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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Election Observations

Although the Pundit is filled with countless words analyzing public policy as it relates to the industry, with issues such as immigration and food safety, the truth is that the long-term prosperity of the trade is inevitably tied to the overall success of the country more than to any of these specific issues.

The reason so many in the industry are repelled by things like Political Action Committees is because they are tools designed to get politicians to focus on special interests over the general interest. As John McClung pointed out in his salient letter explaining why the trade isn’t that good at government relations:

Finally, perhaps most important but also most difficult to characterize, the segments of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry simply don’t have the tradition and history of activist political involvement. Individuals in the industry don’t see the need to get their hands dirty in Washington — or their state capitals, for that matter. They don’t think they can play the game; they don’t know how and they don’t want to learn. They think if they approach their members of Congress on some issue, all that will happen is they’ll get donation solicitations for the rest of their lives. And, they think lobbying is what they pay United, the regionals, and recently maybe even PMA to do.

I’ve often said that lobbying for the industry is like being a proctologist: your clients know they have a problem and need your expertise, but they want you to get in fast, get out fast, tell them as little as possible about what you saw, and keep the bill to a minimum. The problem with all of this is that real political strength comes from the proverbial grass roots. The industry’s hired guns, including United’s staff, play a key role in educating Congress and the regulatory agencies, and — whether one approves or not — in making timely campaign contributions from the various Political Action Committees. But at the end of the day, the best lobbyist is good old what’s-his-name from the Congressperson’s home district.

We would just add to John’s remarks by pointing out that in many cases, it is a case of being torn: knowing that playing the game is necessary to win, but feeling the game is disgusting and bad for the country.

One of the most moving moments of my life was, as a young campaign worker, standing in an arena in Detroit cheering as Ronald Reagan ascended the platform to accept the Republican nomination for President and, at that moment, seeing the proverbial “little old ladies in tennis shoes” rise to cheers, as dreams they fought for since working for Goldwater in 1964 were realized in that nomination.

Yet, despite this affinity, the Pundit thinks it is a good thing for the country that the Republicans lost last night.

First, failure must have a consequence or we will have a lot more of it, and the Republicans have failed on key matters: The war in Iraq is clearly not a success and there is no reason to think they will make it one; Republicans were unable to reform Social Security or other entitlement programs; the Republicans were unable to pass Immigration reform. And they were not blocked in these causes by a filibuster by Democrats, but by their own incompetence.

Second, the Republicans betrayed the small government principles that they preached. Like pigs to the troth, Republicans had forgotten all but their appetites.

Third, the obsession of the Republicans had become all about retaining power. Ideas, morality, proper conduct — all meant little. The leadership was willing to overlook anything to save a seat.

Fourth, in a time of war, it is desirable that both parties have positions of responsibility. It is easy to be anti-war on Iraq if you don’t have any responsibility. Now the Democrats will have to actually put their name to votes. The real decisions in life are often not philosophical but very specific: Should we fund the troops in Iraq for six more months?

The act of voting gives one a stake in what happens next. One danger, however, is that the existence of a Republican President certain to veto legislation will encourage irresponsible pandering to various interest groups, because Democrats can get a free vote to pander to the interest groups knowing that the President will kill the bill anyway.

The country is moderately conservative. The Democrats who won were often, like Bill Clinton, on the more moderate side politically. The same voters who were voting in Democrats were also enacting bans on gay marriage.

Hopefully the Republicans will draw the correct lesson from this defeat and think about how to both govern and remain true to the values that first led people to send them to Washington.

One immediate consequence of the loss of the House and probably the Senate is a change in Committee Chairmen, and that will mean a lot.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives and presumably soon-to-be chairman of the committee, just issued a paper called Fact Sheet: Weaknesses in FDA’s Food Safety Systemand identifies four key issues that are of concern to him:

  1. Declining FDA Food Safety Budgets
  2. Declining FDA Food Safety Inspections
  3. Inadequate Enforcement and Regulatory Action
  4. Pending Legislation to Preempt State Food Safety Authority

The presumptive Chairman identifies the solution to industry food safety problems in mandatory and robust regulation. He will have a bully pulpit to expound those ideas.

All this should keep our industry government relations folks busy for the next year or two.

Yes, We Have Bananas…
In Modified Atmosphere Packaging Too!

The Pundit is based in South Florida, which coincidentally is where Chiquita, working with Publix, is running a test of its new Chiquita Fresh & Ready product. The slogan is: Bananas that stay perfectly fresh until you’re ready to eat them!

The product is a covered tray of three bananas, net weight 17.2 oz. It uses what the label calls Chiquita FreshPak technology, which utilizes the BreatheWay technology that it licenses from Apio. Here is how the label explains it:

Chiquita knows that Fresh Tastes Best. So we’ve come up with a natural way to keep bananas fresher longer. The secret is our patented FreshPak. It lets in just the right amount of air to slow the ripening process naturally. So now you can enjoy great tasting bananas that are Fresh & Ready when you are.

Chiquita is also doing a hang tag promotion built around the slogan: Now our bananas hang around longer!

