Makers of Waggin’ Train dog treats Nestle Purina continue to deny today any problem with their treats despite hundreds of reports of complaints to the FDA. They insist that their strict quality control of the chicken jerky manufactured in China prevents any problems with possible adulteration of their product. Further, Nestle-Purina states if the FDA can’t find the contaminant then they do not have to take the product off the market or take any responsibility for the illness and death of pets associated with their product.
There are two glaring problems with Nestle-Purina’s argument; one, if the FDA doesn’t know what the contaminant is yet – how does Nestle-Purina know? The contaminant can only be identified by first determining what the contaminant is before they can test for it. If the FDA and the University toxicology laboratories that work with the FDA have been unable to discover what the contaminant is since the problem was first recognized in 2007, how is Nestle-Purina able to? If Nestle-Purina knows something the FDA doesn’t know, then it is their duty to inform the FDA. Nestle-Purina cannot unequivocally assure the product’s safety until they can first show that the product has tested negative for the (as yet unknown) contaminant.
Second, based on the first argument it would be prudent for Nestle-Purina to issue a precautionary recall of their product until such time the contaminant is discovered. True, Nestle-Purina is not by law required to do so, but as a manufacturer who is genuinely concerned for the health and safety of the pets consuming their product, it is their ethical and moral duty to do so. Further, if the Wal-Mart, the largest retailer on the globe, would take a proactive stance out of an abundance of caution and remove the product until such time the manufacturer can prove the product is indeed safe, surely other retailers would follow suit.
I am reminded of the recent Enfamil baby formula scare, when a child was suspected of dying as a result of ingesting the product. The manufacturer of Enfamil and the retailers who carried the product immediately withdrew the product from the market as a precaution before determining what, if anything, was wrong with the product. Mercifully, it turned out there was nothing wrong with the product after all, but that did not prevent these corporations from doing the right thing.
Doing the right thing is not determined by what is the legal thing to do or the economically profitable thing to do – it is based entirely on the moral fabric that civilized society is based on. A corrupt society is not be concerned with morals or ethics and is only concerned with what benefits the individuals of that society, and not by not what benefits society as a whole.
A consumers basic right, legally and morally, is to expect that products brought to the marketplace are safe. Without that assurance, consumer trust and the economics of an entire society are compromised. Indeed, if one takes a long view of the consequences of eroded consumer confidence – any first year student of economics will tell you that without it, the future stability and financial success of corporate America is on very shaky ground. That reason alone should inspire Nestle-Purina to do the right thing, if, after all, it affects their bottom line. And that, is what they would call a good thing.