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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Insights Into Latino Marketing

Here at the Pundit, we’ve dealt before with the issue of the need to improve the way the industry markets to Latinos. All too often, well meaning efforts have either failed or actually did harm because they wound up insulting people.

It still is very common to think that marketing to Latinos means putting everything in Spanish, although many Latinos speak perfect English. Other times, marketers use symbols of another country, such as Mexican flags when marketing to Cubans.

The Latino community is so diverse now — coming from so many countries, being in the U.S. for such a varied amount of time, having such a range of facility with English, etc., that it has been a very difficult community for marketers to get their hand around.

However, a new study, What Makes a Latino, Latino? done by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, provides a new way of thinking about the issue:

The heart is the symbol AHAA is using to describe the new Latino Cultural Identity. Its complexity, adaptability, intricacy and interrelation with other vital systems resemble the heart of Latino Cultural Identity — values that change according to environment and external stimuli as does a human heart.

The Project identifies four “chambers” of Latino Identity: interpersonal orientation; time and space perception; spirituality; and gender perception — each with its own qualities and characteristics. While intuitively Hispanic marketers have understood the characteristics of US Hispanics, the analysis indicated that it is the interconnectedness of all four chambers and the influence of contextual factors such as immigration stress, education, discrimination, ethnic pride and socioeconomic level on those chambers that is really shaping Latino identity today and influences the way marketers must “speak” to Latino consumers.

Advertising Age elaborated on the new study:

“Interpersonal orientation is the way we live our relationships with other people, and is … radically different from non-Latinos,” AHAA Chairman, Carl Kravetz, said. For instance, individualism is important to Anglos, whereas Latinos have a collectivist culture that favors cooperation, and values family needs over those of the individual.

For marketers, Mr. Kravetz said, that means understanding the family as a unit, including group decision making, and avoiding conflict between individual needs and group expectations.

The way Latinos perceive time and space is also very different. Mr. Kravetz drew a laugh when he described time commitments for Latinos as “more of a goal than real commitments.” They also change plans easily, are more present- and past-oriented and value friends and family more than privacy. In contrast, non-Hispanics are future-oriented, have a rigid sense of space and privacy, and focus on results, he said.

Religion and spirituality affect how Latinos see the world, imparting both a sense of fatalism and a love of rituals and celebrations.

GENDER ROLES
Gender roles are also radically different in the Latino world. Machismo is about protecting and providing for the family, and can cause aggression or shame among men who feel they can’t live up to that role.

There are also contextual factors — things that make each person individually unique — that interact with the heart’s chambers, Mr. Kravetz said.

“Think about what happens to a Latino’s interpersonal orientation when it comes in contact with differing levels of acculturation,” he said. “What are the consequences of a past and present orientation interconnecting with fatalism when you’re discussing health care … or insurance?

“This new hypothesis of Latino Identity is a threshold moment for the Hispanic marketing industry because it not only tells us how Latinos are, it begins to explain why we are the way we are,” he said. “And this is very, very significant.”

You can watch a presentation by AHAA Chair, Carl Kravetz, read a transcript of the presentation or view a slide show right here.




Pundit Hall Of Shame

We won’t mention the name of the magazine in order to protect the guilty, but this publication, which likes to claim expertise in “merchandising,” selected this display as an example of great merchandising. As the publication wrote: “Urban Fare in Vancouver, British Columbia, knows that a wire rack serves as a great vehicle to cross-merchandise tomatoes with salad mixes.”

Actually, a wire rack sitting on the floor without refrigeration is a great vehicle to grow pathogens on your salad greens now that you’ve basically tossed the cold chain out the window.

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Which is worse? That a retailer with a good reputation for chic, high end and organic product thinks this is an acceptable way to go or that an industry publication that purports to know about things like this would select this display to honor?




PRO-Wal-Mart? Hmmm

After we published our piece on the bankruptcy announcement of Brown & Cole, we received an angry e-mail in which the sender explained that he wanted to stop receiving the Pundit:

Unsubscribe — why?? Because I am sick and tired of your “PRO-Wal-Mart” stand.

Since we hope this gentleman, who works for a regional retailer, will change his mind we will refrain from giving his name.

But we want to address the substance of his complaint.

To start off with, what does it even mean to say that the Pundit is “Pro-Wal-Mart”? It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t criticize Wal-Mart.

One of the most printed, forwarded and read pieces the Pundit has ever done was our review of the state of two new Wal-Mart Supercenters on their grand opening weekend. Those who haven’t read it, please read it here.

There were a lot of conversations in Bentonville that day and not a one of them was about how “Pro Wal-Mart” the Pundit is.

Or perhaps this reader missed our critique of Wal-Mart’s new system to divide consumers into designated groups. No bouquets from Bentonville for that one either. Read it here.

When I tied together Bob DiPiazza’s departure with all the problems at Wal-Mart, (read it here) Dick Spezzano, former Vice President of Produce at Vons, thought I was anti-Wal-Mart, and wrote us here to stick up for Bob and for Wal-Mart.

