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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Making The Case For Curly Spinach

Curly leaf spinach growing in Colorado

Screen shot of www.curlyleafspinach.com

The Pundit has never understood why the FDA included curly leaf, or savoy, spinach in its recommendation not to consume when it is a distinctly different product than the baby leaf bagged spinach that was implicated.

Clearly others also think it is important to develop an independent identity for this product as there is a new consortium that has come out with a new website for consumers: www.curlyleafspinach.com

We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to learn more:

— Charity Schneider
Account Manager
Tosca Ltd., Green Bay, Wisconsin

Q: Who formed the site and how is it funded?

A: Tosca is funding the site and currently maintaining it. The curly leaf industry as a whole talked about creating a site before the spinach E. coli crisis, but the outbreak encouraged the development quite quickly.

Q: Is there an actual association of members behind the site’s creation?

A: No, not an official association, but a remarkable collaborative effort among growers and repackers, including Verdelli Farms (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Action Produce (South San Francisco, California) , Pentagon Produce (Uvalde, Texas), Tiro Tres, (Eagle Pass, Texas), and Aunt Mid’s Produce Company (Detroit, Michigan). We’re the facilitators. We’ve had conference calls with the industry as a whole, and everyone has responded and aided with advertisements and invaluable input.

Q: What is the site’s purpose?

A: It’s an intended resource for consumers to educate them on curly leaf from proper handling to recipe information. Another goal was to help spark interest, to motivate consumers to add spinach to their meals. Also to encourage consumers if they don’t find curly leaf on the shelf to ask their local grocer about when they’re getting it back in.

Q: What feedback have you received from consumers so far?

A: The questions from our website have been very positive. We’ve been approached by cooking clubs and cuisine magazines wanting to learn more about adding curly leaf as an alternative to flat leaf. Consumers inquire if a store location or chain carries curly leaf, when it’s available seasonally, what size bags it comes in, etc. We’ve received many thank you letters for making curly leaf available in their states.

Q: Have you received any questions or concerns related to food safety issues?

A: In the fall, food safety was very huge, but we’re finding most consumers are interested in nutritional issues regarding their diets. The site does provide a good educational tool on how to handle and prepare curly leaf spinach.

Q: How do consumers learn about the site?

A: We are looking at packaging efforts to put the website address on products. In the meantime, consumers can find it by going to Google. On the leafygreens.org website there is a link to our site. We also ran a full page ad in the December 2006 issue of Cooking Light Magazine, reaching 1.7 million consumers.

A few Pundit cheers are due to Tosca, which funded this venture. In an act of enlightened self-interest, Tosca, which supplies “industry-specific, returnable containers,” recognized it could help its customers and itself at the same time. In the release accompanying the announcement of the new website, this is what was said:

SPINACH INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON NEW WEBSITE

Industry Provides Consumers With Handling & Preparation Advice As Spinach Returns to Grocery Stores

Green Bay, Wisconsin — As the new year begins, a healthy, flavorful vegetable is making a comeback to grocery store produce departments, and a new website is providing meal planners with everything they need to know when adding spinach to the menu.

The website, www.curlyleafspinach.com, was created for consumers on the heels of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration recall of spinach in September, impacting the entire spinach industry. “Sales of all spinach have been affected. We hope the website will reassure consumers and grocers that curly leaf spinach, when handled properly, is a nutritious, great-tasting addition to meals,” said Jennifer Verdelli, spokeswoman for Verdelli Farms, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Curly leaf spinach, also known as Savoy or semi-Savoy spinach, is grown in the East, Midwest, South, and Mountain States regions of the United States, and is placed in highly sophisticated, ice-packed, sanitized containers when it is harvested. The containers ensure the safety and quality of the product, and curly leaf spinach is available year-round to grocers and consumers across North America.

“It’s unfortunate that the recall was so broad at first,” said spinach grower Dondee Lindenborn of Pentagon Produce, Uvalde, Texas. “All spinach got a bad rap when, in reality, the cause for concern was very isolated. Consumers need to know they can trust the high-quality curly leaf spinach that is being sold at their favorite grocery store.”

The www.curlyleafspinach.com website advises consumers to wash all greens before storing them in the refrigerator. Curly leaf spinach should be washed, dried, packed loosely in a plastic bag, and then stored in the refrigerator crisper at a temperature of 40° F or below. Properly stored, curly leaf spinach should last 3-4 days.

Consumers who can’t find curly leaf spinach in the grocery store produce department should talk to their grocer about its return, according to Verdelli. “We are partnering with growers, industry trade groups, and the government to develop new processing and handling standards to ensure even greater consumer confidence. Grocers want to sell spinach. We want grocers and their customers to be absolutely certain their curly leaf spinach is safe.”

Tosca Ltd., headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, supplies the food industry with industry-specific, returnable containers, ensuring food and beverage manufacturers delivery of the right container, in the right condition, in the right quantity, to the right location, at the right time. Container functionality is standardized, and cleaning and sanitizing regimes are verifiable. For more information about Tosca Ltd., visit the company website at www.toscaltd.com.

The website gives a lot of useful information such as recipes and where the spinach is grown. No claims of “ready-to-eat” here. In the Q&A part of the website, here is what they say:

Should I wash curly leaf spinach after I bring it home from the grocery store?

Consumers should take precautions when using fresh produce of any kind. Always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, and make sure preparation surfaces are sanitary.

Packaged curly leaf spinach or bulk curly leaf spinach should be washed, dried, packed loosely in a plastic bag, and stored in the refrigerator crisper. Properly stored, it should last 3-4 days.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reminding consumers that proper storage of all fresh produce can affect both quality and safety. To maintain the quality of fresh produce the FDA recommends storing it in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.

One wonders if, as a previous letter-writer claimed here, the “no need to wash” claims aren’t often overstated?

Curly leaf spinach growers are not a major financial force in the industry but, by working together and with their suppliers, they have been able to do a nice job on this website and even run an ad in a big consumer magazine.

There are plenty of parts of the industry that could learn from this example.




Costco Struts Its Stuff

Costco posted a little slide show about its status today. You see why they are such tough competitors.

With a gross margin in the first quarter of 2006 of 10.58%, they had selling, general and administrative expenses of 9.98% — or in other words, they work all year long and basically operate the stores for nothing. Almost the entire profit of the company came from the 2.07% they received from membership fees and miscellaneous revenue.

They also have an eye for using their private label in places where it can really create value for consumers. The slide show mentions a 31% savings on Kirkland Signature’s sports drink as opposed to Gatorade.

The slide show has some nice pictures of Costco perishables but also indicates an interest in longer lasting items.

Did you know Costco sold over 100,000 carats worth of diamonds in Fiscal Year 2006?




Pundit Pulse — New Jersey Dept of Ag’s Al Murray

Here at Pundit headquarters, we get frequent calls now from individual states, commodity-specific groups and others looking to be proactive in the world of food safety. They read about the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative and about possible Federal Regulation and they know they need to be ahead of the curve.

New Jersey is traditionally one of the most proactive states in these types of initiatives, and we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to get some additional information:

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services last month announced formation of a Produce Safety Task Force “to protect New Jersey consumers and help local producers adapt to anticipated new produce-safety standards in the wake of several recent outbreaks of food-borne illness.” Set to have its first meeting January 23, one central aspect to be examined is how food safety standards could be linked to use of the Jersey Fresh marketing campaign, according to Al Murray, NJDA Director of the Division of Marketing and Development. He elaborates on the mission below:

Q: In addition to yourself, could you list members on the Task Force?

