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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Publix GreenWise Market
To Open For Business

With the exception of Tesco’s opening on the west coast, perhaps the most consequential opening of a retail concept this year will be the opening of the Publix GreenWise Market, the first of which will open Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Sun-Sentinel ran a story:

Publix GreenWise Market, Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets’ first health, natural and organic store, will debut next Thursday offering shoppers gourmet prepared foods with curbside pickup service and thousands of grocery items that aren’t sold in traditional Publix supermarkets.

Located at the Legacy Place shopping center in Palm Beach Gardens, company officials anticipate the 39,000-square-foot store will be a destination for foodies and health nuts as well as conventional grocery shoppers. Other GreenWise stores are planned for Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Tampa and Vero Beach.

GreenWise Market will compete with Whole Foods Market and others who sell higher-margin natural and organic foods. With a concentration of more than 100 prepared-meal options — ranging from pizza to churrasco steak — the grocery store also aims to give patrons an alternative to upscale restaurant dining at similar prices.

“You probably have five restaurants under one roof here to choose from,” Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens said. “We looked at this as a way to compete with the restaurants.”

As the number of two-income families, time-starved soccer moms and dads, and young adults who don’t like to cook continues to increase, consumers are buying almost half of their food at restaurants and takeout establishments, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Food Marketing Institute, which represents about 1,500 food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the world.

Grocery stores have lost considerable market share, and have been looking for opportunities to win back those food dollars by expanding prepared-food offerings in their stores, experts say.

”The grocery shoppers of the future are going to want their food in that form,” said Bill Greer, a food institute spokesman.

Consumers are starting to accept the idea of buying prepared foods at grocery stores as their perception of food quality improves, said Darren Tristano, an analyst at Technomic, a Chicago-based food and restaurant research firm. “Whole Foods has changed a lot of that,” Tristano said.

Publix introduced its GreenWise brand in the mid-1990s. Since then, the company has been growing the label and its range of health, natural and organic product lines, which have gained popularity despite higher prices. Traditional Publix stores have GreenWise sections that feature these products.

But the GreenWise Market store, which has been in development for more than two years, is devoted entirely to the concept and carries a vast array of upscale food items ranging from oils and balsamic vinegars aged more than 50 years to rare international wines and cheeses.

When shoppers enter the store, they are immediately guided into the 4,500-square-foot prepared food section, which features 10 venues grouped by distinct cuisine such as custom salads and sandwiches, Pacific Wok, and Mediterranean oven. The foods are trans-fat free and made with all-natural ingredients; some foods are prepared with organic bases, and there are a variety of vegetarian dishes available.

Company officials say they plan to introduce some of the prepared foods found at GreenWise at some mainstream grocery stores in South Florida.

The store also has an in-house cafe that serves coffees and smoothies, and shoppers can eat or rest at the 135-seat mezzanine area which is equipped with free wi-fi service.

You can look at some photos of the new store here.

And see a video here.

The reason this launch is consequential is because it will answer a question: Is the Whole Foods ideology an important factor in the success the stores?

Publix can do organic product, lots of foodservice, etc., but it probably will not out-granola Whole Foods if a certain political and philosophical bent is what is attracting customers.

Which is another way of saying that if GreenWise is a success, there is not a reason in the world why other chains will accept Whole Foods coming into their markets and skimming off their best customers.

To us the store looks like a winner. They have correctly noted that Whole Foods’ success is at least as much gastronomic as it is organic. They also have noted that in its new stores, it is foodservice driving the operation — not granola.

By offering curbside pickup GreenWise will “outservice” Whole Foods and its “10 venues” of prepared foods reminds us a bit of the Wegman’s Pods that we focused on here.

What we like best is that just as H.E. Butt realized its Central Market store should be a separate banner, Publix realizes that, even though it can share products and learning with its traditional stores, no product juggling or advertising will substitute for a separate banner to win consumer loyalty to a concept.

One hopes Wal-Mart will send a few people to check out these stores. With a strong market position, Publix could build a brand in traditional stores and then spin it off. Wal-Mart would be better off doing the reverse. Open a few trophy stores under a new banner in Manhattan, San Francisco, London, etc., and then once that brand is established, move it into select supercenters as a boutique.