Just yesterday, the Pundit snidely blasted Wal-Mart for losing faith with its Every Day Low Prices model. See that here.

So, clearly, if our unhappy correspondent is honest, he will acknowledge that the Pundit has often spoken critically of Wal-Mart.

Yet, there is a sense in which the Pundit wishes to plead “Guilty as Charged.” Most journalism and most trade show seminars look for “interesting” things to highlight. So someone grows fresh herbs hydroponically in the store, as Fiesta Mart once did and they get 200 articles and six seminar panels; another store grows bean sprouts in the store as Pueblo’s Xtra once did, and they get write-ups galore.

And if you run a store filled with interesting imported or organic foods, high-end product and offer stunning presentations, like Whole Foods or HEB’s Central Market, you can sign yourself out of the office and hit the speaker circuit for two years if you want.

But the fact that all these things are interesting doesn’t mean that they are the most important things.

The Pundit wrote a cover story for DELI BUSINESS, one of the Pundit’s sister publications that made this point. You can read it here.

The truth is that for many tens of millions of people, life is rarely more than one missed paycheck away from real trouble and Wal-Mart has made the lives of countless people more comfortable.

That is why they have over 100 million shoppers every single week.

And yes, we think journalists can get so carried away with the beauty of an upscale concept, we forget that most people have more prudential concerns.

The Brown & Cole story revolved around a claim that the company had no trouble competing with Wal-Mart as long as Wal-Mart didn’t “over store” an area.

The Pundit asked what in the world that could mean?

If you have children, nephews, nieces or grandchildren and want to do them a favor, when you get home tonight teach them three little words: Define Your Terms.

When you analyze as many arguments as we do, you quickly learn that it is not so much that most are wrong as that they are meaningless.

Brown & Cole’s claim that it can compete against Wal-Mart as long as Wal-Mart doesn’t over store the area is true. It is true because it is a truism.

How would we know when an area is not over-stored? All the retailers would have good profitability.

All Brown & Cole was saying is the obvious: If Wal-Mart or any competitive retailer does not open a store except when that town has a shortage of retail space, then they will be easy to compete with or, more specifically, they won’t have to compete with them as there would be more business available than they could handle.

Now there are things Brown & Cole could have alleged. They could have said that Wal-Mart goes into a town, intentionally “over stores” the town, lowers prices way below cost and drives competitors out of business, whereupon Wal-Mart closes extra stores, raises prices and extracts monopoly profits from the community.

Except there is no evidence for this.

In any case, the Pundit has no reason to be “pro” or “anti” any individual company. We analyze each situation as it comes out and try our best to make sense of it.

Which is the main reason why we hope our unhappy correspondent will re-up with the Pundit. This board is open to the whole industry. Look at the thoughtful letters we’ve gotten from people like Jim Allen, New York Apple Association; Danny Dempster, President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association; Peter Goulet of Pinnacle Marketing and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the PMA; Emanuel Lazopoulos of Del Monte and Incoming Chairman of United Fresh; John McClung, Texas Produce Association; Mark Munger, Andrew-Williamson; Bryan Silbermann, President of Produce Marketing Association; Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association; and many more.

These folks don’t always agree with the Pundit. In fact, they usually don’t. But this is a forum for all kinds of opinions.

If you think the Pundit is soft on Wal-Mart, don’t run away; state your case. Here arguments stand or fall, persuade or don’t, on their merits.

You might persuade the Pundit, but, more important, if your argument is strong, you can persuade the world. That is really what the Pundit is all about.




Pundit’s Mailbag —
Kill Steps And Irradiation

It is said that generals are always fighting the last war. So, with all the attention being paid to the fields, it is wise to remember that the next foodborne illness outbreak may take place somewhere else, such as the processing plant. An executive at a major processor sent these thoughts:

I returned from Western Growers where they had a spinach meeting and discussed the marketing order and the research dollars. Most of the discussion was around GAPS, which are important, but Tommy Russell at [Pacific International Marketing] rightly pointed out that without a kill step in our processing plants, a fence around a reservoir (that pigs can break through, birds can fly over) will do us no good and I agree.

Pollan writes about the centralization of the food supply in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and he has a point. If FDA is frustrated with our industry’s inability to do faster trace backs, then how will we be able to bring in carrots grown on a ranch in Holtville, broccoli from Soledad and cauliflower from Salinas and bring them all into a central facility, run them on the same belts and then divvy them back out? You cannot deny the fact that we are multiplying the risk of an outbreak when we bring product in from different ranches to a central facility. Perhaps one ranch had a problem, now they all do.

I think the FDA could say you need to run this in batches and stop and clean your belts in between, which would greatly increase cost and reduce efficiencies. Or they could say no more blends (the higher margin items we all love to pack).

Unless we have a kill step and we aren’t going to get one without research.