A: Charles Kuperus, NJDA Secretary

Larry Hardwick, NJDA Chief Bureau of Inspections

David Sheppart, member of New Jersey State Board of Agriculture

Peter Furey, Executive Director, New Jersey Farm Bureau

Linda Doherty, President of New Jersey Food Council

Deborah Dowdell, President of New Jersey Restaurant Association

Brian Schilling, Associate Director of Rutgers Food Policy Institute

Wes Kline, Cumberland County Ag Agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Peter Bylone, General Manager, Vineland Cooperative Produce Auction Association

Dan Graiff, Graiff Farms

Denny Doyle, Export Sales Manager, Atlantic Blueberry

Rich Ritota, Program Manager, Food and Drug Safety Program, NJ Department of Health and Senior Services

Phil Neary, General Manager, Jersey Fruit Cooperative

Q: Could you detail the impetus behind the task force?

A: Basically this food safety task force is a concept our Secretary advanced. Just like everyone else, we have been closely monitoring the produce E. coli situation, particularly since early September when the spinach crisis occurred. Here, as the fourth largest spinach producer, we had fields and fields of spinach, beautiful crop, and 10 days before going to market, even though New Jersey wasn’t implicated in any shape or form, the FDA warned consumers not to eat any fresh spinach.

We worked with Senator Lautenberg and Senator Menendez to get the federal ban lifted on New Jersey. When they lifted the ban, we instituted an aggressive marketing plan, including 30-second and 60-second paid radio service announcements, full page ads in local newspapers. We worked with retailers, giving them a CD ROM of an advertisement they could use and signage to promote New Jersey spinach displays.

Q: How effective was your marketing effort?

A: Unfortunately, consumer perception was that anything green was bad. Talking to retailers, there are still many who haven’t recovered from that. It put a real hurt on the industry. The word was out it was California spinach, so we had retailers asking specifically for New Jersey spinach, and we encouraged growers to tag product with Jersey Fresh, our quality grading program. The only way a supplier can use Jersey Fresh is to follow certain standards verified by inspectors.

Q: But the quality grading program doesn’t relate to food safety standards does it?

A: The seeds are placed for adding a component for food safety. It is time to move quality standards to a new level to address consumer concerns of outbreaks with produce products.

Q: How would you do that?

A: We’d like to link food safety to our quality, grading program so that when consumers see the Jersey Fresh logo they know that New Jersey produce is safe. We’ll examine existing food safety protocols on New Jersey farms and see how effective they are. We have a third party auditing program in New Jersey. We were one of the first state government agencies five years ago to be certified to provide third party audits. Most of time, growers would need to go to a private lab. We felt this service was in the farmers’ best interests.

Q: How does the state auditing process work?

A: It works in concert with Rutgers University Cooperative Extension. Dr. Wes Kline provides the training. He’s the check, we’re the balance. Larry Hardwick oversees the department side of the third party audit program. When the farmer is ready to pass, we do the third party audit as it meets USDA requirements. USDA has a website, listing companies that pass the third party audit, which helps alleviate some confusion. Twenty farms in New Jersey are listed from peach growers to blueberry farmers at http://www.ams.usda.gov/fv/fsis/New Jersey.pdf

Q: In the wake of these recent outbreaks, are you looking to upgrade those requirements?

A: We want to examine the current protocols used throughout the produce industry to be sure they are compatible with what will be new coming down. We don’t know what that will be.

Q: How many growers have approval to use the Jersey Fresh logo and how many participate in the state food safety auditing certification program?

A: We have 265 growers in the quality grading program and 19 big players that participate in our New Jersey third party audits. A future scenario would be that in order to use the Jersey Fresh quality grading label, you would need to get the food safety audit.

Q: How will such a program ultimately be financed?

A: That’s a good question. Farming operates on such a thin margin. We want best standards but need to find a way the increased cost doesn’t kill our farmers. Part of this process is researching funding sources and obtaining grants to implement these changes.

Q: So now, in addition to quality attributes, the Jersey Fresh program would also be promoting a form of food safety marketing, i.e., buying produce labeled Jersey Fresh would signal to consumers they are buying safer product?

A: Yes, in a way that’s true. One of the things we feel is that while new standards and protocols may be coming down from the federal government, locally grown has been a huge byproduct of what happened with recent outbreak events. We see linking food safety to Jersey Fresh marketing as an opportunity for our growers. We want to help shape policy.

People are immune to the risks of driving a car. Produce is supposed to be safe and here there’s something called E. coli, but you can’t see it and it creates fear. Here’s the problem. It plays on the psyche of the consumer. The industry has always addressed food safety, but the spinach outbreak has created a whole new landscape of concern for New Jersey.

Q: What progress has the state made so far in alleviating these concerns?

A: Secretary Kuperus saw the need for a spinach roundtable where the buyers, the farmers and members of our department could talk about how New Jersey performed in this crisis, what we did that was good, bad and what we could improve on.

The Secretary also felt the federal government is going to come down with regulations. We need to be in the forefront, proactive rather than reactive. We need to unite people from the health departments, retailers, farmers, the ag extension service, the NJ farm bureau, and start talking about what we can do, a self assessment. We want to be ahead of the curve. Let’s get a plan in place and mitigate the problems. We are one of the first states tackling this food safety issue through such a task force. We could add another 20 people to the task force, but we want to keep it manageable and productive. We have strong representatives on the committee. For example, Produce Auction does $50 million to $60 million in sales.

Q: What action steps have occurred so far?

A: We’re actually having a pre-meeting this week to set agenda for our first meeting on January 23.

It is certainly a wise thing for New Jersey to put together such a task force. In fact every state and every commodity group should be doing the same thing.

One interesting take: if you look at the California proposal and then see what they are talking about in New Jersey, it is clear that one of the consequences of the spinach/E.coli crisis is that the longstanding bugaboo against promoting safety is collapsing. How can it not? Safety costs money and those who spend that money will want a return on it.

So insignias such as Jersey Fresh or the newly proposed mark in California will only be available to those meeting stringent food safety rules. Intrinsically the appeal to consumers will be that “Our product is not only delicious and of good quality but also is safe” — by implication, of course, others will suffer.

But why should the produce industry go to the mat to protect those unwilling to earn the marks?

New Jersey is gaining a first mover advantage by starting the process now. There is some real leadership at work in the Garden State.




Pundit’s Mailbag — Oversights In Food Safety

We’ve received a most important letter:

As a grower, shipper and processor of conventional and organic leafy green vegetables, I would first like to commend you for bringing some common sense to the E. coli issue of late. But, in all the ideas I see being proposed by all the different industry organizations and government bureaus, there seems to be some amazingly glaring oversights.

Foremost, cow manure: Most E. coli comes from cow manure. In my mind this makes it a bio-hazard, and as such should be removed from the fresh vegetable input approved list and handled accordingly. Guidelines should include:

  1. Allow no use of raw manure in any fresh produce field, anywhere, from this day forward.

  2. No longer allow cow manure to be used in compost. There are many alternatives to cow manure. It is just a cheap nitrogen fix we can no longer afford. Green compost and intelligent cover crop programs can provide all the benefits of compost with cow manure and none of the dangers.

    1. Don’t shoot the messenger: If I was growing lettuce or spinach down wind from a building being demolished with asbestos in it, or a plant that produced Anthrax, would you blame the lettuce or spinach if it got into the food chain?

  3. Require all cattle feeding and grazing operations to take the responsibility to insure that this biohazard does not leave their property, not blame those around these operations for its effects.

