will you need to seek legal council? How will you deal with potentially fraudulent claims? If there are damages, who will pay for it…will you hold your suppliers responsible, or should the retail outlet take care of it, or is it on you, etc.?

There are a lot of questions that can come up. Customers in this kind of situation can feel blown off or feel a sense of frustration as parties involved in the creation and sale of that product go back and forth. This is not a time to further irritate the victim of a food safety issue.

Know your line of communications and have your responsibilities assigned before such an incident occurs. The creation of one food product can involve many parties and the answers are not always easy to come by. Hence, getting your legal ducks in a row and your operational procedures down before the fact can save a lot of time that would be spent bumbling through the process, which can add up in terms of cost quickly.

Each operation is different and demands differing approaches to resolving such issues. One thing that we all share in common though, is that mistakes can happen at any facility. With some discussion and planning, you can assure your business will communicate externally and within the company with precision and direction that will mean a great deal to customers and to your employees negotiating the difficult waters of a food safety complaint.

The Fall of the Pests

It might be a burdensome task to face, but winter weather is coming and its time to face that cold fact. In the process of battening down the hatches, don’t forget to think about pest control over the winter months. Nelson-Jameson stocks a wide array of pest control products, knowing there is no “off season” for pest control. In fact, winter brings some special consideration in terms of determining potential target pests.

According to, one of the biggest concerns for any food facility come in the form of rodents; they “present the primary threat to food plants as the temperature drops, as they seek the warm shelter as well as food and water sources a food plant provides.” In addition, some other pests also are well-known for their winter populations in homes and businesses of all kinds. The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food states that amongst others, cluster flies and lady beetles can prove to be especially problematic in the winter months. Even in winter months, it just doesn’t seem like you can count on these pests taking a long winter’s nap.

Prevention is stressed highly by numerous authorities on pests. Sealing, caulking, and repairing damages to the facility before the cold weather really settles in is key. Being prepared with the necessary proper pest management supplies for the winter months can go a long way in terms of prevention. For instance, if you are looking for some help taking on mice this winter, check out our Stick-Em® Rodent Traps, NJ# 202-6010. These traps are effective and don’t pose the danger to employees of spring traps or uncertainty of box traps. To take on cluster flies and other kinds of flies, take a look at the Insect-O-Cutor® Guardian Scatterproof unit, NJ# 343-6392. Our line of scatterproof units are ideal for use in proximity to open food processing areas as they are USDA and FDA approved.  Contact Devon Jones at 800-826-8302 or to discuss your operation’s pest control needs.

Plastic Contamination in Food

A pen is a pen; a glove is a glove, right? When purchasers are trying to adhere to the bottom line, this might make some sense. It doesn’t seem right that you should have to spend more on metal-detectable products, when you can buy it at the base price. As you figure out what is best for your operation, consider this: the price of something like a box of metal-detectable pens or a box of metal-detectable gloves are much less expensive than a recall caused by plastics contamination in your product.

For those that keep track of food recalls, “plastic contamination” is an all-too-familiar phrase. From cake to tuna to dog food, the discovery of plastic contaminates is a troubling event for both the customer and for the producer. Pen caps, pens, gloves, aprons, etc. are possible contaminants that can show up in a finished product, acting as choking hazards, laceration hazards, biological hazards, and as a shock to those consuming the product or to those serving it.

It’s not a problem that has taken care of itself or has gone away, by any means. As recently as 2010, Food Safety Magazine featured an article on plastic contaminants, stating: “Within the last 12 months, there has been a flurry of recall activity originating from undetected plastic contaminants passing unnoticed through supply chains in North America.” A quick search on the Internet or in trade publications will reveal a bounty of headlines concerning plastic contaminants that extend through the current day. The “flurry” of activity has not subsided and needs further attention in the food industry immediately.

It may seem ridiculous that such a small part of your operation, like a pen, could equal the loss of money, loss of consumer confidence, loss of brand trust, loss of reputation, or even the loss of your business, but it’s true. Yes, there is always a bottom line, but there is also a need for your business to survive. Metal-detectable products equal out to a line of defense that may cost a bit more at the forefront, but they truly equate to an investment in your product and your business.

To check out Nelson-Jameson’s line of metal-detectable products, click here, or request your FREE copy today.

Featured Column: Real Life Lessons with Real Life Consequences – Part 2

From August through October, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry.

Part two of a conversation with John Nelson, CEO and Jerry Lippert, President of Nelson-Jameson, Inc.

