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American Food & Ag Exporter

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SPECIAL EDITION II:
As Tomato/Salmonella Outbreak
Expands, Government Agencies
Require More Scrutiny

Chains Could Give A Little
Support And Frankness

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, June 10, 2008

Many on the buying end of the produce industry are being a little less frank than they could be and thus making the situation regarding salmonella and tomatoes worse than it need be.

Many of the chains, especially in foodservice, that have withdrawn tomatoes from their menus have issued statements or made comments, typically something such as this quote from McDonald’s:

“The safety and well-being of our customers is a top priority,” McDonald’s said in the statement. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but food safety and quality at McDonald’s will not be compromised.”

Maybe it is asking too much to hope that operators might give a little support in their hour of need; say something like McDonald’s praising and defending its vendors — noting that they all share McDonald’s deep cultural commitment to food safety.

But at very least, we could have a little frankness. The real reason most of these chains are pulling tomatoes is that, despite the long list of states and countries the FDA is saying are not implicated in this outbreak, very few are producing many tomatoes right now. Many of the rest are distant and euro-based, and air-freighting their product is likely to be too expensive anyway.

No chain is going to run the legal liability of selling tomatoes the FDA recommends not selling, so that leaves everyone scrambling for very limited supply of the restricted varieties. Most big chains are pulling tomatoes because they can’t get their volume requirements at all or at a reasonable price.

Not sure why that is such a terrible thing to say.

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