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Health Issues Reported Following Improper Handling of Spicy Seasoning at Adelaide Factory

January 19, 2024

Safety concerns have been raised by workers at a factory in Adelaide, with the United Workers Union (UWU) alleging several serious health issues have arisen among the workforce following exposure to a spicy seasoning used on a popular snack product.

Spicy Seasoning Sparks Health Fears

According to the union, employees working with the seasoning used for Flamin’ Hot Doritos corn chips have reported various health issues. These problems range from respiratory difficulties to skin irritation, severely impacting their well-being. The chips, known for their intense spiciness, are part of the product range at the Smith's Snackfood Company site in Regency Park.

The UWU's report indicates that around twelve staff members have experienced adverse reactions to the seasoning, which occurred intermittently throughout production. Workers have reported symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, eye and skin irritation, runny nose, sore throat, chest pains and difficulty breathing.

Union Intervention and Company Response

After inspecting the site and hearing staff complaints, UWU representative Jacky Chen expressed deep concern. The union has reiterated the need for the company to ensure a safe working environment for its employees.

Responding to these concerns, PepsiCo, owners of the Smith's Snackfood Company, emphasised their safety commitment. A spokesperson highlighted the implementation of safety procedures and protocols, including mandatory mask-wearing and the installation of additional extraction fans to mitigate the risks at their Adelaide facility. 

PepsiCo was also willing to collaborate with the union to resolve ongoing issues.

Escalating Concerns

Mr Chen also highlighted that while various snack products are produced at the factory, the Flamin' Hot seasoning poses the most significant health risk. He shared alarming reports from workers experiencing severe symptoms, with some even contemplating sick leave due to the stressful situation.

Regulator Assessment

SafeWork SA, the state's workplace safety regulator, acknowledged receiving the union's complaint and is currently assessing the situation to determine the need for further action. They referenced a previous complaint from January about seasoning dust build-up but noted it did not mention health effects.

Despite SafeWork SA encouraging mask-wearing, many employees at the facility have expressed reluctance, stating that the working environment is too warm to do so.

Food Safety Procedures and Training

This issue highlights the importance of workplace safety in food processing environments, mainly when dealing with potentially hazardous materials. Businesses such as PepsiCo must balance production demands with the well-being of food processing staff. They must implement established food safety protocols and training programs to achieve this.

Employees can enhance their knowledge of food safety issues, such as hazardous substances, by enrolling in a professional training program. Food Safety First is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) approved to deliver Food Handler and Food Safety Supervisor courses aligned to regulatory requirements such as FSANZ Standard 3.2.2A.

Enrol online today or contact us for help choosing the right food safety course for you and your business.