John Nelson

John Nelson, CEO

Jerry Lippert

Jerry Lippert, President

Chatting with Jerry and John and listening to Nelson-Jameson’s history (recounted in the last blog post) moved me. The conversation evolved into the kind of discussion that fundamentally changes the way you see things. It is a rare chance to listen to the unvarnished story of a well-run company…a first-hand witness account…the gold standard of historical accounts.  So, let’s pick up where we left off, discussing the advantages of one-stop suppliers:

Jerry: After 9-11 there were new issues of chain of custody, food security, and safety that came about. If you buy from a supplier who is not secure, who brings E. coli into your plant, your cost of business just went out of the window. This one-stop shopping model was relevant in 1947, but with a global marketplace, it’s even more relevant today.

[NOTE]: Let’s take a momentary break from the interview to discuss what Jerry just said.  One of the ways to minimize unwanted effects, better known as chaos, is to simplify: to minimize or eliminate unnecessary variables which could allow chaos in. By purchasing from a supplier with the expertise to guarantee the safety and security of the supply chain, you hand off a whole host of complexities to them, freeing your internal resources to focus on making your product without worry. No one can do everything, and in today’s brave new world of bacteria, how much is it worth to know that Nelson-Jameson has got your back?

 Gorillas and Competitive Advantage

John:  Years ago, our competitors in laboratory were 800 lb. gorillas. We competed with them pretty successfully, even though we were almost always buying things at a disadvantage. They carried all kinds of laboratory glass, including educational and environmental glass that had all kinds of different uses: most of which looked similar but was not what cheese makers and food processors needed. The burden of expertise was high. We absorbed this burden of expertise. We saw it as our competitive advantage to only provide our customers with the choices of products that they could use, making the choice clear, leading them to better decisions.

How did you choose the particular categories you feature?

Jerry: It has been an evolution. When I first showed up we had 9, then 7, and now 4 with subs inside there.

John: It took the usual course of evolution, which is radical change for some short periods, and little change for longer periods. One of the things that really influenced the development of our product line was publishing a catalog, which we first did in the late 70’s. One of the most enlightening projects for a company is to produce a catalog if you’ve never done it. You expose your offering to actual logic. You have the one-inch size and you have the 1 ½ inch size, but not the 2 ½ inch….Why? The first catalog was really not much more than a documentation of what we had been doing; it turned out that we only had what customers had asked us for previously.

I was much younger then and full of energy. The second catalog made it clear that much of what we carried was going to be technologically obsolete in a very short time. I feared that it was going to cause us big problems, so I got catalogs from competitors and from companies that sold to our customers that had things we didn’t sell. In order to be able to sell what we lacked, we had to come up with a system to manage our inventory, both to ensure that the people buying from us could have rapid access to what they needed, while at the same time ensuring we didn’t get buried in inventory, which would cause us to raise our prices.

That was the beginning of us developing mutually beneficial partnerships with other distributors: something we still do today. They were willing to drop ship to us until a product began to sell enough that we could afford to stock it, if it ever did. That led to some embarrassment. We would buy a case of 144, sell 1, and then have 143 for another 5 years. As I said, it was an evolution.

The categories came about while driving back after a sales meeting in Wisconsin. My dad and I, and one of our salespeople, began discussing product management; by the time we got home we had decided we would organize ourselves around product categories and create individual manager positions to oversee each area.

Jerry: I think these categories were critical to Nelson-Jameson’s development. It was the start of who we are now.

John: Our perspectives on this continue to evolve. One of the things we have talked about for a long time and haven’t really mobilized yet is having more service and information products. We are going to move in that direction more and more, I think. The trick is to get paid for it, but we’ll figure that out over time.

[NOTE]: The conversation will veer into logistics next, with Jerry and John opening up about their way of doing business that will have profound implications for anyone dependent on the supply chain.

What’s Shaking with Salt in the Cheese Industry

In the past several years we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of debate as well as cooperative planning amongst governmental agencies, health researchers and healthcare providers, food industry interests, and many others to address concerns regarding the amount of salt Americans are consuming. The potential fallout, according to the CDC, of our national taste for salt includes hypertension (high blood pressure), “a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases, which are a leading cause of death, disability, and health-care costs in the United States.”

For cheese-makers this poses a few problems. The use of salt in cheese-making, a necessary part of the process, has been a focus in this debate. In cheese, salt “controls moisture, texture, taste, functionality and food safety.” Hence, a simple reduction in salt or finding a substitute for salt could compromise the product. Case in point, if a substitute was employed currently in making cheddar, the product would actually need to be renamed “Cheddar cheese product.” Can the very nature or perception of a product change in the consumer’s mind when a basic part of its composition is replaced or altered? Producers are weighing such questions as they push initiatives forward to look for healthier choices to offer the consuming public.

The industry continues to look for answers; in the meantime, it is asking some tough questions. How much will a decrease of salt in cheese affect sales, product identity, and other considerations? How much of this initiative to curb salt comes from governmental and health agencies, producers, and consumers? What answers are the most logical and useful?

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