On February 21, 2013, Mondelez issued a voluntary recall of two varieties of its belVita breakfast biscuits in the United States and Puerto Rico due to the potential presence of wire mesh in the product. Days earlier, CEO Rosenfeld told analysts that belVita is one of the products she is most excited about, with new flavours in the pipeline.
The recalled product is not made by Mondelez, but by a third-party manufacturer, which informed Mondelez of the problem. Has Mondelez also outsourced quality control? What does Mondelez know about conditions at this factory? Do they care, except in the event of a safety recall?
The company claims the brand, but rejects responsibility for the social conditions under which it is produced. For years, the former Kraft had been outsourcing its production to non-union third-party producers. Mondelez continues this pattern – the recent closure of its union-organized Ontario, Canada biscuit factory has resulted in yet more outsourcing to non-union producers as far away as Mexico.
An article last year in a local newspaper details the squalid chain of disposable jobs at Consolidated Biscuits, the company’s notoriously anti-union contract manufacturer in McComb, Ohio. This is the plant which, according to the IUF’s information, produced the recalled belVita products.
Consolidated Biscuit is a notorious example of a company committing serial violations of United States labour law and evading the consequences in their battle to frustrate unionization . The company was repeatedly cited for violations of US law by the National Labor Relations Board for dismissing union supporters after workers in 2002 showed majority support for the BCTGM. On November 14, 2008, the Sixth District Court of Appeals delivered a 48 page judgment finding that the company engaged in flagrant and repeated violation of the law for “telling employees not to talk about the Union on company time: suggesting to employees that supporting the Union would be futile: instructing security guards to call police at the first sign of union activity and calling the police to the facility…threatening employees with loss of benefits, plant closures, and stricter discipline if they supported the union”.
According to the Lima News article agency workers at the private-equity owned factory, which manufacturers ‘power brand’ Mondelez products, are paid less than 9 dollars an hour (a dollar over the minimum wage) by Pyramid Staffing, a temp service which charges them 10 dollars a day for bus transportation to and from work. “You work eight hours, but it’s a 12-hour day”, one worker told the paper. Working on the line adding the creme core to biscuit sandwiches, the work is triply outsourced. The former Kraft outsourced the manufacturing to Consolidated, and Pyramid Staffing recruits for another staffing agency, Impact Employment Solutions, which works directly with Consolidated.
How many consumers are aware that their “delicious moments of joy” are not made by Mondelez but by precarious workers at a plant cited by the Toledo, Ohio Blade as “On the nation’s list of the most hazardous workplaces.”
Hazardous workplaces produce hazardous products.