Local suppliers can't treat produce as a hobby

10/26/2012 10:59:00 AM
Greg Johnson

In addition, there was no traceability in place, which violates the 2002 bioterrorism act, mandating one-up, one-down food traceability.

The Food and Drug Administration also found those conditions in mid-August and found the strain of salmonella from Chamberlain’s fields that was in the outbreak.

Nonetheless, owner Tim Chamberlain said in a written statement issued via his attorney in early October, “While we acknowledge that the FDA report notes certain conditions allegedly observed at Chamberlain Farms, there is nothing in the report to indicate the conditions are a source of or contributed to any reported illnesses.”

The whole incident is tragic in that some consumers died as the result of eating cantaloupe, but it’s also one that does not speak highly of locally grown.

Retail response

Local sourcing is not going away. There are too many winners, and consumers demand it.

Regardless of the FSMA’s weaker food safety requirements for small growers, retailers need to have the same standards for suppliers regardless of size.

At The Packer’s Midwest Expo in Chicago in August, I moderated a panel on local Midwest sourcing.

Panelist Ed Osowski, director of produce and floral for Martin’s Super Markets, South Bend, Ind., said his chain has a list of food safety expectations for small growers that supply just one or two stores.

But he said the follow-up and on-farm verification for those small growers is not as stringent as it is for large commercial producers.

This is not uncommon.

In-house food safety testing is conducted on produce from large and small farms, Osowski said.

Retail buyers need to remember their brand is on the line with every fruit or vegetable a consumer takes home. Consumers rarely distinguish produce brands, but they certainly know the banner of the store they shop.

Retail chains should have zero tolerance for underdog local suppliers who can’t prove their food safety standards are as tough as the big players.

Growing and selling fresh produce is serious business. It’s not a hobby.

gjohnson@thepacker.com

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.


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Garland Jaeger    
Los Angeles, CA  |  November, 01, 2012 at 03:40 PM

I couldn't agree with you more Greg! The majority of negative environmental impacts occur during production-not transportation. Therefore the argument about "food miles" is becoming less relevant. The key seems to be ensuring that all produce, grown locally as well as internationally, is grown with the highest production quality standards possible. The more we can work together throughout the supply chain, the better. The ultimate goal after all, is to increase more consumption. So consumers should feel confident that the produce they're buying, local or not, is a safe and healthy product.

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