E. coli issues in produce appear to be on the rise and the results more and more hazardous to the population at large. Perhaps with the heavy use of antibiotics in the beef growing business, we are breeding more resistant forms of E. coli.

Lastly, we as the final processors or shippers need a way to insure that the products that leave our facilities are safe. There is one very obvious answer: Irradiation.

Even though many groups have jumped on the anti-irradiation band wagon, this is a proven technology to eliminate E. coli and many other pathogens. If growers had a “Right to Irradiate” law, then those businesses or individuals who did not want irradiated produce would have the right to purchase it, but then they could step into the chain of custody line and take personal responsibility if these products contained pathogens, not try to put the blame back on the grower.

I think these proposals must be legitimately considered before the next outbreak of E. coli or some other bio hazard and the media says, “Well, it must be the lettuce because cheese and meat are safe.”

— Tom Russell
President
Dynasty Farms / Pacific International Marketing

This letter is important for four reasons:

First, an important organic grower and marketer is going on the record saying that all raw manure and even composted cow manure should be banned on all fresh produce fields.

Second, Tom is contributing to a mind shift in the industry. Instead of seeing E. coli 0157:H7 as a natural phenomenon that the industry is obligated to respond defensively to, we are starting to realize that cow manure as a carrier for E. coli 0157:H7 is, as Tom puts it, a “bio-hazard” and that those who are introducing the manure to the environment have a responsibility to make sure that this bio-hazard does not leave their property.

Third, in raising the issue of antibiotics in the beef industry, he is directing inquiry at why we have E. coli 0157:H7 and why it is so virulent.

Fourth, an important organic grower and marketer is saying that we better look hard at irradiation and is urging a “Right to Irradiate” law.

We would like to express our great appreciation for this letter. Tom’s willingness to step out and say these things clearly is a real contribution to the trade’s discussion of these issues.

Here at the Pundit, we’ve pioneered the idea that the industry has to stop playing defense and must hold those responsible who are polluting the environment with dangerous pathogens.

We’ve also been calling for the banning of manure, most recently right here. We’ve also been calling for the industry to stop assuming irradiation is inconceivable — in pieces such as this one, which you can read here.

But Tom’s position in the industry is such that his letter means these ideas are starting to gather force. And, as Victor Hugo reminded us, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”




Pundit’s Mailbag — Chiquita’s Banana Experiment

Back in early November, we ran a piece on a test Chiquita was running in South Florida:

Chiquita, working with Publix, is running a test of its new Chiquita Fresh & Ready product. The slogan is: Bananas that stay perfectly fresh until you’re ready to eat them!

The product is a covered tray of three bananas, net weight 17.2 oz. It uses what the label calls Chiquita FreshPak technology, which utilizes the BreatheWay technology that it licenses from Apio. Here is how the label explains it:

Chiquita knows that Fresh Tastes Best. So we’ve come up with a natural way to keep bananas fresher longer. The secret is our patented FreshPak. It lets in just the right amount of air to slow the ripening process naturally. So now you can enjoy great tasting bananas that are Fresh & Ready when you are.

The Pundit understands that many at the very highest level of Chiquita think this product is the future of bananas. We were a little more skeptical as we were concerned about the price premium they were being marketed at in Publix:

The consumer would pay less than 53 cents for 17.2 oz. of bulk bananas and will pay $1.59 for the same amount of the trayed product in modified atmosphere packaging — or almost three times as much.

That premium, combined with the availability of bananas in many venues — convenience stores, discount stores, etc. — plus the fact that many people hit supermarkets, supercenters or warehouse club stores more than once a week means the product is, at best, a niche product.

We may have been wrong, as others seem to be willing to pay up. We received this short but to-the-point letter:

I would pay $1 more for bananas that stay “fresh”…. providing the controlled atmosphere was proven safe for banana consumers.

— Sabrina Wootton
Sunsweet Growers Inc.
New Product Manager
Marketing Department

Of course, maybe New Product Managers are particularly willing to spring for new products, but Sabrina does point out another likely consumer concern. Will taking a natural product and packaging it for someone impact consumer safety?

It is a difficult marketing issue. If you talk about it, then you make others nervous who weren’t thinking about that. If you don’t talk about it, how do you appease Sabrina and others with similar concerns?




Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative Recap XXVII

There is an ad-hoc group that started it all, the National Restaurant Association has its group working on a program and the Food Marketing Institute held a conference. All these buyer-led initiatives can get confusing, so to assist the trade in keeping track of them all, we are publishing this recap of coverage all in one place.

As new developments, occur we will continue to update this recap to help keep the trade organized on this important subject.

On September 25, 2006, in the midst of the spinach crisis, we published The Role of Retailers And The Future Of Food Safety, which pointed out that it is the “representations and warranties” that buyers demand that define the food safety programs we get:

“…in the end, the strength of our food safety systems is at least as dependent on what retailers demand as they are on what the government does for the simple reason that what retailers pay for is what they are going to get.”

Then in the issue of the Pundit’s sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, which was unveiled at the PMA Convention in San Diego on October 21, 2006, we published Food Safety Is A Retail Issue, which pointed out:

“…what holds suppliers back is not that they need an FDA regulation — it is that they need to see a willingness on the part of buyers to pay more to obtain a higher level of food safety and security. So far that is missing.”

The Buyer-led Initiative for Food Safety was then announced. In time it came to be signed on to by nine important buying organizations:

Ron Anderson, Safeway, Inc.
David Corsi, Wegman’s Food Markets
Gary Gionnette, Supervalu Inc.
Reggie Griffin, Kroger Company
Mike Hansen, Sysco Corporation
Gene Harris, Denny’s Corporation
Frank Padilla, Costco Wholesale
Greg Reinauer, Amerifresh, Inc.
Tim York, Markon Cooperative

Here at the Pundit, we applauded the buyer-led effort but on October 30, 2006, ran a piece entitled Buyer-Led Food Safety Effort Leaves Open Question Of Buyer Commitment, in which we pointed out:

“What would be helpful from these buyers is…a reassurance to the grower/shipper/packer/processor community that investments in food safety will be protected.”

As Gene Harris of Denny’s added his endorsement to the Buyer-led Initiative for Food Safety, we published, Pundit’s Mailbag — Denny’s Weighs In On Food Safety Effort on November 1, 2006, and we pointed out that the Western Growers Association was now looking for mandatory standards:

“Buyers can impose standards on their suppliers, but it seems as if the big grower members of WGA are more inclined to go with a mandatory program. Perhaps because this is more easily “saleable” to consumers, perhaps because the growers have no confidence that buyers will ever agree to a uniform standard on food safety and, perhaps, because growers know that buyers today can have the best of intentions but situations change and buyer’s change — and if legal product is available for much less money, that will put a lot of pressure on an organization to change its standards.”

On November 2, 2006, we highlighted an Opportunity For Buyers’ Food Safety Initiative, where we wrote the following:

“Here’s the Pundit’s suggestion to the buyers: Don’t wait for the deadline to pass. Withdraw the letter to the associations, which can only lead to endless negotiations with grower/shippers and watered-down food safety standards. Instead, create a temporary ad hoc consortium to spearhead the quick development of science-based food safety standards.

In the short term, these will be enforced by buyer demand, hopefully including other buyers who will buy into the plan; in the medium run the plan will be turned over to state authorities in California and federal authorities in Washington, D.C., as the basis for new mandatory regulation.”

We pointed out that this initiative may not stay in the hands of the ad hoc group leading the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative when, on November 7, 2006, we announced: National Restaurant Association Forms Produce Safety Working Group and pointed out:

“What we should have learned from the FDA loss of confidence in the industry is that food safety is not something that we negotiate over. It has to be driven by the best scientific knowledge we have.”

