The counterpoint from Whitaker
While the industry is constantly in search of new ideas to enhance the safety of our products, the concept of creating a system led by industry to randomly choose third-party auditors is flawed.
If objectivity is the concern, consider that audits are only one tool in a comprehensive food safety program. It is already standard industry practice to rotate auditors to avoid potential familiarity issues. In some cases, it's the buyer who actually chooses a grower's auditing firm.
The concerns about objectivity also assume that the only goal of the grower paying for the audit is to achieve a passing grade. Nothing could be further from the truth. Audits, like other current safeguards, are one tool among many used to ensure the safety of our fresh produce. Further, audit results are routinely used to improve food safety performance.
TK: Interesting idea about randomly selecting auditors, but I think the constraints of geography alone would be a significant barrier. Whitaker's "nothing could be further from the truth" comment may do little to assure the skeptical public about what is perceived to be a "cozy" relationship between the third party auditor and the firm being audited.