National Editor Tom KarstFor retailers who ask all their regular suppliers to be food safety certified by a third party, is it acceptable for them to make occ. exceptions depending on size of grower and market conditions?
Only in rare circumstances
I put this question to the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group (only four votes so far) because it may relate to the latest foodborne illness outbreak linked to southwest Indiana cantaloupe.
FDA officials have still not revealed the identity of the farm linked to the tainted melons, but a couple of trade sources I have visited with believe that this particular farm had not undergone a recent food safety audit, despite having some larger retailers among its customers. I'm not sure who is the source of that belief.
It may be mere speculation and conjecture, but for the melon industry, the possibility brings to mind a tired but true maxim "You are only as strong as your weakest link."
No matter what best practices and safeguards are adopted by the great majority of producers, will there will always be outliers capable of soiling the good efforts of many?
If some farms are willing to forgo the observation of GAPs and GMPs and if some retailers are willing to overlook that transgression, what hope is there for a final resolution?
"Local" or "price" should never trump attention to food safety.
An alliance of producers and buyers who are solidly behind 100% compliance with food safety rules might be a point of differentiation for consumers looking a sure shot in the produce department.