Three words of advice for the new task force on leafy greens and food safety — show and tell.
As growers, packers, distributors, processors, researchers and others dissect production practices and hypothesize about outbreak scenarios, consumer outreach about these efforts and food safety protocols in general should not be neglected.
Outbreak prevention is the priority for the task force, and traceability will be a topic as well. Strides in both areas can go a long way in restoring consumer confidence in romaine and other leafy greens.
The industry would do well to remember, however, that the average consumer probably will not hear about this work unless members of the task force and produce companies go out of their way to highlight the measures being taken to ensure product is as safe as possible.
Of course the identification and mitigation of outbreak risks are the most important goals of the task force, but it would be a shame to waste this opportunity to educate consumers about how the lettuce in that salad gets to the grocery store or the restaurant.
There is something compelling about hearing a real person talk about his craft and providing a window into what it looks like.
Getting that message to the right audience is obviously easier said than done. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I do have one excellent example of the type of outreach I would suggest.
Owyhee Produce owner Shay Myers posts videos to LinkedIn that show the planting and harvesting and packing of items like asparagus and sweet potatoes.
The videos give a glimpse of operations and the attention to detail that is involved in the different processes, and Myers appears on the videos and narrates, providing insight on some of the challenges and joys of the work.
Do you have a personal LinkedIn page?
How about a personal Facebook page?
You can start sharing the stories behind your leafy greens today.
Certainly content can be distributed through company websites and other forums, but there is something compelling about hearing a real person talk about his craft and providing a window into what it looks like.
Consumer communication might seem like an insignificant element in the scope of the overall task force mission, but it could be a powerful one if embraced by everyone involved and others in the industry as well.
Ashley Nickle is a staff writer for The Packer. E-mail her at [email protected].