In any case, if this hits, expect Kroger, Safeway and others to roll out similar concepts — and soon.

Best of luck to Publix on its new concept.




Wealth And Global Warming

Our piece, Reducing Carbon Vs. Increasing Wealth, dealt with the thesis of Dr. Bjorn Lomborg that global warming, though real, cannot be solved by efforts to reduce carbon output. Instead, he argued, the wisest course is to focus on increasing wealth so that we are better able to deal with climate change. For example, Dr. Lomborg pointed this out:

…the weather matters a lot less than how people respond to it. Just because there are hotter summers in New York doesn’t mean that more people die — in fact, just the reverse has occurred. Researchers led by Robert Davis, a climatologist at the University of Virginia, concluded that the number of heat-related deaths in New York in the 1990s was only a third as high as in the 1960s. The main reason is simple, and evident as you as walk into the Bridge Cafe on a warm afternoon: air-conditioning.

Now The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman also find the idea of reducing carbon output hopeless:

In the last few weeks, I happened to visit Doha and Dalian, and I must say: I was stunned.

Before explaining why, let me acknowledge that chances are you’ve not visited Doha or Dalian recently. Indeed, it may be — I presume nothing — that you have never heard of either city. Doha is the capital of Qatar, a tiny state east of Saudi Arabia. Dalian is in northeast China and is one of China’s Silicon Valleys because of its proliferation of software parks and its dynamic, techie mayor, Xia Deren. What was stunning is that I hadn’t been to either city for more than three years, and I barely recognized either one.

In Doha, since I was last there, a skyline that looks like a mini-Manhattan has sprouted from the desert. Whatever construction cranes are not in China must be in Doha today. This once sleepy harbor now has a profile of skyscrapers, thanks to a huge injection of oil and gas revenues. Dalian, with six million people, already had a mini-Manhattan when I was last here. It seems to have grown two more since — including a gleaming new convention complex built on a man-made peninsula.

But this, alas, is not a travel column. It’s an energy column. If you want to know why I remain a climate skeptic — not a skeptic about climate change, but a skeptic that we’re going to be able to mitigate it — it’s partly because of Doha and Dalian. Can you imagine how much energy all these new skyscrapers in just two cities you’ve never heard of are going to consume and how much CO2 they are going to emit?

Beside this enormous growth in developing countries, what effect can our efforts to reduce carbon footprints possibly have:

Hey, I’m really glad you switched to long-lasting compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house. But the growth in Doha and Dalian ate all your energy savings for breakfast. I’m glad you bought a hybrid car. But Doha and Dalian devoured that before noon. I am glad that the U.S. Congress is debating whether to bring U.S. auto mileage requirements up to European levels by 2020. Doha and Dalian will have those gains for lunch — maybe just the first course.

I’m glad that solar and wind power are “soaring” toward 2 percent of U.S. energy generation, but Doha and Dalian will devour all those gains for dinner. I am thrilled that you are now doing the “20 green things” suggested by your favorite American magazine. Doha and Dalian will snack on them all, like popcorn before bedtime.

We should stop kidding ourselves. In the end we are going to need a breakthrough in energy technology:

…we’re fooling ourselves. There is no green revolution, or, if there is, the counter-revolution is trumping it at every turn. Without a transformational technological breakthrough in the energy space, all of the incremental gains we’re making will be devoured by the exponential growth of all the new and old “Americans.”

By "Americans" he means people in developing countries all over the world that are now becoming affluent enough to use energy as Americans have for years.

His call for a "technological breakthrough" seems to us pretty much like a call to focus on wealth so as to fund the technological research that can really solve this problem.

Smart people around the world are starting to realize that a focus on the carbon footprint of vegetables is a marketing gimmick, a distraction from the serious work at hand.

You can read the entire column here.




Dole’s Schwartz Sheds More Light On Recent Recall

We ran Dole Hit With Another Recall as soon as it was learned that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had identified E. coli 0157:H7 on “Dole Hearts Delight” salad mix in a warehouse operated by Loblaws.

