Black Swan Events – Past and Future of an Industry

You might remember the turmoil of the 1980s and 1990s when the discovery of a devastating disease hit the meat producing industry like a hurricane: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a.k.a. Mad Cow Disease. Then, in 2003, BSE hit North America and the beef industry changed forever. Most recently, COVID-19 has joined the list of black swan events. 


A Series of Very Unfortunate Events

Mad Cow Disease was more than a tragic singularity. It was a wakeup call for the world. Causing neurodegenerative damage in cow brains that ultimately leads to a slow and ugly death, the disease can cross the species barrier when humans ingest affected tissue. There, it can lead to variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease which results in similarly devastating effects to the brain. The cause? Misfolded molecules, called prions.

To prevent further spread within the food chain and to keep the disease from reaching more humans, about 4.4 million (!) cows had to be put down and their carcasses destroyed. The ramifications are felt to this day. Fear, horror, and uncertainty spread from Great Britain – the epicenter of the outbreak – around the world and changed an entire sector forever. To this day, people who lived in Europe during the 90s aren’t allowed to donate blood in parts of the world (including Canada). Ireland reported a case very recently and had to put on hold all beef exports to China, attesting to the deeply ingrained fear of the disease more than four decades after its initial discovery.

Fool me once

Back in the 80s and 90s, nobody had seen it coming and nobody was prepared. Occurrences like the BSE crisis are called black swan events after an ancient philosophical problem of epistemology: if we only ever see white swans, we naturally assume that ALL swans are white.

The problem is: we can't be sure because we don’t have certain knowledge that there aren’t any black ones. Even a single black swan will prove the assumption wrong. On a side-note: the ancient Greeks where right to doubt the absoluteness of their knowledge: there are black swans – they just happen to live on the other side of the planet.

Growing Complacent

If we only ever see good days – days without pandemics – we are like the Greeks who only know white swans. We assume it’ll stay that way forever and get complacent in the assumption that black swans – and bad days – don’t exist.

In spring 2020, the world was hit by a global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). The disease is now known as COVID-19, commonly referred to as the Corona virus because of its distinct shape.

Again, nobody had seen it coming, and nobody was sufficiently prepared. Again, the world was shocked, and many industries were devastated – including food producing and processing industries from fruit and vegetable growers to meat processors.

While it’s impossible to predict the future, there are two things you can do, because the next black swan event will come: first, and very importantly, wrap your mind around that fact. Secondly, and maybe even more urgently, prepare for that case – with a contingency plan and the right tools.

The Takeaway

In response to the need for tech solutions to fight COVID, TrustBIX’s channel partner, Provision Analytics, has created a health screening & tracking software called Basecase. It is specifically geared towards the food processing industry and allows employees to monitor their health, submit reports, and track contact with others, making it easier to mitigate health risks and protect staff. Basecase is powerful, secure, and abides by strict PIPEDA and HIPAA regulations.


With the predictions of a second wave of COVID coming as early as September, we need to implement all recommendations from health authorities to protect our essential service workers, especially those involved in our food supply chains. Policies, procedures, barriers, PPE, physical distancing, and – urgently – screening and testing.

Find more details on Basecase in our blog. To learn more about the TrustBIX product family, visit;  to find out more about Basecase, reach out to our team at or call +1 866 456 2207.