Vendors Risk Much By Not Standing Up For Food Safety Premiums
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 23, 2011
It is often useful to look at related industries to see how they handle food safety issues. So, for example, we’ve looked at issues such as pasteurization of nuts in pieces such as these:
Pundit Pulse Of The Industry: California Almond Board
Point/Counterpoint: Raw Foods Advocates Get Steamed About Pasteurized Almonds
Now — after reflecting on our Cantaloupe Crisis coverage — a vendor of “organic, certified, pasteurized, walnuts” sends a note urging producers to stand up to buyers when it comes to food safety.
We appreciate the letter very much. In general, we do think that vendors do need to state their case more strongly. Still, the letter brings a few points to mind:
1) This is the difference between a true perishable and a semi-perishable. Doubtless there are lots of reasons to want to sell walnuts now, not later. But there is nothing like the urgency to sell lettuce before the weekend hits.
2) It also is not necessarily true that vendors pay the cost of recalls. Sometimes they do, but true recalls often can be covered by insurance.
3) The pasteurization process is a case of an explicit charge — .07 cents a lb in exchange for a specific benefit — pasteurized walnuts. Most foods safety efforts in produce are along a continuum. So if company A tests its water monthly and company B tests it weekly, there is no known measure of how much additional safety that investment will produce. Or put another way, what is the buyer getting for his money? Implicit in this is that “cutting corners on food safety” is really not the right analogy because you can always do more — bigger buffers, more testing, more trapping etc.
It is actually an interesting question: Imagine a produce vendor having two different levels of food safety. A retailer calls to the vendor, who explains, “We have cantaloupes with a Good Manufacturing Practices audit for $10 and we are working a GFSI-audit cantaloupe for $10.50.” Which would the retailer buy?
And how would the retailer reconcile its choice with its self-proclaimed commitment to food safety?
Many thanks to Mike Poindexter for bringing a little “nuttiness” to this issue.