With a few days having passed, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to again speak with Eric Schwartz, President, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., in order to gain more perspective on the situation:

Q: After learning of the presumptive positive in Canada, how did you determine the scope of the recall? Why did you limit the U.S. recall to those 755 cases?

A: On Friday night, all we knew was one sample tested presumptive positive, the lot number and the code date, and we got all this information from Loblaws. CFIA alerted Loblaws Friday night and in turn our customer called us. CFIA did not release their alert until Sunday night when their test was confirmed. We also got this updated news from Loblaws.

When we got the call Friday night from Loblaws on the presumptive positive, we made our contacts with FDA. FDA leaves it up to the company whether to make this information known to customers. Since we didn’t have all the facts from CFIA, we determined how to proceed by conducting a risk-based analysis.

Our Canada production on that product was isolated to one individual lot, a total of 88 cases in that particular lot, and all product went to one customer, so it was easy to contain.

When we got the positive confirmation Sunday night, we decided to bracket around that 88 case lot and build a safe zone around it. The entire batch of related product covered roughly 14 big steel baskets. We had records of those 14 baskets. We said let’s grab that whole batch.

The actual product in question involved the initial 88 cases in Canada. We were casting a very wide net by recalling the U.S. portion. Based on what information CFIA is sharing with us, we had enough samples to suggest this was not a widespread problem.

Q: Could you clarify how you narrowed the U.S. recall to those 14 baskets? For example, did you recall all product that used the same blend; that went through the same production line during a confined period of time before the plant was sanitized? How are these decisions made?

A: In determining what action to take, we have to look at how far we should cast the net to protect the public. This is a very subjective call of what would make us comfortable, such as the number of days from shipment when no one is sick. When we think of how the product was produced, that the problem involved 88 cases, or 500 bags and CFIA found one problem bag, the recall decision was actually casting a pretty wide net.

When we talked about doing a recall in the U.S., it was a very subjective call; nothing scientific behind it. Those baskets were all produced for that particular blend, the same blend as those 88 cases in Canada. The scope of the recall in the U.S. covered all that same blended product run at the same time as those 88 cases in Canada.

Q: What if that blended product contaminated other product being processed in the plant? Wouldn’t you need to set parameters based on when the production lines that ran that blended product, or components of it, were last sanitized, etc.?

A: If we make the assumption that the product could have contaminated machinery that other product went over, then the recall could involve significantly more product. CFIA regulators don’t share all their information until their investigation is completed. We assessed the scope of the recall based on our analysis of the information as we became aware of it.

CFIA met with our outside consultant on Tuesday to discuss the case. We learned at that time, CFIA had tested at least 40 bags of that 500 bag lot. Since we knew CFIA had tested multiple bags time-stamped in different time frames, and only one was a problem, we knew we were dealing in a limited scope.This suggested an isolated case.

When there were no illnesses called in from either Canada or the U.S., we saw no wider scope than that. If we had reason to believe there was danger, or that illnesses were reported, we would have done a wider recall.

When our customer in Canada called, we knew the particular batch. We hadn’t tested our own product yet, but we had companion samples to do our own testing.Companion samples are random bags we pull of the packaging line when product is being produced so it is representative of the particular batch that was mixed and packed.

Q: Why the gap between the knowledge of the presumptive positive on Friday night and the decision to expand the recall in the U.S. on Sunday night? Why wait until the positive test came through?

A: It looks like we delayed expanding the recall, but in fact we had no reason to believe the problem went beyond that 88 cases in Canada. We just wanted to cast a wider net on our part to be extra conservative.

A reporter asked me, since there might be a problem with romaine, why don’t you recall all your romaine?It’s in 80 percent of products we make. There has to be a line drawn so that you’re not recalling for recalling sake.

The fact is that in this particular case in Canada, there was one positive sample, not multiple samples. This suggests it wasn’t something in the plant streaking other product.

If regulatory folks would be more open about what information they have upfront, we’d learn much faster the extent of the problem in order to take the best action.

Q: What information from CFIA would have helped you in determining what actions to take in this instance?

A: Their testing methods, how many samples, where they collected product samples from. That recall net we cast on the U.S. wasn’t based on a collaborative discussion with CFIA. All they said was they got a presumptive positive. We had no idea how big the sample. We heard from Loblaws first. CFIA didn’t call us. It was our customer that informed us of the problem.

