Did you think twice the last time you reached for a jar of peanut butter? You’re not alone. The ongoing salmonella outbreak in peanut products has sparked one of the largest product recalls in history. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proactively keeping the public up to date on recalled products, and they’re doing it with the help of the Google Search Appliance.
If you want to know whether the box of granola bars in your pantry has been recalled, simply visit the FDA web page and query for the type of product, like granola bars, or a brand name, to see whether the product has been recalled.
Previously, people would have had to scroll through a long list of products to try and locate the one they were looking for – a much more time-consuming process. Thanks to search, people can make fast, informed decisions.
GlobalNet Services, Inc. (GNSI) is a Google Enterprise Partner who manages and administers the intranet and Internet search for the FDA. For the peanut butter recall, GNSI is responsible for daily database and website updates to www.fda.gov. Information is available to the public through the Google Search Appliance (GSA), and visitors to the site can also download information in PDF and XLS files. The speed of the search appliance is crucial and the data in the GSA needs to be updated as soon as we receive it. Each night, the GSA re-crawls the database and refreshes any new information. This takes less than an hour and still allows late-night visitors to search for recall information.
In its first three weeks of existence, the peanut butter product search page received over 25 million page views, and the search appliance has handled the resulting search traffic with ease. This graph shows the number of queries per minute on the FDA search appliance. A spike like this happens every morning, with a sustained use of around 250 queries per minute for most of the working day. Public safety depends on the availability of this information, and the search appliance keeps it available. To help the search appliance handle the traffic, GNSI turns on caching during the day, and turns off caching at night to re-crawl the database.