Tommy pointed out all of our luggage was x-rayed on the way to Vegas and we all still used the toothpaste that was in our bag. Is the industry and the consumer willing to pay more or be more open to new technologies to ensure safer product? Is the organic industry going to accept a system or product that may go against their current standards?

A lot more questions than answers right now, but even more stringent GAPS will not eliminate the processing challenges. If we have to reconfigure plants for more through-put or change the way we run things, it could get even more expensive

A lot of good questions here. The importance of finding an acceptable kill step can’t be overstated, but the fence around the reservoir, although certainly imperfect, can still be an enhancement to current practices.

And, even if we find an acceptable kill step, food safety protocols still require us to take steps to have “clean” product when it gets to the kill step.

Hamburger meat, for example, has a whole E. coli testing protocol, despite the fact that it has a kill step when the food is cooked.

Also, philosophically, we, as an industry, clearly want to provide as “clean” a product as possible — regardless of whether we have a kill step later in the process.

Blends are a major problem. If you have a spinach field that is 100% contaminated and you do a blend with a 5% spinach mix, you have just increased the number of contaminated bags twenty-fold.

But it is not centralization — Pollan is incorrect. The blending would have exactly the same effect if done in 50 local markets.

The difference: 50 small outbreaks pass unnoticed by CDC. Remember in this giant spinach situation, only 200 were known to be sick. Breaking 200 people into 50 small outbreaks, you’ll get 4 people sick per outbreak — it will never be counted.

A kill step done in the production/packing of the product, not by consumers, is, however, the only 100% effective way to avoid foodborne illness outbreaks.

The million dollars that PMA has appropriated for research related to food safety might be applied to trying to identify a new kill step. But, maybe, we should do some tests on consumer acceptance of irradiation — which is the only known process that will solve the problem.

In the midst of the spinach crisis, we received a brief note from Michael J. Adams of Sadex Corporation.

Has anyone explored irradiation as a part of their food safety program? If not, why not?

The Pundit answered and asked a few questions:

My understanding is that besides consumer acceptance issues, irradiation was problematic because of the need for fixed facilities. So, if a Salinas-based processor, for example, wanted to irradiate, it would currently have to truck everything to Sioux City, Iowa. Is this correct?

Have you ever done any salad bags?

And Mike Adams came back:

While the product does have to come to our facility, we normally have a truck back on the road in 2-3 hours from when we open the doors. Most of our customers treat their product enroute so if spinach is going from California to say Wisconsin, it is just a 2-3 hour delay in trucking. We have treated some spinach bags and achieved a 5 log reduction. This is definitely enough to ensure no one gets sick from eating this product straight out of the bag.

We are continuing to experiment with different samples using Midwest Labs to verify our results. I will say this: We have treated some spinach product at a very low dose (.75 — 1 kgy), and it has been sitting in our warehouse for 2 weeks and looks like the day we received it. So it appears we are also extending shelf life.

Currently our biggest stumbling block is the FDA. Are they going to allow us to treat bagged produce at these low levels? They have a 1 kgy maximum dose for infestation. Although E. coli is technically a bug, we need their blessing and as yet have not received it. In the wake of this last spinach catastrophe, I don’t understand why.

Tom Stenzel of the United Fresh Produce Association and the Pundit had a spirited exchange that partially centered on how “scientific” the FDA’s decisions are as opposed to the extent that the activities of the agency are colored by politics.

Here is another political issue: The FDA has been sitting on the petition to allow irradiation on bagged produce for over half a decade.

There is no scientific dispute on this issue. It is just the FDA feeling that an approval will get the luddites protesting and a disapproval can’t be supported scientifically, so they just do nothing. It really is shameful.

We spoke with the owner of the company. He was interested in building a plant in Salinas if the demand was there. The cost to treat spinach and bagged lettuce is about 1.5 cents per pound.

Now our original correspondent just back from the WGA asked:

Is the industry and the consumer willing to pay more or be more open to new technologies to ensure safer product? Is the organic industry going to accept a system or product that may go against their current standards?

Fair questions, however:

  1. It is not clear that irradiation will cost more — all these stringent GAP and GMA protocols will cost a lot. If we can get a little flexibility on these because we have a “kill step,” the total cost may go down.
  2. It is not clear that consumers have not always been open to new technologies. The few consumer tests retailers had on fresh produce in Chicago and Miami went fine. Most spices are irradiated and a fair amount of hamburger is irradiated. All without any great consumer outcry.

    Is it possible that supermarkets are scared of protestors more than consumers are scared of irradiation?
  3. Odwalla was all opposed to pasteurized juice, right up to the day someone died and then they started pasteurizing. Organic will probably object… unless circumstances compel a change.




Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative Recap III

There is an ad-hoc group that started it all, the National Restaurant Association has its group working on a program and the Food Marketing Institute has a conference planned. All these buyer-led initiatives can get confusing, so to assist the trade in keeping track of them all, we are publishing this recap of coverage all in one place.

