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Pundit’s Mailbag — At Your Service
Alan L. Siger, Consumers Produce Co.
Don Harris, Wild Oats Markets
Fred Stein, FRED International
Paul Klutes, C.H. Robinson

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, April 4, 2007

Our Pundit Special Edition included an overview article detailing A Big Win For The Industry, which came about when it was announced that NRA Adopts Leafy Greens GAP Metrics, and the pièce de résistance was the news that Fresh Express Signs California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

We are extremely gratified to have received many phone calls and letters applauding the Pundit’s work on these issues:

The Pundit saves the day. There is no way that we would have avoided this potential train wreck without you on your soapbox over the last few months. The entire Industry owes you a great deal.

— Alan L. Siger
President & CEO
Consumers Produce Co., Inc. of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Many thanks to Alan for his kind words. Obviously these things are team efforts and many people play their part, including Al Siger, who kicked off our coverage of the entire spinach/E. coli situation with his letter to the Pundit that we published under the title, Spinach Recall Reveals Serious Industry Problems.

The developments of this past weekend have been monumental in the history of our industry. The coming together of a fragmented industry into a united one shows that when good people put their minds to it, anything can be accomplished. The produce industry associations, especially PMA, WGA, and United, should be lauded for their efforts to this end.

As a company, we had lobbied for Fresh Express to sign the agreement even though the growers in their company that we use had signed, because we needed a unanimous agreement to show the consumer, the Government agencies, the media, and our own industry how committed we are to the safety of our nutritious, healthful product.

With all the signatures on the agreement, Wild Oats Markets Inc. can state that all of the product supplied to all of our stores and banners, both organically and conventionally, is from companies who have signed and support this agreement. As a part of the Buyers alliance, we feel that the entire industry should be congratulated for charting a course that has moved the industry to the proper place on food safety for the present and provided the framework for continuing to improve the food safety in the future.

Kudos to the Pundit for keeping this vital issue front and center in the industry conscience until the correct decision was made.

— Don Harris
Vice President Produce & Floral
Wild Oats Markets
Boulder, Colorado

The efforts made by Don Harris and countless other voices carried great weight. Leadership is a special quality and one we’ve discussed numerous times here at the Pundit, including here, a letter sent to us from none other than Don Harris reflecting on the same issue

To work with such a roster of industry leaders to encourage thoughtful discussion of important issues is both a pleasure and a privilege for this Pundit. Much appreciation to Don for his letter.

A BIG THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I will sleep better tonight. A LIGHT, and Good Sign of Hope!

And, without you, in my opinion, this may NOT HAVE HAPPENED, and I am sure, not at this time.

Again, I am personally and professionally grateful for your insights, courage, and tenacity

— Fred Stein
FRED International, a Food Safety Consultancy
Delray Beach, Florida

Fred supported us when the discussion was at its most heated. And it was countless such communications, both public and private, that helped guide our efforts here at the Pundit.

Different people have different circumstances; some are free to speak out loud and some need confidentiality. Both can make a useful contribution to our industry discussions, and we are pleased that we can facilitate such contributions.

I’d like to say “thanks” to the Pundit for your role in this process. Our industry’s leadership was able to grapple with this complex issue, in part, because of the visibility and clarity that your publication provided throughout this saga, from the point of the initial outbreak, to the formulation and acceptance of the response.

As an industry, we’re fortunate to have a voice that provides such thoughtful and straightforward commentary — particularly on issues that are as important and as potentially controversial as food safety: kudos for a job well done!

— Paul Klutes
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
Eden Prairie, Minnesota

And we would like to say thank you to Paul for his kind letter. Four generations in the industry here in America, countless more back in Europe, over two decades of studying the business after founding PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine… it all seemed to conspire to put us in the position to take advantage of new technology to provide a service to the trade.

We don’t want to overstate our role. At the end of the day, we are just a humble scribbler, and someone else has to make the important decisions. But, if we can help, as Paul explains by providing “visibility and clarity” to issues confronting the trade, well, we can’t think of anything else we would rather be doing.

Many thanks to Paul and to all those who called or wrote. We work hard so kind words are surely appreciated but this win belongs to the whole industry.

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