Mandatory should not be a four-letter word

08/30/2012 02:59:00 PM
Tom Karst

While buyers may demand third party audits, GFSI certification and PTI compliance from California and Arizona producers, those same receivers seem to be sourcing from other marketers with no food safety program whatsoever in place.

Likewise, Steve Patricio, president of Firebaugh, Calif.-based Westside Produce and chairman of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, Dinuba, told me the “buy side” has dropped the ball in recent food safety outbreaks. Too much faith has been put in procurement partners who haven’t done due diligence in regards to food safety issues, he told me.

Are some buyers trading food safety assurances for lower delivered costs? Are retailers so captured by the romantic vision of local producers that they are willing to overlook insufficient and sketchy production and handling practices?

I’m sure no retailer would want to agree to that characterization. But foodborne outbreaks continue to occur and more must be done.

Can buyers and sellers of a particular commodity create a fraternity of those who always adhere to food safety principle and only do business with only those who do? Can that “quality-checked” program also deliver traceability compliance?

A solution like that must be considered. While local producers of fruits and vegetables will always have roadside stands and farmers markets to sell to, only those with an appropriate level of food safety and traceback capabilities should be trusted with supplying the commercial food system.

I was interested to read recently that Japanese retailers are increasing marketing of private label fresh vegetables by investing in their own farming operations and also by entering into direct contracts with growers.

One of the advantages cited for retailers trying that approach in the story from the Daily Yomiuri was the ability to tout food safety attributes of private label produce.

I don’t think retailers in the U.S. are inclined to invest in lettuce or melon fields, but they may give it more than a passing thought if the industry cannot together make final progress toward food safety and traceability compliance.

For the industry it should be GAPs, PTI, taxes and death, and preferably in that order.


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Alvaro Ramirez    
San Francisco, CA  |  August, 31, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Tom, PTI should be mandatory. I am thinking thought the only way to make it mandatory now is for buyers to tell growers they will not buy their products unless they are PTI compliant. That creates an animosity between market players. Government has the authority to make it mandatory. It would and should be made mandatory to everyone marketing directly or indirectly to consumers. The problem is the technology is not priced for everyone. I am going to solve that problem - stay tuned.

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