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Pundit’s Mailbag — John Krakowski: Buyers Hurting Themselves

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, March 30, 2007

Our piece Pundit’s Mailbag — Dole’s Schwartz Comments On Silent Buyers included this challenge:

Eric Schwartz says we should “… challenge the buying side of your readership to come forward and help us understand why a mandatory signature to the agreement is not in the best interests of the entire industry.”

And so we issued the challenge.

No buyers are speaking for the record yet, but a food safety expert sent this note along:

Thanks for posing the cogent inquiry. One would think the fresh produce industry would embrace efforts to clean up public perception. Caveat emptor as a prevailing standard likely needs broader media exposure than the Pundit fan club. In the long run, this will hurt the industry as well as national health goals to increase vegetable and fruit consumption.

Regards and thanks for a great website.

— John A. Krakowski, RD
Food Safety Coach
Flanders, New York

John’s letter is perceptive. One would think retailers would be rushing to demand compliance by suppliers with the California Marketing Agreement standards and inspection regimen — if for no other reason than so that retailers could help put the issue behind them in the minds of consumers.

Beyond this immediate concern — so much of the future of the industry hinges on our efforts at promoting the healthy aspects of eating fresh produce. Allowing food safety risks to hover above these efforts really puts them under a cloud.

And, as far as media coverage goes: if there should be another outbreak in which people die and a supermarket chain or restaurant chain that sold the product had refused to limit its supply chain to those who follow CMA standards and inspections, you can count on the media to hang the CEO of those chains in effigy.

We just hope that retailers and foodservice buyers have let their CEOs know of the enormous reputational risk they are taking by not constraining their supply chain. Next time, they will not be able to say that they did all they could do.

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