The hang tag clarifies the concept with a graphic that shows that if consumers buy a traditional bunch of bananas on the weekend, the bananas typically are not ripe enough to eat Sunday. Then you eat one a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday, you are thinking the bananas are too ripe and considering tossing them out. By Friday and Saturday, according to this graphic, you have no bananas

In contrast, if on Sunday a consumer buys two three-banana packs of Chiquita Fresh & Readybananas, the consumer can open one and have perfect bananas on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then open the other package and have bananas Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

It is a good concept and, doubtless, grows out of a lot of consumer research indicating that consumers would eat a lot more bananas if they could always have a ripe one available and, most likely, research that showed hesitation by some consumers to buy a whole bunch when they wind up throwing some away because they get too ripe.

The problem? PRICE. The local newspaper ran a story and put it this way:

But these bananas, which are best for two to three days after you open the package, don’t come cheap: Consumers will pay $1.59 per 17.2-ounce package or $2.98 for two packages. Regular bananas cost 49 cents a pound. That means consumers will pay roughly $1 more for the Chiquita Fresh & Ready bananas.

The consumer would pay less than 53 cents for 17.2 oz of bulk bananas and will pay $1.59 for the same amount of the trayed product in modified atmosphere packaging — or almost three times as much.

That premium, combined with the availability of bananas in many venues — convenience stores, discount stores, etc. — plus the fact that many people hit supermarkets, supercenters or warehouse club stores more than once a week means the product is, at best, a niche product.

One wonders how much of this price premium is necessitated by the packaging and the technology and how much is an attempt to enhance profits both by Chiquita and at retail?

Over the years, we’ve found that a lot of innovative new products that deliver real value to consumers die because they are priced in a way that doesn’t encourage consumers to try the product and integrate it into their lifestyles.

Hopefully that won’t happen here.

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry:
Bigg’s Marvin Lyons

Received a call from Bruce McEvoy, Director of Global Affairs for Seald Sweet. Bruce and the Pundit were the lone American members of the trade down at the AllFresh Conference in South Africa.

Bruce was interested in knowing about how sales at retail are progressing on spinach, bagged salads and other items in light of the food safety issues the industry has been facing. In response, we are going to run a series, starting here, of Pundit Pulses. These are interviews conducted by Pundit investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, focused on exactly this issue.

The first one is with Marvin Lyons, produce director, of the Bigg’s division of Supervalu:

Q: How are sales of produce items holding up in light of the food safety scares?

A: Bagged salads have been down 15 to 20 percent since the spinach scare. That whole category really concerns me. Sales have been rough, but the trend is reversing and they are finally starting to pick up again.

We are seeing sales coming back slowly in bagged spinach. Consumer confidence is getting better, and we’re experiencing continuing improvement since we reintroduced it. We just got bagged baby spinach in last week, and ended up having out-of-stocks because we didn’t know how well it was going to sell. We had to adjust our inventory.

In the bagged spinach category, we only got back three SKUs out of the eight we used to carry. Right now we’re carrying Farm Fresh regular flat leaf spinach, Popeye spinach, and Popeye baby spinach because Dole is not producing yet, but we expect Dole back any time now. And we’re supposed to get some Earthbound organic baby spinach in this week. We used to carry both the 5-ounce and 11-ounce packages.

Q: Have you done any special promotions or merchandising to jump start business again?

A: We put up big signage reintroducing Farm Fresh bagged spinach and ran a front page ad with an article telling consumers it was determined safe by FDA, and we talked about it being safe. We also displayed an informational 22-inch by 28-inch poster on a floor stand, as well as posting a sign in the bagged spinach section. We felt it important to promote it and reassure customers, although some retailers chose not to do anything.

Q: You’ve focused your discussion on bagged spinach. What about bulk product?

A: We have bulk spinach back, coming off the east coast now, but that’s off probably 75 percent. It’s performing worse than bagged spinach. It just doesn’t seem like it is coming back as quickly as bagged spinach.

Q: Why would that be when the outbreak was connected to bagged spinach?

A: Some of our customers say they aren’t going to buy any spinach, bulk or bagged. Ironically, others comment that they believe bagged spinach would never be any safer than it is right now because of the extra food safety attention being focused on it.

At the same time, we ran the ad featuring Farm Fresh bagged spinach, with a spread of bagged spinach on the shelf, and the display is improving as we’re replenishing it with additional new SKUs. Two weeks ago, sales of bagged spinach were off over 50 percent, and last week just a little over 40 percent. The trend looks positive for bagged spinach to come back to the pre-recall days.

Q: Has there been any backlash in tomato sales with the news of the Salmonella outbreak?

A: Our customers did not express much concern about the Salmonella outbreak when it was linked to tomatoes, even though Ohio was listed as one of the states with people getting ill. I’m not always in the stores, but produce managers alert me of issues. If they don’t report anything, I don’t get concerned. In this case, the media made it quite clear that the outbreak was over already and there was no danger in eating tomatoes.