Mark Munger of Andrew-Williamson Fresh Produce, a grower/shipper, pitched in his thoughts on the important role buyers play in the food safety arena and, on November 8, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Insights From A Conscientious Grower, which specifically praised one foodservice customer:

I also have to commend one of our customers, who I believe demonstrates the value of collective partnerships between growers and customers. Two years ago we began working with Darden Restaurants. Darden takes food safety very seriously. They have empowered a food safety team that must approve each and every supplier. They have inspectors in the field who make weekly random inspections of growing operations, picking and packing programs. When problem issues are identified, they work closely with our food safety team to help educate our team and to ensure that collectively we fix the problem. The knowledge that an inspector can be in any field or packing shed at anytime has forced us to treat every day as an inspection day.

Additionally, Darden’s food safety team is separate from their buying team. If a farm is not up to par, they have the authority to stop all transactions until the problems are fixed. They truly put their money where their mouth is and have helped us become a markedly better company. I cannot think of a better example of the power of collective thinking between suppliers and customers. I think the industry would be well served to learn more about their programs and create similar models.

Not surprisingly, the Food Marketing Institute was not going to be content to sit this one out and, on November 10, 2006, we published FMI Steps Into The Food Safety Fray, which detailed a conference scheduled for December 5th at which FMI would host representatives from industry, associations, academia and government to advance food safety issues. Unfortunately, FMI decided to exclude the media and we pointed out:

“…if the goal is to build public confidence in the process the industry is going through, you not only open it to media, you send a velvet invitation to the big consumer media groups.

It smells of smoke-filled rooms where deals will be cut in secret. If you let in some light and air, everyone will have more confidence in the final product.”

On November 14, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag: Grower/Shipper Calls Buyer Led-Food Safety Initiative Hollow Call To Action, in which a respected grower/shipper pointed out that “This is where the retailers must step out of their ivory towers and get their walk (vendor relationship) to match their talk (aligned supply chain)… If those who signed on to this letter would get committed to buying only from “qualified suppliers,” the laws of supply and demand will drive the solution and we will quickly catch up with the rest of the world in this critical area.”

On November 17, 2006, we featured Tale Of Two Buyers, in which we pointed out: “If the VPs are sincere about wanting the buyers to place food safety first, the VPs have the responsibility for changing the culture and the economic incentive systems.”

On November 21, 2006, we published Tim York Takes Leadership Role In Food Safety Crisis, which features an extensive interview with Tim York of Markon Cooperative as well as the announcement that the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative gained ten new retail signatories:

  • Mike O’Brien, Vice President Produce & Floral, Schnuck Markets, St. Louis, Missouri
  • James Spilka, Vice President Produce, Meijer, Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Mark Vanderlinden, Vice President Produce Merchandising , Price Chopper, Schenectady, New York
  • Greg Corrigan, Director Produce & Floral, Raley’s, West Sacramento, California
  • Craig Carlson, Vice President Produce, Pathmark Stores, Carteret, New Jersey
  • Don Harris, Vice President Produce & Floral, Wild Oats Markets, Boulder, Colorado
  • Bryan Gannon, Director Produce & Floral, Big Y Supermarkets, Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Jim Corby, Vice President, Produce Merchandising. Food Lion, Salisbury, North Carolina
  • Roger Schroeder, Vice President Produce, Stater Bros., Colton, California
  • Craig Ignatz, Vice President Produce Merchandising, Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Despite the impressive show of buyer support, we expressed some concern: “…it is also pretty clear that the prospect of one unified food safety standard acceptable to every one of the signatories, much less to those who have declined to sign, is somewhere between nil and nothing.”

On November 28, 2006, we published Words From Buyers Who Did Not Sign The Food Safety Initiative, and in this piece we added Mark Hilton, Vice President of Produce and Floral for Harris-Teeter, based in Matthews, North Carolina, as a signatory to the letter.

We also quoted buyers who had declined to sign the letter mostly due to their objection to the public nature of the initiative. We also pointed out how vendors were thinking:

Pundit Note: Many growers and shippers are irate over the effort as they see it as an evasion of responsibility. These buying organizations get exactly what they value enough to pay for. All too often, some of the same companies who signed the letter on Monday will, on Tuesday, buy some product without the slightest knowledge of where it came from.

On November 29, 2006, we ran Another Naysayer of Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative, which gave voice to the thoughts of some non-participating buyers that only mandatory government regulation is the way to go. Also on November 29, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Buyers Lecturing Again, in which a processor there at the beginning of the national fresh-cut industry reminded us how uninterested in food safety most retailers were at the time.

On November 30, 2006, we continued our exploration of why some buyers were declining to join the buyer-led initiative with Self-Interests Play Role In Food Safety Initiatives. Also on November 30, 2006, we received a letter from Al Zuckerman of ProMark Group, which we focused on in Pundit’s Mailbag — Pundit Logic On Food Safety Regulation. We pointed out: “In terms of the difficulties on spinach and leafy greens, the key buyers are missing from the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative. The buyers of the produce, in this case, are the processors.”

On December 1, 2006, we published Spinach And The Consequences Of Buyers’ Action, in which buyers who hadn’t signed on to the buyer-led food safety initiative pointed out that rigorous food safety systems will restrict supply and raise prices.

As we explained: “It is unknown if those who don’t buy spinach because of high prices will buy healthy alternatives. They may buy candy bars and die of complications of obesity. It is a completely open question as to whether safer spinach won’t cost lives in the end.”

Also on December 1, 2006, we responded to industry feedback claiming that foodservice did a better job than retail when it came to food safety by beginning a series of Pundit Pulses focused on foodservice. The first two, Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Del Taco’s Janet Erickson and Notre Dame’s Dan Crimmins, dealt with how smaller buyers deal with these issues.

On December 5, 2006, we continued our discussion with buyers who refused to sign the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative by noting that some of them weren’t thrilled with the Western Growers Association proposal either. Our Piece Is WGA’s Food Safety Proposal Up To The Job?dealt with the problems created for the industry when one region is declared “safer” than another and with the difficulty of utilizing a marketing order to legislate world class food safety practices.

On December 6, 2006, we ran Nine Days To B-Day (The Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative Deadline), which dealt with what will happen if the trade associations do not meet the deadline set by the buyers. Also on December 6, 2006, we continued our series on foodservice and food safety by running Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Michael Spinazzola Of Diversified Restaurant Systems.

Additionally on December 6, 2006, we ran a letter from Tim O’Conner, President & CEO of the United States Potato Board in our Pundit’s Mailbag — Buying Safe Food In A Changing Worldin which Tim explained: “Given my experience with government inspection and regulation, I place much more value on a supply chain-led initiative to deliver meaningful long term results.”

On December 7, 2006, we ran FMI Meeting On Food Safety: More Questions To Be Answered, which looked at the contribution of FMI’s effort to play a role in preventing a future leafy green crisis.

On December 8, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Trapping Stations And Food Safety Costs, in which a letter from Jack Vessey of Vessey & Company clued us in to the specific cost implications of food safety initiatives.

On December 12, 2006, we ran Taco Bell Makes Ready Pac Its Scapegoat, which explained that the attitude of shared responsibility for food safety that is essential for success can’t be sustained if a buyer dumps an innocent vendor at the first sign of trouble.

Also on December 12, 2006, we published New Meaning Of A Value Meal: Cultural Change Needed To Factor In Food Safety, which dealt with the way a cultural imperative to low prices could lead food safety to be sacrificed.