As new developments, occur we will continue to update this recap to help keep the trade organized on this important subject.

On September 25, 2006, in the midst of the spinach crisis, we published The Role of Retailers And The Future Of Food Safety, which pointed out that it is the “representations and warranties” that buyers demand that define the food safety programs we get:

“…in the end, the strength of our food safety systems is at least as dependent on what retailers demand as they are on what the government does for the simple reason that what retailers pay for is what they are going to get.”

Then in the issue of the Pundit’s sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, which was unveiled at the PMA Convention in San Diego on October 21, 2006, we published Food Safety Is A Retail Issue,which pointed out:

“…what holds suppliers back is not that they need an FDA regulation — it is that they need to see a willingness on the part of buyers to pay more to obtain a higher level of food safety and security. So far that is missing.”

The Buyer-led Initiative for Food Safety was then announced. In time it came to be signed on to by nine important buying organizations:

Ron Anderson, Safeway, Inc.
David Corsi, Wegman’s Food Markets
Gary Gionnette, Supervalu Inc.
Reggie Griffin, Kroger Company
Mike Hansen, Sysco Corporation
Gene Harris, Denny’s Corporation
Frank Padilla, Costco Wholesale
Greg Reinauer, Amerifresh, Inc.
Tim York, Markon Cooperative

Here at the Pundit, we applauded the buyer-led effort but on October 30, 2006, ran a piece entitled Buyer-Led Food Safety Effort Leaves Open Question Of Buyer Commitment, in which we pointed out:

“What would be helpful from these buyers is…a reassurance to the grower/shipper/packer/processor community that investments in food safety will be protected.”

As Gene Harris of Denny’s added his endorsement to the Buyer-led Initiative for Food Safety, we published, Pundit’s Mailbag — Denny’s Weighs In On Food Safety Efforton November 1, 2006, and we pointed out that the Western Growers Association was now looking for mandatory standards:

“Buyers can impose standards on their suppliers, but it seems as if the big grower members of WGA are more inclined to go with a mandatory program. Perhaps because this is more easily “saleable” to consumers, perhaps because the growers have no confidence that buyers will ever agree to a uniform standard on food safety and, perhaps, because growers know that buyers today can have the best of intentions but situations change and buyer’s change — and if legal product is available for much less money, that will put a lot of pressure on an organization to change its standards.”

On November 2, 2006, we highlighted an Opportunity For Buyers’ Food Safety Initiative, where we wrote the following:

“Here’s the Pundit’s suggestion to the buyers: Don’t wait for the deadline to pass. Withdraw the letter to the associations, which can only lead to endless negotiations with grower/shippers and watered-down food safety standards. Instead, create a temporary ad hoc consortium to spearhead the quick development of science-based food safety standards.

In the short term, these will be enforced by buyer demand, hopefully including other buyers who will buy into the plan; in the medium run the plan will be turned over to state authorities in California and federal authorities in Washington, D.C., as the basis for new mandatory regulation.”

We pointed out that this initiative may not stay in the hands of the ad hoc group leading the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative when, on November 7, 2006, we announced: National Restaurant Association Forms Produce Safety Working Groupand pointed out:

“What we should have learned from the FDA loss of confidence in the industry is that food safety is not something that we negotiate over. It has to be driven by the best scientific knowledge we have.”

Mark Munger of Andrew-Williamson Fresh Produce, a grower/shipper, pitched in his thoughts on the important role buyers play in the food safety arena and, on November 8, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Insights From A Conscientious Grower, which specifically praised one foodservice customer:

I also have to commend one of our customers, who I believe demonstrates the value of collective partnerships between growers and customers. Two years ago we began working with Darden Restaurants. Darden takes food safety very seriously. They have empowered a food safety team that must approve each and every supplier. They have inspectors in the field who make weekly random inspections of growing operations, picking and packing programs. When problem issues are identified, they work closely with our food safety team to help educate our team and to ensure that collectively we fix the problem. The knowledge that an inspector can be in any field or packing shed at anytime has forced us to treat every day as an inspection day.

Additionally, Darden’s food safety team is separate from their buying team. If a farm is not up to par, they have the authority to stop all transactions until the problems are fixed. They truly put their money where their mouth is and have helped us become a markedly better company. I cannot think of a better example of the power of collective thinking between suppliers and customers. I think the industry would be well served to learn more about their programs and create similar models.

Not surprisingly, the Food Marketing Institute was not going to be content to sit this one out and, on November 10, 2006, we published FMI Steps Into The Food Safety Fray,which detailed a conference scheduled for December 5th at which FMI would host representatives from industry, associations, academia and government to advance food safety issues. Unfortunately, FMI decided to exclude the media and we pointed out:

“…if the goal is to build public confidence in the process the industry is going through, you not only open it to media, you send a velvet invitation to the big consumer media groups.

It smells of smoke-filled rooms where deals will be cut in secret. If you let in some light and air, everyone will have more confidence in the final product.”

