Conversation Series: What Should Companies Do When Something Might Be Wrong With Their Product?

March 5, 2021

Well, not any mac and cheese but specifically the one from the Annie’s brand. But as with all stories, let’s start at the beginning … Four years ago, an environmental group pointed out some plastic chemicals, called ortho-phthalates, which were found in some food products. There are various ways that these chemicals can get into the packaged food—for example, through the tubes that carry milk from barns in farms or via the conveyor belts used in factories. Why are ortho-phthalates even used? To make rigid plastic more flexible. And the more flexible it is, the more multi-purpose it becomes! On the one hand, the environmental group’s report said ortho-phthalates could affect human bodies, and companies should remove them from food products. On the other hand, food regulators ruled the chemicals as safe to humans and the manufacturer of ortho-phthalates stated that the research was ‘bad science.’

What happens when companies discover the presence of chemicals in food products? Well, in the case of Annie’s, the company decided to do something about it. Annie’s promised to work with suppliers to remove the chemical from its production of mac and cheese. Taco Bell also promised to remove the chemical from its packaging. And the state of Maine will ban packaging that contains phthalates in more than necessary amounts. Not all companies immediately fix their products and wait for it to become a legal requirement instead. What do you think?