The industry could be helped in making the decision if regulatory folks in Canada and the U.S. share what they know immediately. FDA does the same thing. They release information on a what-they-think-you-should-know basis as opposed to sharing all information.

Q: From what you describe, recalls and their scope often come about in subjective, arbitrary ways, and the FDA plays a peripheral role unless illnesses are involved. Don’t you think this kind of system could make a consumer uneasy?Even the most ethical and well-informed companies will have conflicting interests that could bias their recall decisions, or at the very least the perception would be there.

A:The FDA will make an announcement if illnesses are involved, as they did during the spinach outbreak last year. I don’t know if there’s an official policy here. Recalls are voluntary but if the company doesn’t act, they do.

It comes down to a risk-based assessment. When processing product, we use chlorine to kill pathogens, as the whole industry does.The big mystery is obviously that the wash system is not full-proof. A big symposium in Washington D.C. [Thursday] with regulators, scientists and industry folks is examining how we accelerate food safety research.

Think about the meat industry. There’s a U.S. inspector in each plant and that hasn’t stopped recalls. And consumers generally cook meat products.

The produce industry doesn’t have a kill step.We can minimize factors, but more research needs to be done. Irradiation doesn’t work on produce in the same way it does on meat. Produce has natural bacteria, and irradiation can’t properly distinguish between the good and bad bacteria.

We’re doing research on this like other companies to discover some form of irradiation that is proven to be a kill step. Even then, there will be resistance because consumers associate irradiation with radiation and cancer.

This outbreak is serious in the sense that a confluence of circumstances — the proximity to the one-year anniversary of the 2006 spinach outbreak, the prominence of the Dole name and the fact that Dole was implicated in the 2006 spinach outbreak, the fact that many politicians and interest groups are not satisfied with the current produce regulatory system and so are looking for any excuse to push their agenda — has added up to much more publicity than an incident of this size normally would muster… 1,061 news articles in the past few days according to Google.

This can’t be good for sales. Consumer confusion would be expected to impact both other Dole fresh-cuts and other brands, as consumers may not memorize the exact brand and exact mix that is implicated. Even if they aren’t confused, it will surely make many consumers hesitant to shop the category.

Bruce Peterson argued here that the produce industry could limit the impact of recalls with excellent traceability systems. To an extent, that is inarguably true.

Yet one of the lessons that is clear from this situation is that it is not completely true. When one brand of soup has botulism, the assumption by regulators, the media and consumers is that the problem is confined to one company. Something in their factory is wrong.

In this case, though, the focus by the media was immediately on the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and its adequacy to the task.

Partly this is because opponents of the Marketing Agreement brought the subject up, and partly it is because the whole industry has been bound together under one safety protocol.

Although, technically, it is true that the CLGMA is just a base, and anyone can add to its standards, to publicly promote that one has higher standards than required by the CLGMA would be to imply the inadequacy of overall industry standards.

So our fates are bound to one another in the industry — even if we have perfect traceability.

Some specific points:

  1. There seems to be a problem, and we heard this with the Metz Fresh recall as well, with getting information out of CFIA and FDA. Companies are expected to be free and open with all their information but the government agencies only slowly, if ever, detail what information they have. This reveals an intrinsic conflict in the multiple roles these regulatory agencies have. From a food safety perspective, the agencies ought to share all information quickly as this helps define the scope and certainty of any problem. One assumes that they hold back because of their regulatory role and the possibility that charges might be filed against companies. They don’t want to “tip-off” the companies as to areas of concern for fear the companies might alter records or engage in a cover-up.

    Beyond determining the extent of recalls and understanding the government’s trepidations, we are concerned that so little information is given out that we can’t evaluate the correctness or meaning of governmental claims. Labs make mistakes, they get false positives, they contaminate their own samples — the public is entitled to know what tests were used, who did the tests, what confirmatory tests were done, what safeguards have been put in place against contamination, etc.
  2. Perhaps the most important lesson for the industry that comes out of this is the need to sit down with regulators and reassess how we go about figuring the extent of a recall. Dole is one of the largest and most sophisticated companies in the business. They have staff scientists, access to the best consultants, etc. Yet, here is what we learn about how the extent of a recall is determined:

    In determining what action to take, we have to look at how far we should cast the net to protect the public. This is a very subjective call of what would make us comfortable, such as the number of days from now when no one is sick. When we think of how product was produced, that the problem involved 88 cases, or 500 bags and CFIA found one problem bag, that’s a pretty wide net.