On November 14, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag: Grower/Shipper Calls Buyer Led-Food Safety Initiative Hollow Call To Action, in which a respected grower/shipper pointed out that “This is where the retailers must step out of their ivory towers and get their walk (vendor relationship) to match their talk (aligned supply chain)… If those who signed on to this letter would get committed to buying only from “qualified suppliers,” the laws of supply and demand will drive the solution and we will quickly catch up with the rest of the world in this critical area.”




Botulism And Carrot Juice Summary XXI

We’ve been asked to make available in one place our coverage of the recall by Wm. Bolthouse Farms of certain 100% carrot juice products and the broader implications of this issue for food safety. This piece is updated regularly and will be re-run to include new coverage of this outbreak and issue.

We initiated our coverage on October 2, 2006, by publishing the FDA notice to consumers warning them not to drink the product, and we inquired as to the margin of safety on the product. You can find the piece, entitled Oh No! Another Outbreak, right here.

On October 4, 2006, we published Bolthouse And Juice Refrigeration, which analyzed the proper standard of refrigeration for vulnerable products and the ability of both the trade and consumers to maintain that cold chain. Read it here.

October 5, 2006, we ran Botulism III, which detailed the 12 steps in the distribution chain that the industry needs functioning properly in order to maintain the cold chain. The piece challenged retailers to evaluate the integrity of their own cold chain. You can find the piece here.

In The Botulism And E. coli Connection, which we ran on October 6, 2006, we noted similarities between the botulism outbreak on certain Bolthouse carrot juice and the spinach/E. coli outbreak. The piece is right here.

On October 10, 2006, we noted, in Bolthouse Botulism Case Hits Canada,that two Canadians were now victims of this botulism case and noted that it was an unusual cluster to occur at one time if the problem was solely temperature abuse by customers. You can catch it here.

October 11, 2006, we ran Carrot Juice Still On Canadian Shelves, we noted that Canadians were getting upset over the inability of Canada’s public health authorities to execute a simple product recall and that the frequency of recalls was raising questions over the safety of California produce. Read it right here.

On October 13, 2006, we ran Lobbying For Better Refrigeration urging industry lobbyists to work on legislation to make sure consumers have the tools they need to keep product safe at home. The article is here.

October 18, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag — Thermometers In Refrigerators, disagreeing with our urging of legislation regarding thermostats and refrigeration. You can read the piece here.




Spinach Crisis Summary Rewind XXXI

With so much having been written in so short a time, thought it would be helpful to publish a sort of round-up of available material to help people understand the whole situation regarding spinach and this E. coli breakout:

The Perishable Pundit itself has dealt extensively with the subject in several major pieces. On September 15, 2006, we published Spinach Recall Reveals Serious Industry Problems, which addressed the implications of this crisis for the fresh-cut industry. You can read the piece here.

On September 18, 2006, we published Organic Dodges a Bullet, which deals with the implications of the outbreak for the future of organic farming. You can find this piece here. Also on September 18, 2006, we ran a piece called Ramifications and Reflections on the Spinach Recall, which provided our first 10-point analysis of the situation. You can read it here.

September 19, 2006, we asked Is FDA’s Concern Now an Obsession? — a piece in which we assessed whether a national recommendation to not eat spinach made any sense. You can review this here.

On September 20, 2006, we noted 10 Peculiarities about the E. coli Outbreak and reviewed why certain aspects of the situation are unlike past food-safety challenges and other unanswered questions regarding the outbreak. Read this one right here. Also on September 20, 2006, we did our third 10-point list, calling this one “Spinach Recall Begs for Solutions”, where we reviewed how the trade can deal with this issue for the future, including looking at the meat industry, the prospect of universal testing and the use of RFID and GTIN. You can read all this here.

On September 21, 2006, we asked Is FDA Causing Long-term Damage? Here we posed the question of whether punishing the innocent and the guilty alike doesn’t reduce incentives to invest in food safety. You can read this piece right here.

The September 25, 2006 edition of the Pundit includes our fourth 10-point list entitled Though Not ‘All-Clear’, Consumers Can Eat Spinach Again, which reviewed many issues facing the industry as spinach begins to reenter the market, including the FDA’s announcement, PMA consumer research, the behavior of industry association, battles over fresh-cuts and organics, the reintroduction of Salinas Valley production, the FDA’s capabilities, and more. You can read this piece here. Also on September 25, 2006, we reviewed The Role of Retailers And The Future Of Food Safety, which pointed out that buyers have an important role in insuring food safety. Catch this piece here.

Additionally, on September 25, 2006, we ran the Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industryin which a panel of retail pundits gave us insight into the way the spinach issue played in store and with consumers. You can read it here.

The Pundit on September 26, 2006, included an articled entitled The California Department of Health Services Owes People An Explanation in which the question was raised whether certain parties received preferential treatment in the current spinach/E. coli outbreak. Read it right here. Also on September 26, 2006, we did a piece questioning the efficacy of our trace-back systems. The piece was titled More Recalls Trickle In, and you can read it here.

