XL Foods is a huge beef processor in Alberta, Canada. They distribute to much of Canada and USA. Last August, they produced shipments that began to be identified as contaminated with a particularly virulent form of e. coli bacteria. Because meat is not sampled 100%, government agencies took some time to determine the scope of the problem. A large number of recalls of product were made but eventually the licence of the business was revoked.
“Establishment 38 had monitoring measures in place but was not properly conducting trend analysis of the data it collected. The CFIA review found that the plant needs to improve its trend analysis and also stengthen its response measures when a higher than normal number of detections are made.
In addition, the company’s control measures for meat that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 were not always being followed correctly. While containers of meat testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 were properly handled, a small number of containers produced immediately before and after the contaminated product were not always diverted from the fresh meat line. This process, known as bracketing, is an established food safety control.”
We see this kind of failure of technology often. The more complex a system the more hidden are the details. XL apparently did not study their own test results well enough to trigger their internal alarms. If they had widespread recalls and the loss of the licence might have been prevented. What were they thinking? Trying to save a dollar? Was the wrong person put in charge of quality-control? We may never know but once again, a number of factors that should have prevented the problem all failed at the same time.
In technology, the only way to protect complex systems is to have a layer of defences and each one has to be tuned up and maintained or the whole thing can fail as XL did. Governments were complicit, too for they have not sampled often enough. If all exports to USA had not been sampled, this thing might have become much bigger and more tragic. Even so, some of the product entered USA. More than one layer had to work but they all failed. Not all samples of contaminated meat test positive but it only takes one bacterium to make a real mess.
Thorough cooking is the last line of defence. Make sure to cook that hamburger through. I actually know people who like their hamburger “rare”, like steaks, yet hamburger is nearly an ideal product in which the bacteria grow. I never eat undercooked meat.
For me, the operating system is the last line of defence in IT. If it was designed to be single-user, designed by salesmen, and forced on people in an uncompetitive market, the results will be disastrous. That’s why I recommend Debian GNU/Linux, an OS that works for you and not against you like the products of Wintel.