Additionally on December 12, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: Aligned Supply Chains And Statistical Quirks, which analyzed the way the tyranny of large numbers can impact our perception of the food safety problem.

On December 13, 2006, we published Wholesalers, Independents May Get Windfall From Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative, which pointed out that a buyer-led initiative would likely leave lots of growers looking for homes for their product and that wholesalers and independents could benefit.

On January 3, 2007, we resumed our discussion of the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative by publishing Publix and C.H. Robinson Join Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative, which brought the list of signatories to twenty-two:

Ron Anderson, Safeway, Inc.
Gary Bergstrom, Publix
Craig Carlson, Pathmark Stores
Jim Corby, Food Lion
Greg Corrigan, Raley’s
David Corsi, Wegman’s Food Markets
Brian Gannon, Big Y Supermarkets
Gary Gionnette, Supervalu Inc.
Reggie Griffin, Kroger Company
Mike Hansen, Sysco Corporation
Don Harris, Wild Oats Markets
Gene Harris, Denny’s Corporation
Mark Hilton, Harris-Teeter
Craig Ignatz, Giant Eagle
Jim Lemke, C.H. Robinson Worldwide
Mike O’Brien, Schnuck Markets
Frank Padilla, Costco Wholesale
Greg Reinauer, Amerifresh, Inc.
Roger Schroeder, Stater Bros.
James Spilka, Meijer, Inc.
Mark Vanderlinden, Price Chopper
Tim York, Markon Cooperative

We were particularly intrigued by the possibility that C.H. Robinson’s participation, as a major vendor to Wal-Mart, might mean that Wal-Mart saw some usefulness in being somewhat related to the initiative.

On January 4, 2007, we ran Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative Maturing In More Ways Than One, that included the Buyer Group’s latest call for action.




Botulism And Carrot Juice
Summary XLV

We’ve been asked to make available in one place our coverage of the recall by Wm. Bolthouse Farms of certain 100% carrot juice products and the broader implications of this issue for food safety. This piece is updated regularly and will be re-run to include new coverage of this outbreak and issue.

We initiated our coverage on October 2, 2006, by publishing the FDA notice to consumers warning them not to drink the product, and we inquired as to the margin of safety on the product. You can find the piece, entitled Oh No! Another Outbreak, right here.

On October 4, 2006, we published Bolthouse And Juice Refrigeration, which analyzed the proper standard of refrigeration for vulnerable products and the ability of both the trade and consumers to maintain that cold chain. Read it here.

October 5, 2006, we ran Botulism III, which detailed the 12 steps in the distribution chain that the industry needs functioning properly in order to maintain the cold chain. The piece challenged retailers to evaluate the integrity of their own cold chain. You can find the piece here.

In The Botulism And E. coli Connection, which we ran on October 6, 2006, we noted similarities between the botulism outbreak on certain Bolthouse carrot juice and the spinach/E. coli outbreak. The piece is right here.

On October 10, 2006, we noted, in Bolthouse Botulism Case Hits Canada, that two Canadians were now victims of this botulism case and noted that it was an unusual cluster to occur at one time if the problem was solely temperature abuse by customers. You can catch it here.

October 11, 2006, we ran Carrot Juice Still On Canadian Shelves, we noted that Canadians were getting upset over the inability of Canada’s public health authorities to execute a simple product recall and that the frequency of recalls was raising questions over the safety of California produce. Read it right here.

On October 13, 2006, we ran Lobbying For Better Refrigeration urging industry lobbyists to work on legislation to make sure consumers have the tools they need to keep product safe at home. The article is here.

October 18, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag — Thermometers In Refrigerators, disagreeing with our urging of legislation regarding thermostats and refrigeration. You can read the piece here.




Pundit Rewind LV

The Pundit originally ran the Pundit Rewind on September 21, 2006. We continuously update it in order to keep everyone organized with respect to reference material on this subject; we have updated it with new items and run it again today.

Spinach Crisis Summary

With so much having been written in so short a time, thought it would be helpful to publish a sort of round-up of available material to help people understand the whole situation regarding spinach and this E. coli breakout:

The Perishable Pundit itself has dealt extensively with the subject in several major pieces. On September 15, 2006, we published Spinach Recall Reveals Serious Industry Problems, which addressed the implications of this crisis for the fresh-cut industry. You can read the piece here.

On September 18, 2006, we published Organic Dodges a Bullet, which deals with the implications of the outbreak for the future of organic farming. You can find this piece here. Also on September 18, 2006, we ran a piece called Ramifications and Reflections on the Spinach Recall, which provided our first 10-point analysis of the situation. You can read it here.

September 19, 2006, we asked Is FDA’s Concern Now an Obsession? — a piece in which we assessed whether a national recommendation to not eat spinach made any sense. You can review this here.

On September 20, 2006, we noted 10 Peculiarities about the E. coli Outbreak and reviewed why certain aspects of the situation are unlike past food-safety challenges and other unanswered questions regarding the outbreak. Read this one right here. Also on September 20, 2006, we did our third 10-point list, calling this one “Spinach Recall Begs for Solutions”, where we reviewed how the trade can deal with this issue for the future, including looking at the meat industry, the prospect of universal testing and the use of RFID and GTIN. You can read all this here.

On September 21, 2006, we asked Is FDA Causing Long-term Damage? Here we posed the question of whether punishing the innocent and the guilty alike doesn’t reduce incentives to invest in food safety. You can read this piece right here.

The September 25, 2006 edition of the Pundit includes our fourth 10-point list entitled Though Not ‘All-Clear’, Consumers Can Eat Spinach Again, which reviewed many issues facing the industry as spinach begins to reenter the market, including the FDA’s announcement, PMA consumer research, the behavior of industry association, battles over fresh-cuts and organics, the reintroduction of Salinas Valley production, the FDA’s capabilities, and more. You can read this piece here. Also on September 25, 2006, we reviewed The Role of Retailers And The Future Of Food Safety, which pointed out that buyers have an important role in insuring food safety. Catch this piece here.

Additionally, on September 25, 2006, we ran the Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industryin which a panel of retail pundits gave us insight into the way the spinach issue played in store and with consumers. You can read it here.

The Pundit on September 26, 2006, included an articled entitled The California Department of Health Services Owes People An Explanation in which the question was raised whether certain parties received preferential treatment in the current spinach/E. coli outbreak. Read it right here. Also on September 26, 2006, we did a piece questioning the efficacy of our trace-back systems. The piece was titled More Recalls Trickle In, and you can read it here.

On September 27, 2006, the Pundit analyzed the bad publicity that the Salinas Valley has received and asked Is Salinas Getting A Bum Rap On Food Safety? The piece can be read right here.

September 28, 2006, the Pundit included a piece entitled Call For Stronger FDA that analyzed the demand of some in the food industry for beefing up the FDA and its budget within the context of the spinach/E. coli situation. You can read it here.

On September 29, 2006 we did a piece called Lies, Damned Lies And Statistics that explored the contradiction of modern life that has led things to seem less safe, even as they are actually safer. Read the piece here.

October 2, 2006 we ran The FDA Needs to Reexamine Its Methodology, inquiring why it was necessary to shut down a whole industry when, as far as we know, it was only Dole brand bagged spinach that was implicated? Read it here. Also on October 2, 2006, in a piece called Needless Recalls, we examined how even if many of the recalls were unnecessary, the recalls revealed big flaws in the trade’s traceback systems. You can find the piece here. Another piece October 2, 2006, entitled Deconstructing FDA, analyzed the FDA’s statement regarding the end of the spinach crisis. The piece is right here.