On September 27, 2006, the Pundit analyzed the bad publicity that the Salinas Valley has received and asked Is Salinas Getting A Bum Rap On Food Safety? The piece can be read right here.

September 28, 2006, the Pundit included a piece entitled Call For Stronger FDA that analyzed the demand of some in the food industry for beefing up the FDA and its budget within the context of the spinach/E. coli situation. You can read it here.

On September 29, 2006 we did a piece called Lies, Damned Lies And Statistics that explored the contradiction of modern life that has led things to seem less safe, even as they are actually safer. Read the piece here.

October 2, 2006 we ran The FDA Needs to Reexamine Its Methodology, inquiring why it was necessary to shut down a whole industry when, as far as we know, it was only Dole brand bagged spinach that was implicated? Read it here. Also on October 2, 2006, in a piece called Needless Recalls, we examined how even if many of the recalls were unnecessary, the recalls revealed big flaws in the trade’s traceback systems. You can find the piece here. Another piece October 2, 2006, entitled Deconstructing FDA, analyzed the FDA’s statement regarding the end of the spinach crisis. The piece is right here.

The Pundit also ran a piece entitled Action Plan to Regain Consumer Confidence that both discussed the industry plan and proposed an alternative plan. Read about it here. Also on October 2, 2006, we did a piece called Collateral Damage vs. Assumption of the Risk, which analyzed some of the liability issues surrounding the outbreak. You can find the piece here. Additionally, on October 2, 2006, we published the second in our series of Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry. This one including insight from Bob Edgell of Balls Foods and Ron McCormick of Wal-Mart, regarding reaction at retail as spinach outside California became available. Read it here.

On October 4, 2006, the Pundit ran a piece entitled In Defense of Salinas, in which, based on a discussion with a Salinas farmer, we outlined five points you need to understand about the relationship between the Salinas Valley and this outbreak. You can find it here. Also on October 4, 2006, we published Notes On Natural Selection: It Could Happen To You, which discussed the new food safety plan revealed by Natural Selection Foods and discussed the necessity of product testing. Read it here.

October 5, 2006, we analyzed the implications of the FBI raid in Salinas with Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… You can read the piece here.

We also explained on October 5, 2006, the involvement of Growers Express in the FBI raid in a piece entitled Bailando Juntos (Dancing Together), which you can find right here. What’s more, we discussed on October 5, 2006, why Canada is still banning U.S. spinach and what that implies about relations between the FDA and CFIA. The piece is called U.S. Spinach Still Banned in Canada, and you can read it here.

On October 6, 2006, the Pundit pointed out the importance of considering the human costs of our actions in A Look At The Faces, which you can read here. Also on October 6, 2006, we analyzed how increased use of a federal network was bound to mean the recording of more frequent food safety outlets in a piece entitled PulseNet Ups Ante In Food Safety Battle, which can be read right here.

Although not strictly speaking spinach-related, when one company voluntarily recalled certain green leaf lettuce, it was a decision affected by the overall environment caused by the spinach/E. coli situation. In Nunes Recall Reveals Testing Dilemma, published on October 10, 2006, we analyzed how stricter standards may lead to more frequent recalls. Catch the piece here.

October 11, 2006 we pointed out that the Center for Disease Control was beginning to see fresh-cut in a whole new light. You can read CDC’s Aha! Moment right here. Also on October 11, 2006, we offered Heads Up — Political Posturing On Spinach Begins, pointing out that the a State Senator in California was going to start some hearings. Read the piece here.

On October 12, 2006, in PulseNet Asleep At The Wheel, we detailed that the nation’s food safety bulletin board likes to take off on weekends. Read this astounding piece here.

Dangerous E. coli Found On One Ranch ran on October 13, 2006, and points out that this finding doesn’t tell us much. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006, we ran Fast Testing For Pathogens Necessary, which pointed out that product testing is bound to happen and discussed options and obstacles. You can read it here.

October 18, 2006 the Pundit ran a piece in which PulseNet Explains Why It Doesn’t Work Weekends.You can find the piece here.

On October 19, 2006, the piece Pundit’s Mailbag — Greenhouses and Vertical Farmingexplores the potential of greenhouse and hydroponic growing in the light of the spinach/E. coli crisis. The article also explores the potential for vertical farms in urban neighborhoods. Read it here.

On October 24, 2006, we published Town Hall Spinach Meeting: Unanswered Questions, in which we analyzed what we learned and what was still a mystery after attending a Town Hall Meeting on the spinach crisis at the PMA Convention in San Diego. You can find this piece here.

October 27, 2006, we ran a piece entitled PMA Commits $1 Million To Food Safety Fixes and you can read it here. Also on October 27, 2006, we thought part of the fallout from the crisis would be a reexamination of the industry’s government relations efforts and so wrote PMA/United Merger Fresh On Our Minds. You can read it right here. Additionally on October 27, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Greenhouse Solutions dealing with whether Controlled Environment Agriculture might be the solution to the trade’s food safety issues. Read it right here.

