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Pundit’s Mailbag — Robert Stovicek: Trusting CDFA

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, March 30, 2007

In our piece, GAP Program Still Leaves Questions, we pointed out how difficult it has been to get a straightforward answer from the CDFA, particularly on the methodology it used to figure the percentage of California leafy green production that has signed up for the program.

In response, we received this pithy note:

If it is this hard to get CDFA to be honest and transparent at this stage, why are we being naive to expect the consumer or consumer advocates to trust CDFA?

— Robert F. Stovicek, PhD.
President
Primus Group

Bob makes a very good point. When we speak to the CDFA, they come across as having an agenda. One wonders if they are not intentionally trying to build up this number because they think that makes the program a “success.”

Whatever the reason they speak the way they do, it is a cause of concern.

Many consumer advocates and media representatives view departments of agriculture, including the CDFA, as in the pockets of growers. They want to see regulation by health agencies such as the California Department of Health Services and the FDA.

I think it is fair to say that although the CDFA is not in anyone’s pocket, the industry certainly feels more comfortable dealing with an ag agency than a health agency. In fact, one way to understand the whole CMA is that the industry wanted to head off a regulatory approach that would push industry supervision out of the CDFA and into the CDHS.

Be that as it may, we need the CDFA to deal with media and consumer groups in a straightforward, upstanding manner.

Otherwise, as Bob says, the CDFA will quickly lose whatever credibility it has on the subject of food safety.

Although he didn’t write us about it, another thing Bob could be legitimately peeved about is the implication in the CDFA press release that somehow government inspectors are superior to those retained by private industry. In the press release it said:

However, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement program is the only initiative that will incorporate on-site field inspections that are conducted by a government inspection and verification entity.

Well, as we know from the Forbidden Fruit scandal on the Hunts Point market, in which USDA inspectors were on the take and, more recently, as we showed in our piece, The Rats Of New York Teach The Produce Industry Some Lessons On Food Safety, on the KFC/Taco Bell situation in New York City and The Rats In Los Angeles: The Produce Industry’s Shame, our piece on the 7th Street Market in LA, having government employed inspectors is no panacea.

Here at the Pundit, we are concerned that the CDFA won’t have enough trained inspectors to actually carry out all the inspections that could be done under the agreement.

Many thanks to Bob for his incisive note.

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