    When we talked about doing a recall in the U.S., it was a very subjective call; nothing scientific behind it.


    And this is our problem as an industry. We know Eric Schwartz, we know a lot of people at Dole… nice folks, good values, definitely want to keep everyone safe. To us, we can accept that a judgment call is being made by these people.

    Yet it strikes us that this is probably not going to be acceptable to the public at large. These people are strangers to consumers. Consumers in general and certainly the anti-business advocates who push for regulation are going to say there is just too much of a conflict of interest. Executives of a company, whose personal bonuses and wealth may be tied up in the financial success of that company are going to have too strong an incentive to narrow the scope of a recall.

    These advocates will push for either a “rules based” system — in which some hard and fast rules are established such as in the event of a recall, you recall from the last sanitation of the line to the next — or they will push for a third party, such as the FDA to certify any recall plan as adequate.

    It appears this recall was more than adequate — but the system for arriving there isn’t one that consumers will have faith in. We need to devise a system that will more effectively build consumer confidence.
  3. There is something wacky with the testing in this industry. Dole isn’t speaking yet, but if CFIA tested 40 bags and found one positive — the odds are that Dole’s retention samples will be negative. This means one of four things: 1) The tests are giving false positives and there was never any E. coli 0157:H7 there to begin with. 2) The E. coli 0157:H7 may really be there but it got there through contamination in the lab or somewhere else. 3) Our washing systems are effective but not perfect and we can get rid of 99.99% but still have to deal with small residues 4) E. coli 0157:H7 is so episodic that one bird on one plant can put it on one leaf and we sometimes can’t wash it off. If, as an industry, we need to be looking for these kind of minor events, we have to rethink our food safety programs all together.
  4. Yesterday we ran a piece that contrasted the FDA’s passivity with CFIA’s action. The FDA did nothing on its own initiative; the CFIA issued a public advisory not to eat the product. Although the point remains, the specific timeline was off. Eric Schwartz explains that CFIA waited for the confirmatory test before it published its advisory.
  5. The reason that Senator Dean Florez and other opponents of the CLGMA border on the ridiculous is that nothing in any of their arguments would have prevented this incident. Dole signed the CLGMA and is being inspected and whatnot. Of course, upon learning that the romaine in the blend came mostly from Salinas and some from Colorado, the green leaf in the blend came from Salinas and the butter lettuce in the blend came from Ohio, a Salinas friend with a wry sense of humor immediately responded: “Clearly, it was the butter lettuce.”

    Salinas has had its share of problems so we can scarcely begrudge him a joke, but if a lynchpin of credibility of the CLGMA is that state inspectors have the legal authority to walk on the property at any time once someone signs that agreement, well, the fact that this is missing in other states will make use of their product increasingly problematic. Especially if Arizona does launch a Leafy Greens Agreement — meaning that producers could use Marketing Agreement all year.
  6. One wonders if the industry shouldn’t urge the positioning of USDA inspectors in fresh-cut plants. Although it is not likely to make any difference on food safety, it might build regulatory and consumer confidence. Maybe the cost would be worth the boost in public confidence.
  7. This is all so troubling and so far afield from what we all want to do with our time that we yearn for a “kill-step,” yet Eric Schwartz says irradiation is not ready and, even if it was, it is problematic. We think we need to accelerate research in this area. Every month now, a new tropical fruit seems to be approved for import subject to irradiation. This frequency of use and a generally improved atmosphere for things nuclear as concerns over global warming sour environmentalists on fossil fuels may be opening a marketing window.

Many thanks to Eric Schwartz and to Dole for making a real effort to keep the industry informed on this important subject.




Partnership For Food Safety Education Celebrates Ten Year Anniversary

The Partnership for Food Safety Education is commonly known as FightBac! Now its flagship program is Be Food Safe, with its message to consumers being: Clean. Separate. Cook. Chill.