On October 30, 2006, we responded to a very important proposal from several leading members of the buying community with Buyer-Led Food Safety Effort Leaves Open Question of Buyer Commitment.You can read the piece here. After the government announced that it was looking at wild pigs as the culprit in the E. coli contamination, we ran, on October 30, 2006, a piece entitled Now We Know Why Spinach Salad Is Served With Bacon Dressing. Read it right here.

On October 31, 2006, we published Western Growers Association Calls For Mandatory Food Safety Standards, in which we discussed the epochal change taking place as the industry looked to move to mandatory, as opposed to voluntary, food safety standards. You can read it right here.

November 2, 2006, we published Opportunity For Buyer’s Food Safety Initiative, which raised the idea that not involving growers in setting food safety standards was a good idea. Read it here.

On November 7, 2006, we ran a piece entitled NRA Forms Produce Safety Working Group that discussed a new National Restaurant Association initiative to impose standards on suppliers to foodservice. You can find the piece here. Also on November 7, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — United’s President/CEO Responds (Part 2), which dealt with the question of how much difference a good government relations program can be expected to accomplish at a time of crisis. Read it here.

November 8, 2006, we ran a valuable Pundit’s Mailbag — Insights From A Conscientious Growerthat focused on the value buyers can bring to food safety programs. You can read it here.

On November 10, 2006, we published FMI Steps Into Food Safety Fray, which details the role a food safety conference FMI is organizing might play in helping the industry develop new food safety protocols. You can find the piece here.

November 14, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Grower/Shipper Calls Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative Hollow Call To Action, in which a respected grower pointed out that growers needed retailers to walk the walk not talk the talk. Read it here.

On November 15, 2006 we published PulseNet, And The Pundit, In The News, which linked to a TV station that picked up on our reporting on ways to improve PulseNet. Read it here. Also on November 15, 2006, we published Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Westborn Markets, Schnucks, Wal-Mart, in which these retailers updated us on how the market for spinach and bagged salads is recovering. You can find the piece here.

IMPLICATIONS OF THE CRISIS
In addition, the Pundit has done several smaller pieces that touched on various aspects of this crisis. On September 18, 2006, we raised the issue of whether food safety outbreaks such as this raise long-term issues about the viability of cartoon character tie-ins in Who Has Marketing Fortitude? You can read about it here. Also on September 18, 2006, we wrote Fit To Be Tied, which dealt with the way some companies have little sense of decency when it comes to marketing their products in the midst of a crisis. You can read this one right here.

Additionally on September 18, 2006, our Pundit’s Mailbag focused on letters received by United President/CEO Tom Stenzel and incoming Chairman Emanuel Lazopoulos of Del Monte Fresh, which dealt with the confluence of United’s Board Meeting and the spinach crisis as well as issues of industry leadership. You can find this one here.

On September 19, 2006, we noted that there might be a Greenhouse Opportunity in all this. Read this here. Also on September 19, 2006, we noted that, though fruits and vegetables are healthy, fresh produce is not necessarily the best choice for those with a compromised immune system. The piece is called Marketing Nightmare and you can find it right here.

On September 21, 2006, we did a piece called Wal-Mart Deli/Bakery Has Crisis Of Its Own that draws a link between the difficulty of preventing a Salmonella outbreak at one store with the difficulty of preventing an E. coli outbreak on an industry-wide basis. You can read this piece here.

On September 25, 2006, the Pundit noted Another Oddity In Spinach Crisis and raised the question whether some or all of the product being marketed as conventional might not be organic. Read it right here. Also on September 25, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag which dealt both with the utility of loyalty card programs and with the nature of large, multi-line fresh-cut packing facilities. You can read this one right here. Also we did a short piece on what change was actually necessary if consumers were to be reassured of the safety of spinach. Read it here.

On September 26, 2006, we discussed the issue of recalls and how insurance plays into that. You can read this here. Also had an unrelated piece on Wegmans that included a video clip on how consumer media is dealing with the reintroduction of spinach. You can catch it here.

Additionally on September 26, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag exploring the causes of the outbreak. You can read this piece here.

September 27, 2006, we focused on a piece in the Washington Post that helps us in Putting Things In Perspective. How does the Spinach/E. coli outbreak relate to the total numbers that get sick and die each year from foodborne illness? You can read it right here.

On September 28, 2006, we published a terrific Pundit’s Mailbag exploring the frustration the buy side felt in dealing with the spinach/E. coli situation. Read it here.

October 2, 2006, we had some Questions For Western Growers that asked how far the WGA was willing to go to make sure foreign growers meet the same standards as Salinas area farmers. Read about it here. We also asked How Committed Is The Produce Industry To Broad/National Food Safety Program. You can read the piece here.

In addition, on October 2, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: Another Despicable Marketing Attempt that pointed out how a seed company was taking advantage of the situation and, possibly, leading to harm, by pushing its products. Read about it here.

