Editorial Notes: Rebuilding Menu

What is the outlook for the future of Menu Foods?

What is the outlook for the future of Menu Foods? Tim Phillips
In mid-July I had the opportunity to question Menu Foods' CEO Paul Henderson about the recent petfood recalls. Here is how he answered some of my questions. More Q&A with Henderson will appear in our September issue.

Do things differently?

In retrospect would you have handled the contamination crisis any differently? Would you have implemented the recall sooner?

Henderson: Recognize that for several weeks, there was conflicting information about whether a problem even existed, let alone what the source of that problem might be. Even in the face of inconclusive data, we acted. We devoted our technical resources to finding out what was going on. Even before wheat gluten was identified as the possible source of problems, we suspended its use out of an abundance of caution. Menu Foods' first recall was more than two weeks before any other manufacturer initiated their recall.

We cannot stress enough, the entire petfood industry was baffled by the inclusion of melamine and related compounds in petfood ingredients. It is not used in petfood manufacturing. Chinese wheat gluten was removed from Menu's production on March 7, 2007. All wheat gluten used in production since March 7, 2007 has been tested for the suspected substance and has been confirmed melamine-free.

New safeguards

What does the total petfood industry need to do to address petfood safety?

Henderson: The globalization of the food supply system is a fact, and this includes food for humans, pets and livestock. It requires:

  • New safeguards,
  • The resources to implement these new safeguards and
  • A new determination to strengthen our controls.

Such an initiative demands industry-wide cooperation and action. Through the Pet Food Institute, Menu Foods will participate in the National Pet Food Commission to provide oversight and direction in establishing increased safeguards within our industry.

Keys to recovery

What are your company's keys to recovering from the recall crisis?

Henderson: As you might expect, there have been a lot of sleepless nights over the melamine and related compounds recall. Our employees have rolled up their sleeves and are doing everything they can to move the company forward. They are designing and putting in place a series of concrete programs and measures to reinforce customer confidence in Menu Foods.

The vast majority of our customers recognized that we were not responsible for this situation and they have stuck with us through this difficult time. We will recover from this. No one is pretending the road back is an easy one. But we have a lot going for us. We are a strong company in a strong business.

Menu's future

What is the outlook for the future of Menu Foods? Any projections or possible new directions?

Henderson: We will rebuild our business and seek out new growth. For the vast majority of our remaining customers, Menu Foods has either resumed shipment of cuts and gravy products or will do so during the third quarter. For those remaining customers we continue to work to get them as much useful information as quickly as possible so they can make informed business decisions about restarting their business with us. Our lenders have been very supportive. We have every confidence that we can recover from this.

Given the support we've received and our employees' commitment, we intend to continue as a high quality provider and market leader in the petfood industry. We'll be in business for a long time.

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