The Pundit also ran a piece entitled Action Plan to Regain Consumer Confidence that both discussed the industry plan and proposed an alternative plan. Read about it here. Also on October 2, 2006, we did a piece called Collateral Damage vs. Assumption of the Risk, which analyzed some of the liability issues surrounding the outbreak. You can find the piece here. Additionally, on October 2, 2006, we published the second in our series of Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry. This one including insight from Bob Edgell of Balls Foods and Ron McCormick of Wal-Mart, regarding reaction at retail as spinach outside California became available. Read it here.

On October 4, 2006, the Pundit ran a piece entitled In Defense of Salinas, in which, based on a discussion with a Salinas farmer, we outlined five points you need to understand about the relationship between the Salinas Valley and this outbreak. You can find it here. Also on October 4, 2006, we published Notes On Natural Selection: It Could Happen To You, which discussed the new food safety plan revealed by Natural Selection Foods and discussed the necessity of product testing. Read it here.

October 5, 2006, we analyzed the implications of the FBI raid in Salinas with Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… You can read the piece here.

We also explained on October 5, 2006, the involvement of Growers Express in the FBI raid in a piece entitled Bailando Juntos (Dancing Together), which you can find right here. What’s more, we discussed on October 5, 2006, why Canada is still banning U.S. spinach and what that implies about relations between the FDA and CFIA. The piece is called U.S. Spinach Still Banned in Canada, and you can read it here.

On October 6, 2006, the Pundit pointed out the importance of considering the human costs of our actions in A Look At The Faces, which you can read here. Also on October 6, 2006, we analyzed how increased use of a federal network was bound to mean the recording of more frequent food safety outlets in a piece entitled PulseNet Ups Ante In Food Safety Battle, which can be read right here.

Although not strictly speaking spinach-related, when one company voluntarily recalled certain green leaf lettuce, it was a decision affected by the overall environment caused by the spinach/E. coli situation. In Nunes Recall Reveals Testing Dilemma, published on October 10, 2006, we analyzed how stricter standards may lead to more frequent recalls. Catch the piece here.

October 11, 2006 we pointed out that the Center for Disease Control was beginning to see fresh-cut in a whole new light. You can read CDC’s Aha! Moment right here. Also on October 11, 2006, we offered Heads Up — Political Posturing On Spinach Begins, pointing out that the a State Senator in California was going to start some hearings. Read the piece here.

On October 12, 2006, in PulseNet Asleep At The Wheel, we detailed that the nation’s food safety bulletin board likes to take off on weekends. Read this astounding piece here.

Dangerous E. coli Found On One Ranch ran on October 13, 2006, and points out that this finding doesn’t tell us much. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006, we ran Fast Testing For Pathogens Necessary, which pointed out that product testing is bound to happen and discussed options and obstacles. You can read it here.

October 18, 2006 the Pundit ran a piece in which PulseNet Explains Why It Doesn’t Work Weekends.You can find the piece here.

On October 19, 2006, the piece Pundit’s Mailbag — Greenhouses and Vertical Farmingexplores the potential of greenhouse and hydroponic growing in the light of the spinach/E. coli crisis. The article also explores the potential for vertical farms in urban neighborhoods. Read it here.

On October 24, 2006, we published Town Hall Spinach Meeting: Unanswered Questions, in which we analyzed what we learned and what was still a mystery after attending a Town Hall Meeting on the spinach crisis at the PMA Convention in San Diego. You can find this piece here.

October 27, 2006, we ran a piece entitled PMA Commits $1 Million To Food Safety Fixes and you can read it here. Also on October 27, 2006, we thought part of the fallout from the crisis would be a reexamination of the industry’s government relations efforts and so wrote PMA/United Merger Fresh On Our Minds. You can read it right here. Additionally on October 27, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Greenhouse Solutions dealing with whether Controlled Environment Agriculture might be the solution to the trade’s food safety issues. Read it right here.

On October 30, 2006, we responded to a very important proposal from several leading members of the buying community with Buyer-Led Food Safety Effort Leaves Open Question of Buyer Commitment.You can read the piece here. After the government announced that it was looking at wild pigs as the culprit in the E. coli contamination, we ran, on October 30, 2006, a piece entitled Now We Know Why Spinach Salad Is Served With Bacon Dressing. Read it right here.

On October 31, 2006, we published Western Growers Association Calls For Mandatory Food Safety Standards, in which we discussed the epochal change taking place as the industry looked to move to mandatory, as opposed to voluntary, food safety standards. You can read it right here.

November 2, 2006, we published Opportunity For Buyer’s Food Safety Initiative,which raised the idea that not involving growers in setting food safety standards was a good idea. Read it here.

On November 7, 2006, we ran a piece entitled NRA Forms Produce Safety Working Group that discussed a new National Restaurant Association initiative to impose standards on suppliers to foodservice. You can find the piece here. Also on November 7, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — United’s President/CEO Responds (Part 2), which dealt with the question of how much difference a good government relations program can be expected to accomplish at a time of crisis. Read it here.

November 8, 2006, we ran a valuable Pundit’s Mailbag — Insights From A Conscientious Growerthat focused on the value buyers can bring to food safety programs. You can read it here.

On November 10, 2006, we published FMI Steps Into Food Safety Fray, which details the role a food safety conference FMI is organizing might play in helping the industry develop new food safety protocols. You can find the piece here.

November 14, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Grower/Shipper Calls Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative Hollow Call To Action, in which a respected grower pointed out that growers needed retailers to walk the walk not talk the talk. Read it here.

On November 15, 2006 we published PulseNet, And The Pundit, In The News, which linked to a TV station that picked up on our reporting on ways to improve PulseNet. Read it here. Also on November 15, 2006, we published Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Westborn Markets, Schnucks, Wal-Mart, in which these retailers updated us on how the market for spinach and bagged salads is recovering. You can find the piece here.

November 16, 2006, we had a piece entitled Pundit’s Mailbag — Kill Steps And Irradiation that dealt with the industry concern that no matter how we strengthen our agricultural practices, only a “kill step” can really solve the problem. Read it here.

On November 17, 2006, we published GAPs/GMPs And HACCP Plans, in which United Fresh President/CEO Tom Stenzel gives his take on what happened during the spinach crisis. Read it here. Also on November 17, 2006, we ran Tale Of Two Buyers, which pointed out that culture and compensation may matter more than intent when it comes to food safety. Find it right here.

November 21, 2006, we ran Tim York Takes Leadership Role In Food Safety Crisis, which updated us on the progress of the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative. Read it here.

On November 22, 2006 we presented The Perishable Pundit’s Unsung Heroes Awardto Hank Giclas of Western Growers Association, David Gombas and Jim Gorny, both of United Fresh Produce Association. Read all about it right here. Also on November 22, 2006 we reported the explosive news that the whole consumer advisory not to eat spinach might have been avoided had certain processors cooperated with the FDA. The piece is called Spinach Farmers Won’t Be Thanking Certain Processors This Holidayand you can read it here. Additionally, on November 22, 2006 we explained that restricting product usage could reduce the impact of future outbreaks. The article is called If You Are Eating Out For Thanksgiving… and you can find it here.

November 28, 2006 we published Words From Buyers Who Did Not Sign The Food Safety Initiative that explained one objection to the way the initiative was being handled. Read the piece here. Also on November 28, 2006, we wrote Don’t Forget The Regional Spinach Processors, which showed how Aunt Mid’s Produce Company in Detroit, Michigan, was communicating with its customers. Catch it here.

On November 29, 2006, we ran a piece called Another Naysayer of Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative that focused on the thoughts of some buyers that only mandatory government regulation would help the industry. Read it right here.

