Column: Risk Management

Common Gluttony

By: | October 1, 2013

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Why is it that when people get hurt, they tend to point fingers in every direction except toward themselves? Why is it that we are inclined to never think of ourselves as our own worst enemies or contributors to our own negligence?

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We have all heard this story. In May 2013, Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York trademarked the name for the “Cronut,” the croissant-doughnut hybrid pastry. The bakery knew they struck gold when they saw lines gathering around New York city blocks for this half donut, half croissant, fried, laminated dough pastry. Imitations sprang up everywhere. Then, the pastry was used in the most inventive way — as the bun to the now even more infamous “Maple Bacon Jam Cronut Burger.

What is it? Grab your Tums, here it comes. This Cronut Burger is a cheese-covered beef patty stuffed between two Cronuts topped with a special jam, which some have described as a slurry made of pureed bacon, maple syrup, water and brown sugar. The burger recipe has been a well-kept secret, so the calorie count is unknown. I suspect, though, that the scales just don’t measure that high. The Cronut Burger was one of the most popular food offerings at a major annual festival this summer.

Surprise, surprise — guess what happened? People got really sick. In fact, 223 people reported getting very sick, with all fingers pointing directly at the Cronut Burger.”

The burger stand voluntarily shut down while public health officials investigated. After health officials interviewed 150 sufferers, we discovered that only 79 people confirmed actually eating the Cronut Burger.

Did the rest get sick from some other heart-stopping food offering such as deep-fried butter or BLT sandwiches with a Nutella spread and back-bacon?

Cronutgate’s lead health officer, Dr. Lisa Berger — yes, that is her name — did confirm that Staphylococcus aureus toxin was found in the “Maple Bacon Jam.” This is a bacteria commonly derived from nasal passages, infected cuts and pimples. Even though bacteria may have been the ultimate culprit for half of the burger eaters, at what point do we turn to those consumers and assign some culpability to them?

How indulgent, verging on negligent, do we have to be before we finally accept some responsibility? We, as individuals, should not be absolved from practicing our own risk management. All of us know our bodies simply cannot consume that much meat, dairy and sugar loaded with trans-fats and hydrogenated oils all at one time.

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If I for some reason overindulged like the one “victim” who reported suffering serious digestive upset after eating the Cronut Burger, the seafood chowder fries, some ice cream waffles and a smoothie, I would be so embarrassed at my gluttony and overindulgence that I think I would probably just suffer in silence and with humility. The last thing I would do is point fingers. Maybe that is just me.

Following the epic surges to bathrooms, the emergency rooms, the completion of many risk assessments, and the expenditure of thousands of dollars on food safety and public health resources, the restaurant that served the Cronut Burger reopened. And guess what? Hungry customers were once again eagerly waiting in line. Public Enemy No. 1 does not appear to be bacteria — it is us.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]