The job of monitoring America's food plants is falling more and more to private inspectors who often miss hazards, a New York Times investigation finds. Plants hire such auditors to reassure customers and reduce liability, but the companies often pick the cheapest and least rigorous audits available. Some of the largest food poisoning outbreaks in recent years can be traced to plants where private auditors failed to spot problems.
At the Peanut Corporation of America, source of a salmonella outbreak blamed for nine deaths, a private auditor—paid by the company itself and unaware that peanuts were susceptible to salmonella—was given just a day to inspect the firm's huge, dilapidated plant. “The overall food safety level of this facility was considered to be: SUPERIOR," he wrote in his report.