On November 30, 2006, we published Self-Interests Play Role In Food Safety Initiatives, a piece that continued our series on why some buyers don’t wish to sign on to the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative. You can find the article here.

On December 1, 2006, we continued our exploration of why some buyers elected not to sign on to the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative with Spinach And The Consequence Of Buyers’ Actions, a piece that looked at how food safety might impact prices and public health. Read it here.

Also on December 1, 2006, we published Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Del Taco’s Janet Erickson and Notre Dame’s Dan Crimmins, which explored how smaller foodservice operators were looking at food safety. Catch it right here.

Additionally on December 1, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Sprout Lessons Echo Food Safety Dilemma, which pointed out what the broader produce industry can learn from the food safety woes of the sprout industry. You can find the piece here.

On December 5, 2006, we asked Is WGA’s Food Safety Proposal Up To The Job?This piece discussed both the difficulties of setting different food safety standards in different regions and the difficulty of establishing food safety standards through a marketing order. Read it here.

On December 6, 2006, we ran Nine Days To B-Day (The Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative Deadline),which dealt with what will happen if the trade associations do not meet the deadline set by the buyers. Read the piece here. Also on December 6, 2006, we continued our series on foodservice and food safety by running Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Michael Spinazzola Of Diversified Restaurant Systems, and you can find this article here.

Additionally on December 6, 2006 we ran a letter from Tim O’Conner, President & CEO of the United States Potato Board in our Pundit’s Mailbag — Buying Safe Food In A Changing World, catch this piece right here.

On December 7, 2006, we ran FMI Meeting On Food Safety: More Questions To Be Answered, which looked, from a retailer’s point of view, at the contribution of FMI’s effort to play a role in preventing a future leafy green crisis. Read it right here.

December 8, 2006 we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Trapping Stations And Food Safety Costsin which a letter from Jack Vessey of Vessey & Company detailed some costs being incurred as a result of buyers’ demands for various food safety efforts. Read it right here.

On December 12, 2006, we published New Meaning Of A Value Meal: Cultural Change Needed To Factor In Food Safety, which dealt with the way a cultural imperative to low prices could lead food safety to be sacrificed. Please read it here.

Also on December 12, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: Aligned Supply Chains And Statistical Quirks, which analyzed the way the tyranny of large numbers can impact our perception of the food safety problem. You can catch this right here.

On December 13, 2006, we ran Wholesalers, Independents May Get Windfall From Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative, which pointed out that a buyer-led initiative would likely leave lots of growers looking for homes for their product and that wholesalers and independents could benefit. Read it here.

Also on December 13, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Eliminating E. coli 0157:H7, which argued that we should look for legislation to prevent cattle from polluting with E. coli 0157:H7 and look to eliminate E. coli 0157:H7 from the food chain. Catch the piece here.

On December 14, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Transitional Ground, which dealt with the food safety implications of the presumption that the spinach implicated in the spinach/E. coli outbreak was grown with organic methods on ground being transitioned to organic. Read the piece right here.

On December 15, 2006, we published the Pundit Special Science Report: Part 1 — Food Safety Vulnerabilities in Yuma And Salinas; Part 2 — The Science Of Waterborne Bacteria; Part 3 — Product Testing At Natural Selection Foods & McEntire Produce. The whole report can be found here.

On December 19, 2006 we published Irradiation Will Prevent Future Outbreaks which dealt with the need for a “kill step” in produce. You can read it here. Also on December 19, 2006 we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Organics And Manure which dealt with the issue of the use of manure in modern agriculture. You can find the piece right here.

On December 20, 2006, we published The Cultural Contradictions of Food Safety, which analyzed how growers are placed in a financial and ethical dilemma by issues of food safety. Read the piece here. Also on December 20, 2006 we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — WGA’s Ambiguitiesin which Bob Martin of Rio Farms discussed the WGA’s proposal along with the challenges buyer’s demands place on growers. You can find the piece here.

On December 21, 2006, we ran Fighting E. Eoli At The Source, which detailed industry efforts to play offense, not defense, on the food safety front. Read it here. Also on December 21, 2006, we published Pundit’s Pulse of the Industry: Foodbuy’s Maurice Totty, which analyzed how a large organization, the Compass Group, worked to secure food safety. The piece is here.

Additionally on December 21, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Transitional Answers, which focused on the implications of the spinach/E. coli crisis. You can find the article here.

On December 22, 2006, we published Many States Are Weak At Reporting Foodborne Illness, in which we detailed how many foodborne illness outbreaks are not being identified as such due to the condition of many state labs. As they are improved, more foodborne illness will be identified even as the food supply gets safer. You can read the piece right here.

On January 3, 2007, we ran Publix And C.H. Robinson Join Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative, which pointed out the growing buying power behind the initiative. You can read it here.

On January 4, 2007, we published Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative Maturing In More Ways Than One, which detailed the latest letter written by the group. Read it here.

Also on January 4, 2007, we ran Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry — Ruby Tuesday’s Rick Johnson, in which we heard frank talk about where food safety responsibility lies. Catch it here.

On January 5, 2007, we ran FDA’s Money Problem, which pointed out that funds for research are essential if we are ever to really resolve the trade’s food safety issues. Read the piece here. Also on January 5, 2007, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — More on Manure, in which we explained why manure needs to be banned from spinach cultivation. Catch it right here.

On January 9, 2007, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Farmers Are Not The Cause Of Food Safety Problems, which contained an important letter pointing out that farmers are expected to deliver “dirty” product to processors. You can read it here.

IMPLICATIONS OF THE CRISIS
In addition, the Pundit has done several smaller pieces that touched on various aspects of this crisis. On September 18, 2006, we raised the issue of whether food safety outbreaks such as this raise long-term issues about the viability of cartoon character tie-ins in Who Has Marketing Fortitude? You can read about it here. Also on September 18, 2006, we wrote Fit To Be Tied, which dealt with the way some companies have little sense of decency when it comes to marketing their products in the midst of a crisis. You can read this one right here.

Additionally on September 18, 2006, our Pundit’s Mailbag focused on letters received by United President/CEO Tom Stenzel and incoming Chairman Emanuel Lazopoulos of Del Monte Fresh, which dealt with the confluence of United’s Board Meeting and the spinach crisis as well as issues of industry leadership. You can find this one here.

On September 19, 2006, we noted that there might be a Greenhouse Opportunity in all this. Read this here. Also on September 19, 2006, we noted that, though fruits and vegetables are healthy, fresh produce is not necessarily the best choice for those with a compromised immune system. The piece is called Marketing Nightmare and you can find it right here.

On September 21, 2006, we did a piece called Wal-Mart Deli/Bakery Has Crisis Of Its Own that draws a link between the difficulty of preventing a Salmonella outbreak at one store with the difficulty of preventing an E. coli outbreak on an industry-wide basis. You can read this piece here.

On September 25, 2006, the Pundit noted Another Oddity In Spinach Crisis and raised the question whether some or all of the product being marketed as conventional might not be organic. Read it right here. Also on September 25, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag which dealt both with the utility of loyalty card programs and with the nature of large, multi-line fresh-cut packing facilities. You can read this one right here. Also we did a short piece on what change was actually necessary if consumers were to be reassured of the safety of spinach. Read it here.

On September 26, 2006, we discussed the issue of recalls and how insurance plays into that. You can read this here. Also had an unrelated piece on Wegmans that included a video clip on how consumer media is dealing with the reintroduction of spinach. You can catch it here.

Additionally on September 26, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag exploring the causes of the outbreak. You can read this piece here.

