It’s good to be reminded how much healthier the fresh produce industry’s food safety system is now compared to a decade ago.
Earthbound Farm senior vice president Will Daniels provided that reminder at the Baltimore Food Safety Summit when he talked about what his company learned from the 2006 spinach outbreak and how it changed Earthbound Farm, then called Natural Selection Foods. Story, A1
He said food safety should not be a competitive advantage, and to prove that, Earthbound Farm plans to open its wash line and facilities to competitors.
Daniels also talked about what a mess the 2006 investigation was, from competing government agencies to duplication of documentation to bad legal advice to a focus on short-term costs savings.
Since that tipping point outbreak, private companies, public companies, association groups and government agencies all looked at their procedures and made substantive changes.
Companies are increasingly sharing their technologies. Produce industry leaders have formed groups such as the Center for Produce Safety to encourage food safety innovation. The Food and Drug Administration is listening to business concerns and challenges as it works through the extended comment period of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Of course there are still problems, as there are still outbreaks and even illnesses, poor food safety handling practices at some companies, bureaucracy, ego battles and companies who insist on marketing on food safety.
But Daniels’ comments are the most recent example of how people can take a problem and turn it into something that can make the produce industry stronger.