Coral BeachDon Zietlow, (left) president of Kwik Trip Inc., and Ed Lonergan, CEO of Chiquita Brands International, discuss food safety programs during a question-answer session at the Food Safety Summit in Baltimore.BALTIMORE — The top banana from Chiquita Brands International says the company has found its way back to its roots and is moving forward with a triple bottom line approach that has moved food safety to the forefront.
In his keynote presentation at the annual Food Safety Summit, Ed Lonergan, chief executive officer for the Charlotte, N.C.-multinational company, said Chiquita’s board never meets without Courtney Parker, the company’s senior vice president for quality and food safety, at the table.
“Courtney’s team has veto power,” Lonergan said. “Food safety is not a competitive advantage. It’s a fact of business, all of our businesses.”
Lonergan said commitment to food safety requires commitment from top management to integrate it into all levels of business, which he said has returned to its core of bananas and packaged salads.
“Chiquita’s value chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” he said.
The Chiquita food safety staff serves double duty as the company’s quality assurance staff.
Lonergan said it is Chiquita’s food safety staff that clears each field for harvest. If they find a problem, the produce from that field isn’t used — and it isn’t sold to anyone else to use either, Lonergan said.
“Last week we recalled 1,600 boxes of expired (packaged salads) that weren’t even on the shelves any longer because it was the right thing to do,” Lonergan said. “We could have ignored it, but we didn’t. Transparency is important. If you don’t talk to your customers they can become afraid because they aren’t sure what’s going on.”