This message has never been more important as food safety continues to gain in prominence as an issue. The Partnership establishes clearly the truth of the matter, which is that consumers have a role to play in keeping food safe.

This year happens to be the 10th anniversary of the Partnership, and the produce industry is honored to have one of its own, PMA President Bryan Silbermann, at the helm of the organization this year:

PMA’s SILBERMANN PRESIDES
OVER FOOD SAFETY PARTNERSHIP’S
10TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT, RETAIL EXPANSION OF PROGRAM

The food and drug commissioner and then-U.S. agriculture secretary joined Produce Marketing Association (PMA) President Bryan Silbermann and other notables from the food safety community at an event on Capitol Hill this week. The notables met to announce expansion of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education’s (PFSE) consumer education campaign Be Food Safe, and to celebrate the partnership’s tenth anniversary.

PFSE Chair Silbermann presided over the event, introducing then-Agriculture Secretary Michael Johanns, who lauded the public/private partnership as “a great example of how the public and the private sectors can work together very effectively for the public good.” Johanns also reiterated the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s commitment to ensuring safety of the domestic and imported food supply. FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., was also present.

PFSE Chair and PMA President Bryan Silbermann presents Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) with a plaque honoring her long-time commitment to improving food safety.

Silbermann also welcomed Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, which has oversight over the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). DeLauro also founded the Congressional Food Safety Caucus. On the partnership’s behalf, Silbermann presented her with a plaque recognizing and honoring her commitment to food safety education. In her remarks, DeLauro said, “When it comes to food safety, the true front lines in our battle against foodborne illness are the individual consumers making individual decisions about how he or she handles food. And the best weapon we can provide is knowledge. No one does that better than the Partnership.”

A who’s who of food safety community leaders participated in the Sept. 18 event. Pictured from left to right are: Chris Waldrop of Consumer Federation of America; Will Fisher, NSF International; Shelley Feist, Partnership for Food Safety Education; Tim Hammonds, Food Marketing Institute; Pat Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention; then U.S. Agriculture Secretary Michael Johanns; Barbara Byrd Keenan, Institute of Food Technologists; Bryan Silbermann, PFSE chairman and PMA president; FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D.; and Lou Raffel, American Egg Board.

Food Marketing Institute President and PFSE founding board member Tim Hammonds then announced the Partnership’s launch of an expanded Be Food Safe campaign initially researched and developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Using the same core consumer food safety messages of clean, cook, separate and chill, the new Be Food Safe campaign has been developed for use in stores by retailers and their suppliers. Bold new graphics modules are now available to convey those messages at point of sale; 26 food retailers have already agreed to support the program in their stores.

“Food shoppers in 46 states will begin to see the colorful Be Food Safe icons in as many as 5,200 retail stores through in-store signage, brochures, flyers, packaging, circulars, and other materials.” said Hammonds. “As they roll this out, we also expect their suppliers to jump on board and further extend the Be Food Safe message to consumers.”

In his closing comments, Silbermann said, “Ten years from now, let’s stand here together and say that the Partnership for Food Safety Education continued to make substantial reductions in the incidence of foodborne illness attributed to improper food handling by consumers. That is our focus and that should be our goal.”

More details on how PMA members can sign up to use the Be Food Safe materials will be made available at Fresh Summit in Houston, Texas in October.

Here is a nice slide show on the Be Food Safe program.

You can download consumer brochures that can be printed in either color or black-and-white right here.

Here is a sell sheet explaining why retailers should get involved. Note that FMI and PMA-member retailers can sign up for free through December 15, 2007.

Manufacturers and producers can support the effort through the Friends of Food Safety Education.

Retailers can learn more here.

A big vote of thanks to both the Partnership and to Bryan for the important work being done in this area. Congratulations on a 10th anniversary.




Last Chance, Literally,
To Teach Life Lessons

Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954. Once, when challenged to pen a story in just six words, he wrote this:

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

It is said he thought it was his greatest work.


At many colleges and universities they now offer a “Last Lecture Series,” in which prominent professors are asked to reflect on what they would choose to say to the world if this was really their last chance to say something.

