Has food safety gone to the dogs?

02/14/2014 10:09:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Vicky Boyd, Staff WriterVicky Boyd, Staff WriterLet’s face it. Residents and businesses in San Francisco march to a different beat.

After all, the City — as locals call it — has an ordinance that prohibits elephants from strolling down Market Street unless they’re on a leash.

So it really didn’t surprise me that little hairball dogs are given all the rights of shoppers in San Francisco grocery stores.

At the same time, this flies in the face of food safety rules that retailers have put on suppliers prohibiting animals around produce.

The first time I saw shoppers with dogs on leashes in a San Francisco Safeway produce department, I found an employee in a white shirt who I presumed was a manager and asked him about state health regulations barring dogs except for service animals from grocery stores.

He said I was correct but that management had told them not to ask if the dogs were service animals — they were to assume so.

The only time they could ask an owner to remove his or her dog was if it was acting aggressive or relieving itself in the store.

Another white-shirted employee next to him said she had previously worked in Sacramento, and that wasn’t the case there. They only allowed dogs in grocery stores that were truly service animals.

Based on personal observation, this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy isn’t limited to one retailer, either. I was in a Whole Foods later and saw someone with two hairballs on leashes strolling unfettered through the produce department.

A friend who used to live in the City told me that walking your dog through a produce department is just part of grocery shopping.

Yet these same retailers have strict food safety requirements of their suppliers.

One of the tenets of good agricultural practices is to keep animals — including dogs — out of fields and orchards.

In fact, some buyers’ rules are so strict that even signs that an animal has visited a field — such as droppings or flattened plants used for bedding — prevent harvest of that area.

In San Francisco, most people don’t have yards and instead walk their dogs on the streets. If the dog does its duty, the owner or dog walker grabs a bag and picks up the pile.

In all the times I’ve seen people clean up after their dogs, I’ve never seen one whip out a bottle of hand sanitizer afterward.

How many of these people have to stop and do a clean-up in route to grocery shopping is unknown.

But I can just picture the person picking up the dog poop, then minutes later fingering peaches, leafy greens, apples or squash in the grocery store — hands still unwashed.

If growers, shippers and other handlers have to preclude animals from their facilities to enhance food safety, then shouldn’t retailers have to follow similar rules to continue food safety through the distribution chain?

If not, then food safety has just gone to the dogs.

vlboyd@thepacker.com

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



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Kurt J    
Virginia  |  February, 17, 2014 at 01:47 PM

Very simply put, animal rights activists have much more influence than the average citizen. Your only hope is that the ultra vegans, who also oppose the owning of pets, will file lawsuits against Safeway for promoting animal enslavement (pet owning). It's not funny anymore when I see local counties spending over a million dollars a year on "animal services" or when "service cats and monkeys" are getting special bills pushed through our State Legislature.

Rob    
East Hartford CT  |  February, 17, 2014 at 04:00 PM

Kurt. You have an excellent point where a small minority is dictating to the majority. We can not just sit by and allow this to happen. We have to start to encourage people to push back and not be afraid to do so.

Rob    
East Hartford CT  |  February, 17, 2014 at 03:57 PM

Totally agree with your perception on this. The retailers are going to have to wake up to reality soon. They will get sued sometime soon. I have been told by a lawyer friend of mine that the litigation industry is starting to look at food safet as a serious revenue opportunity.

David    
Blue Ridge Georgia  |  February, 18, 2014 at 07:22 AM

Unless food safety can be enforced 100% the weakest link in the chain will break. It is like sending our troops to the front line but supplying them with no ammunition. I am not saying lets just give up on food safety but without 100% enforcement it is all just smoke and mirrors. On one end the inspector says I must account for all the wildlife in my orchard and on the other end the grocery store managers allow obvious non-service animals to deficate in their stores.

Vance    
Arizona  |  February, 18, 2014 at 06:31 PM

And then the store wants to claim they relied on a food safety audit that says everything was as it should be and therefore, they are not responsible for any kind of outbreak and don't owe anyone any money because they got sick or died from contaminated food. Go figure!

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