September 27, 2006, we focused on a piece in the Washington Post that helps us in Putting Things In Perspective. How does the Spinach/E. coli outbreak relate to the total numbers that get sick and die each year from foodborne illness? You can read it right here.

On September 28, 2006, we published a terrific Pundit’s Mailbag exploring the frustration the buy side felt in dealing with the spinach/E. coli situation. Read it here.

October 2, 2006, we had some Questions For Western Growers that asked how far the WGA was willing to go to make sure foreign growers meet the same standards as Salinas area farmers. Read about it here. We also asked How Committed Is The Produce Industry To Broad/National Food Safety Program. You can read the piece here.

In addition, on October 2, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: Another Despicable Marketing Attempt that pointed out how a seed company was taking advantage of the situation and, possibly, leading to harm, by pushing its products. Read about it here.

On October 4, 2006, we ran a piece entitled Primary And Secondary Suppliers, which details how this food safety crisis has to impact retail vendor selection. Catch it right here. Also on October 4, 2006, we discussed how to help innocent spinach farmers who were victimized by this crisis in Everyone Needs to Do A Little Bit. The Pundit pledged to do its own bit. Read it right here.

October 5, 2006, we ran a piece focused on another outbreak of foodborne illness — in this case, botulism in carrot juice. The focus, however, was on the necessity to change attitudes as the produce industry becomes less a packing industry and more a processing industry. It is called Botulism III, and you can read it here.

On October 6, 2006 we pointed out The Botulism And E. coli Connection where we explained that our focus on pathogens at the product source, though important, is insufficient. Read it here. Also on October 6, 2006 we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: What Are The feds Up To? This answered a reader’s letter inquiring as to whether the FBI being in Salinas implied industry members weren’t cooperating. You can find this item here.

Food Safety, Good Delivery And Temperature Monitoring was published on October 10, 2006, and pointed out that old temperature recording devices have to be superseded by new temperature monitoring technology on all trucking of vulnerable products. Catch the piece here.

On October 11, 2006, we ran a piece that grew out of the decision of Publix to stop giving some perishables away because of food safety concerns it is called Culture of Risk-Aversion Hurts the Poor and you can read it here.

Nunes Tests Negative on October 13, 2006, raises the question of the appropriateness of recalls for generic E. coli in irrigation water. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006, we ran Lobbying For Better Refrigeration, which pointed out that consumers are not given the tools needed to be vigilant at home. Find it here.

In addition on October 13, 2006, we published PulseNet Redux pointing out, once again, that this outbreak could have been caught earlier had the government not taken off for the weekend. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006 we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag — Population Inured by Recalls? This piece raised the possibility that frequent recalls, with no subsequent illness, would rebound to the benefit of the trade. Please read it here.

On October 17, 2006, we ran Will Hydroponics Be A Solution To Spinach Woes? and analyzed the potential of hydroponics to head off future outbreaks. Read it here.

October 18, 2006, we had a Pundit’s Mailbag — Thermometers In Refrigerators, in which the Pundit was challenged for urging excessive governmental interference. You can find it right here.

October 20, 2006, we had two pieces related to the Nunes recall on Green Leaf lettuce. First, in a piece entitled Closure For Nunes, we detailed that the product had been declared clean by the FDA. You can read it here. Second, we had a piece entitled Partial Closure In Mexico, which explained that Mexico had decided to allow the import of U.S. lettuce but not spinach. You can find the piece right here.

On November 1, 2006, we ran a piece entitled Canada Opens Door To More, But Not All, US Spinach. You can read it right here. Also on November 1, 2006, we had an interesting Pundit’s Mailbag — The Acceptance Of Risk, which included a fascinating comparison on how the FAA views safety in airlines as opposed to the FDA looking at food. Read it here.

November 3, 2006, we published Food Safety And Why The Problem Will Only Get Worse…Or Won’t, which dealt with the way enhanced detection technology is likely to increase reports of foodborne illness — even as the food supply gets safer. Read it here. Also on November 3, 2006 we ran a brief note entitled Broader Concern For Food Safety, which linked to an FDA-produced slide show on the spinach outbreak as part of a broader food safety perspective. You can catch it right here.

Additionally on November 3, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — CPMA’s President Sets The Record Straight, in which CPMA’s President Dan Dempster addressed the importance of communication between the public health authorities in the U.S. and in Canada. Find the piece right here.

On November 7, 2006, we ran FDA Focuses On Retail And Foodservice Food Safety which gave news of an FDA satellite broadcast for retailers and foodservice operators and addressed the general issue of buyers and food safety. Read it here. Also on November 7, 2006, we ran an Erratum correcting some calculations in our previous piece Food Safety And Why The Problem Will Only Get Worse…Or Won’t. You can find it right here.

November 9, 2006, we published Pundit’s Pulse of the Industry: Bigg’s Marvin Lyons, the first of a series of retail interviews looking at how sales at retail are going post-spinach crisis. Read it here. Also on November 9, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Sticking Up for the Pundit, in which an industry leader wrote in to support the work of the Pundit. You can find the piece here.

On November 10, 2006, we highlighted a quick directory of Farm-to-Fork Food Safety Resources. Catch it here.

November 21, 2006 we ran Capitol Report: United Helps Coordinate ‘Spinach Fest’ which focused on an event in D.C. reintroducing spinach to consumers. Read it here. Also on November 21, 2006 we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Woeful Costco Experience, which detailed the difficulty of getting accurate information down to store level personnel. You can find the piece here.

On November 22, 2006 we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Thankfulness in which Harris Cutler of Race-West Company offered a common sense perspective on food safety. Read it here.

November 29, 2006 featured Pundit’s Mailbag — Buyers Lecturing Again, which reminded us that retailers weren’t always focused on consumers or safety in the early years of the national fresh-cut industry. You can find the piece right here.

On November 30, 2006, we published What’s In A Name, recognizing the birth date of Theodor Escherich, for whom the genus Escherichia of which Escherichia coli is the most common member. Read it here.

Also on November 30, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Pundit Logic On Food Safety Regulations, which dealt with a letter from Al Zuckerman of ProMark Group trying to find a reasonable proposal on food safety. Catch it here.

On December 1, 2006, we ran Speaking Of Produce Washes, which revealed a study that found that washes and water are all about the same. Read it here.

On January 3, 2007, we published Crisis Management, which suggests that simply having a spokesperson is not sufficient, you need people who actually know to speak for you in a crisis. Read it here.

Also on January 3, 2007, we ran Pundit’s MailbagTaco Bell & FDA’s Rush To Judgment, in which Cary Rubin of Rubin Brothers Produce Corp. objected to businesses and government when they speak out based on supposition. Catch it right here.

On January 5, 2007, we published From a Victim’s Perspective, and pointed out how continued consumer concern over produce may impact sales. Read the article here. Also on January 5, 2007, we ran Food Safety Culture, which provided a link to a food safety video that included a terrific presentation by Frank Yiannas, Director of Safety & Health for Walt Disney World. The presentation focused on building a food safety culture. You can find the piece right here.

RESOURCES
In addition to our own work, there are many excellent sources of information out there that do not require payment, membership or registration. Three of the Pundit’s favorites:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has offered daily information on the crisis right here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deal with the outbreak here.

The Produce Marketing Association has maintained an excellent industry resource on the subject right here.

Please feel free to write or call if you are looking for specific information not included here. Note that many of the articles and websites have links to other resources.

Several additional pieces appear in the Perishable Pundit today, and they will be incorporated into future iterations of this Spinach Crisis Summary.

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