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Seal Or No Seal: Marketing Agreement
May Confuse Consumers

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, January 31, 2007

The California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement is out for signature. The nominees for the board have been made as we discussed here. The centerpiece of the marketing agreement is the fact that, as Western Growers has explained: Product which is certified by state authorized inspectors to be grown under the specific food safety Good Agricultural Practices will be designated by an official “mark” or seal.

Yet this seal could prove problematic. We’ve been going back and forth with CDFA to get clarification but it appears that only California grown product will be eligible for the seal. Yet most California processors move their operation to Yuma, AZ for part of the year and many have regional operations that also use regionally grown product.

The obvious problem with this seal is that companies will be promoting to consumers that this seal is a mark of safe food — then, suddenly, the seal won’t be available for months. Surely it is unrealistic to expect that consumers will know this is due to the crop growing in Arizona at that time of year.

This on again/off again seal seems likely to cause real confusion in the marketplace.

We’ve also been unable to get clarification as to the allowance for non-California grown produce. As we read it, it appears that a California processor, doing a blend with 1 percent Italian grown radicchio could not use the seal either.

An out of state processor that is not licensed to do business in California seems unable to use the seal even if it uses 100 percent California product grown in compliance with the food safety standards but a California company that is processing out of state can use the seal. So out of state consumers will be exceedingly confused as identical product will sometimes have a seal and sometimes not.

One wonders if all this sometimes seal, sometimes no seal is really going to build consumer confidence.

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