On October 4, 2006, we ran a piece entitled Primary And Secondary Suppliers, which details how this food safety crisis has to impact retail vendor selection. Catch it right here. Also on October 4, 2006, we discussed how to help innocent spinach farmers who were victimized by this crisis in Everyone Needs to Do A Little Bit. The Pundit pledged to do its own bit. Read it right here.

October 5, 2006, we ran a piece focused on another outbreak of foodborne illness — in this case, botulism in carrot juice. The focus, however, was on the necessity to change attitudes as the produce industry becomes less a packing industry and more a processing industry. It is called Botulism III, and you can read it here.

On October 6, 2006 we pointed out The Botulism And E. coli Connection where we explained that our focus on pathogens at the product source, though important, is insufficient. Read it here. Also on October 6, 2006 we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: What Are The feds Up To? This answered a reader’s letter inquiring as to whether the FBI being in Salinas implied industry members weren’t cooperating. You can find this item here.

Food Safety, Good Delivery And Temperature Monitoring was published on October 10, 2006, and pointed out that old temperature recording devices have to be superseded by new temperature monitoring technology on all trucking of vulnerable products. Catch the piece here.

On October 11, 2006, we ran a piece that grew out of the decision of Publix to stop giving some perishables away because of food safety concerns it is called Culture of Risk-Aversion Hurts the Poor and you can read it here.

Nunes Tests Negative on October 13, 2006, raises the question of the appropriateness of recalls for generic E. coli in irrigation water. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006, we ran Lobbying For Better Refrigeration, which pointed out that consumers are not given the tools needed to be vigilant at home. Find it here.

In addition on October 13, 2006, we published PulseNet Redux pointing out, once again, that this outbreak could have been caught earlier had the government not taken off for the weekend. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006 we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag — Population Inured by Recalls? This piece raised the possibility that frequent recalls, with no subsequent illness, would rebound to the benefit of the trade. Please read it here.

On October 17, 2006, we ran Will Hydroponics Be A Solution To Spinach Woes? and analyzed the potential of hydroponics to head off future outbreaks. Read it here.

October 18, 2006, we had a Pundit’s Mailbag — Thermometers In Refrigerators, in which the Pundit was challenged for urging excessive governmental interference. You can find it right here.

October 20, 2006, we had two pieces related to the Nunes recall on Green Leaf lettuce. First, in a piece entitled Closure For Nunes, we detailed that the product had been declared clean by the FDA. You can read it here. Second, we had a piece entitled Partial Closure In Mexico, which explained that Mexico had decided to allow the import of U.S. lettuce but not spinach. You can find the piece right here.

On November 1, 2006, we ran a piece entitled Canada Opens Door To More, But Not All, US Spinach. You can read it right here. Also on November 1, 2006, we had an interesting Pundit’s Mailbag — The Acceptance Of Risk, which included a fascinating comparison on how the FAA views safety in airlines as opposed to the FDA looking at food. Read it here.

November 3, 2006, we published Food Safety And Why The Problem Will Only Get Worse…Or Won’t, which dealt with the way enhanced detection technology is likely to increase reports of foodborne illness — even as the food supply gets safer. Read it here. Also on November 3, 2006 we ran a brief note entitled Broader Concern For Food Safety, which linked to an FDA-produced slide show on the spinach outbreak as part of a broader food safety perspective. You can catch it right here.

Additionally on November 3, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — CPMA’s President Sets The Record Straight, in which CPMA’s President Dan Dempster addressed the importance of communication between the public health authorities in the U.S. and in Canada. Find the piece right here.

On November 7, 2006, we ran FDA Focuses On Retail And Foodservice Food Safety which gave news of an FDA satellite broadcast for retailers and foodservice operators and addressed the general issue of buyers and food safety. Read it here. Also on November 7, 2006, we ran an Erratum correcting some calculations in our previous piece Food Safety And Why The Problem Will Only Get Worse…Or Won’t. You can find it right here.

November 9, 2006, we published Pundit’s Pulse of the Industry: Bigg’s Marvin Lyons, the first of a series of retail interviews looking at how sales at retail are going post-spinach crisis. Read it here. Also on November 9, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Sticking Up for the Pundit, in which an industry leader wrote in to support the work of the Pundit. You can find the piece here.

On November 10, 2006, we highlighted a quick directory of Farm-to-Fork Food Safety Resources. Catch it here.

Several additional pieces appear in the Perishable Pundit today, and they will be incorporated into future iterations of this Spinach Crisis Summary.

RESOURCES
In addition to our own work, there are many excellent sources of information out there that do not require payment, membership or registration. Three of the Pundit’s favorites:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has offered daily information on the crisis right here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deal with the outbreak here.

The Produce Marketing Association has maintained an excellent industry resource on the subject right here.

Please feel free to write or call if you are looking for specific information not included here. Note that many of the articles and websites have links to other resources

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