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Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator

Hold on while I barf, k thanks.

Most of us know that it’s not a good idea to refurbish food- mainly because food is not a computer, phone, or iPod. The folks at One Great Burger in New Jersey seem to be missing this insight.

During an investigation fueled by consumer complaints, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found that “the establishment repackaged and recoded returned products and sent them out for further distribution to institutional customers.” Whereas the 20 lbs packages of “ONEGREAT HAMBURGERS” were produced between January and May of 2010, their “packed on” dates are labeled with dates between July and November of 2010. There have been no reported illnesses linked to the meat, which was distributed to institutions in Oregon and California. Nonetheless, FSIS recalled the meat as of January 10th, labeling it as a Class II recall. The USDA defines a Class II recall as a “health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product.”

Usually, a returned product has a quality issue. Thus, it doesn’t make much sense, especially with a perishable item, to turn around and sell it again. The quality only diminishes further which becomes more expensive for the company when the product is returned again and the returns departments must deal with the issue not once, but twice. In addition, a firm’s reputation reflects the lemons they are selling. At some point, the buyers will realize that perhaps a lower price isn’t worth the hassle thus diverting their business and inadvertently signaling to other buyers the inferiority of the product.

Yet, sometimes products are returned because of a miscommunication or mistake during the ordering process. This is a complicated situation that must be handled very carefully. To some extent, repackaging makes sense- however, opening a package exposes the meat to a variety of germs. The ethics of simply repackaging something are questionable, but the practice of relabeling products with a new “packed on” date is scummy. While the ethics of repackaging are certainly debatable, all evidence indicates that One Great Burger did not take enough precautions when repackaging their meat. If they had, the USDA would not have conducted an investigation.

One would think the mass of complaints that gained the USDA’s attention would have been enough for One Great Burger to take action but it’s not surprising considering the level of obliviousness exhibited by the company. Hopefully the effects of a recall will get the point across.

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