Simmering pot of audits is about to boil over

04/25/2014 10:05:00 AM
Joel Nelsen

So for the retail sector and others to assume they are satisfying an activist group, truly addressing an honest concern or hiding behind a firewall created by an audit, their efforts are sorely misplaced.

It’s nice to be concerned, even more honorable to show that concern and urge others to share.

But when it is driven to the point that food is no longer affordable, when there is no return on investment, when there is no documentable evidence of greater safety or sustainability than the almost perfect record that this system created, then what are we doing?

Have marketers and customers divined a system in which more ancillary costs drive food prices? Are agricultural inputs less than the cost of government imposed regulations and customer imposed mandates?

Almost.

For the fresh fruit and vegetable industry a tipping point is being reached in that the family farmer that everybody allegedly wants to protect becomes a historical element that we wax poetically about.

Producers were in the pot simmering.

Eighteen forms of food safety audits, multiple definitions of sustainability by those in areas or businesses that were not able to sustain themselves; numerical targets that ignore needs determined by analysis; PTI, GTIN, GlobalG.A.P., HACCP, SAI Global, GMPs and BMPs.

I believe that simmering pot is now boiling.

What’s wrong with having an FDA certified program for food safety that is harmonized for a vast number of similar producers rather than a plethora of audits, each with a minor difference that seemingly creates a need?

And what’s wrong with uniting behind the United Fresh Produce Association effort on sustainability that creates a story with documentation on what producers and other suppliers are doing?

Presently there are too many solutions looking for a problem that doesn’t exist.

It seems to me we need to re-examine what we are doing to ourselves.

Can United Fresh or the Produce Marketing Association create a forum for this discussion? Previous efforts have led to a pendulum swing without a solution.

Have the concepts of balance and real need been lost?

Joel Nelsen is president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.

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