It isn’t right, but it’s reality: A fresh produce-related product recall or outbreak of foodborne illness related to a fresh fruit or vegetable not only damages sales of the affected product but also related products ... and possibly even some in other categories.
Data from the Perishables Group suggest, for instance, that the recent cantaloupe outbreak not only hammered sales figures for cantaloupes out of the Rocky Ford region of Colorado but the overall melon category.
Call it mainstream media fear-mongering causing public panic, call it gross injustice, call it what you will, but the industry response should be to redouble all food safety and traceability efforts.
It challenges basic notions of fairness that companies — even whole sectors of the industry — have to pay for the misfortune or misdeeds of others, but it’s a fact of doing business in the produce trade.
Even the most conscientious and thorough adherents of food safety protocols can be hit with collateral damage when an outbreak or recall occurs.
Through efforts like the Produce Traceability Initiative and industry consensus not to use claims of food safety as a marketing tactic, the fruit and vegetable industry has shown it understands that the financial well-being of all stakeholders — growers, packers, processors, shippers and retailers — depends on comprehensive and precise implementation of food safety programs.
While it may prove challenging at times, industry unity in food safety is the right thing to do, and ultimately it will pay dividends financially as well.
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