Carnegie-Mellon recently held one of these lectures. It was not, however, hypothetical. Randy Pausch has pancreatic cancer and expects to die in weeks or months.

Professor Pausch is a 46-year-old father of three children, ages 5, 2 and 1. He teaches computer science and, especially, virtual-reality technology for which he is world-renowned. He helped create “Alice,” a computer program that makes it easy to create 3-D animations. It was downloaded over a million times in the past year.

Jeff Zaslow, the “Moving On” columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote a poignant piece about the lecture and you can read it here. And make certain to click on the video below.

If you’ve seen the video, you don’t have to know Professor Pausch to know what a loss this is to his family, his school, computer science, and the world.

Especially trenchant were his comments on the obstacles life throws before us:

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

The brick walls are there for a reason.

The bricks walls are not there to keep us out.

The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.

The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people.

What a fantastic way to think about life.

The lecture was video recorded. His one-year-old and two-year-old children won’t have any memory of their father. His five-year-old may remember a little.

The last words of the lecture: “This was for my kids.”




Wishing An Easy Fast
On Yom Kippur

Friday night begins the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The words mean “Day of Atonement,” and it is the last chance to atone for the sins of the past year:

…In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work … For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the L-RD. -Leviticus 16:29-30

Crucially, the atonement is only for sins between man and G-d. To gain forgiveness for sins against another person, one must try to right the wrongs done and gain that person’s forgiveness.

Work is prohibited on Yom Kippur, and there is a 25-hour fast plus many other restrictions on activity.

Many Jews who rarely go to Temple do so on Yom Kippur. On the day before Yom Kippur, some go as well and, if they do, it is customary for the father to bless his children, part of the blessing goes like this:

May it be the will of our Father in Heaven to place into your heart love and fear of Him. May the fear of God be upon you always so that you never sin. May your yearnings be for Torah and mitzvot. May your eyes see straight ahead, may your mouth speak wisdom, and may your heart feel awe.

May your hands engage in mitzvot, your feet run to fulfill the will of your Father in Heaven. May He grant you sons and daughters who are righteous, who will be engaged in Torah and mitzvot throughout their lives.

May your livelihood be blessed and may your sustenance be earned in a permitted manner, with ease and bounty from His generous hand, rather than from the gifts of flesh and blood; sustenance that will leave you free for the service of G-d. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good and long life among all the righteous of Israel, Amen

The common farewell to a friend before Yom Kippur is to wish one’s friend an easy fast, and so we wish the same to our Jewish readers now.




Busy Travel Week Ahead

The Pundit has some aggressive travel plans next week, so our schedule may be off a bit. We’ve been working for some time on an exciting research project in which we try to grasp a greater understanding of sustainability, green issues and corporate social responsibility by comparing and contrasting consumer attitudes toward these issues in the United States and the United Kingdom.

We are coming down to the wire as we are going to be presenting a workshop on the subject at PMA this year, entitled “What Do Consumers Really Think about Corporate Social Responsibility?”

The results are in! Don’t miss this grand unveiling of unique trans-Atlantic research designed to assess consumer attitudes in both the U.K. and U.S. on issues of corporate social responsibility and the relevance to the produce industry. Jim Prevor, Editor-in-Chief of PRODUCE BUSINESS, will explore terms such as organics, locally grown, food miles, carbon footprints, sustainability and fair trade, and present what these and similar concepts actually mean to consumers, and how consumers value such concepts. All attendees will receive a special executive summary of the research report.

Track: Global Trade
Introducer:
Rob Robson
Chief Executive Officer
One Harvest
Wacol, Queensland Australia

Speaker:

Jim Prevor
Founder & Editor-In-Chief
PRODUCE BUSINESS
Boca Raton, Florida USA

Before we put this all together, we are running off to do a series of focus groups in Houston, Texas, and, from there, we will be spending a few days in the London doing more focus groups and checking out some of the retail operations.

From there we zoom back to New Jersey where Rutgers honored the Pundit with the opportunity to serve on the faculty for a series of seminars that result in a Certificate of Farmer Entrepreneurship. Our subject is Competitors & Competition.

Then home to Florida to get ready for Fresh Summit!

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