One always has to be cautious interpreting sales declines. As Marvin indicates in bagged spinach they have only three of the eight SKUs they used to carry. They also have out-of-stocks because they ordered conservatively, not knowing how well it would sell. So they are down by over half in SKUs, but sales are down only 40%.

If we did a study, we would probably find that because of smaller volume they also cut back shelf space.

Typically sales declines correlate closely with restricted product availability and conservative retail merchandising. It is a sort of chicken-and-the-egg situation — retailers are hesitant to put products on ad and devote large display space until they are certain the product is being well received and has strong consumer demand. But those ads and display spaces are also big pushes to consumer purchasing.

Marvin was kind enough to share with us two very interesting graphics. The first is a poster which is prominently displayed on a floor stand near the spinach. It promotes their private label Farm Fresh spinach. The second image is the front page of Bigg’s ad circular. It features Marvin’s photo and the same message as the poster.

The use of Marvin’s photo gives the ad a personal focus that is probably reassuring to families. I’m not sure the FDA would approve exactly of the wording “Determined Safe By the FDA” since the FDA may think it implies they have somehow inspected or approved of these particular bags of Farm Fresh brand spinach. What Bigg’s means is that the FDA has lifted its advisory to consumers against eating spinach.

In general, these types of specific mentions of safety and the FDA should be stopped soon, probably as soon as they have a normal complement of product. In the short term, such safety-focused messages can help address consumer concerns. In the long term, the mere mention of the subject probably brings up bad associations and discourages sales more than helps.

Much appreciation to Marvin, Bigg’s and Supervalu for sharing this with the industry. It is the willingness of good people and good companies to do this that helps the industry as a whole to advance.

Pundit’s Mailbag —
Sticking Up For The Pundit

A former member of the Board of Directors of one of the national produce organizations and a member of one of the most prominent families in the produce industry passed along this letter:

Just read your response to United’s President/CEO Responds and, while I’ve been tempted previously to comment on a few other topics, I now feel compelled to share some late-night thoughts.

It bothered me to read of the pain and offense you felt.

It also highlighted for me why you take the time to do what you do — at Produce Business and with your newest venture The Perishable Pundit. Aside from being incredibly knowledgeable about just about everything, and accessible, and well-regarded by people in an industry that are not always known for taking advice from others, you’re also caring and tireless, fair and incisive, and of course thorough in your command of facts. And, almost always right.

While you obviously struck a nerve with Tom, eliciting some unkind and perhaps mean-spirited comments, know that we all benefit from the observations you’ve made and the challenges you have lobbed “our” way. I agree with much of what you’ve said about United/PMA and the industry associations’ response to the food safety problems of late. Some was provocative (and maybe even controversial) but nothing you said suggested there was reason for anyone to question your industry loyalty or commitment.

Hang in there Jim.

Count on it. As Nietzsche wrote in Twilight of the Idols: Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stä rker which translates as Whatever does not destroy me makes me stronger.

We’ve started a terrific dialog here on important industry issues and we hope that everyone, including Tom, will be a part of that constructive dialogue.

Yes, we didn’t like those words that struck us as irrelevant to the substantive analysis of the quality of ideas presented. But Tom is a smart, successful and well liked guy, he has a lot to contribute. Our assumption is that he was just having a bad day. Everyone, even the Pundit, is entitled to one now and then.

The important thing is that if the industry is going to advance, then people of many different opinions will have to be heard and instead of ad hominem attack we have to focus on the quality of the argument being presented.

One of the things we have tried to do at the Pundit is to take issues and explore ways of thinking about them, as we did here, with lessons that can be applied to other issues.

There are plenty of smart people in this industry. We want to get them all contributing toward a solution to industry dilemmas.

This being our focus, we still have to say thank you both to this letter writer and the many calls and notes we received from others on the same point. We try hard, so we appreciate the kind words. We’ll work diligently to earn them.

Botulism And Carrot Juice Summary XVII

We’ve been asked to make available in one place our coverage of the recall by Wm. Bolthouse Farms of certain 100% carrot juice products and the broader implications of this issue for food safety. This piece is updated regularly and will be re-run to include new coverage of this outbreak and issue.

We initiated our coverage on October 2, 2006, by publishing the FDA notice to consumers warning them not to drink the product, and we inquired as to the margin of safety on the product. You can find the piece, entitled Oh No! Another Outbreak, right here.

On October 4, 2006, we published Bolthouse And Juice Refrigeration, which analyzed the proper standard of refrigeration for vulnerable products and the ability of both the trade and consumers to maintain that cold chain. Read it here.

October 5, 2006, we ran Botulism III, which detailed the 12 steps in the distribution chain that the industry needs functioning properly in order to maintain the cold chain. The piece challenged retailers to evaluate the integrity of their own cold chain. You can find the piece here.

In The Botulism And E. coli Connection, which we ran on October 6, 2006, we noted similarities between the botulism outbreak on certain Bolthouse carrot juice and the spinach/E. coli outbreak. The piece is right here.

On October 10, 2006, we noted, in Bolthouse Botulism Case Hits Canada, that two Canadians were now victims of this botulism case and noted that it was an unusual cluster to occur at one time if the problem was solely temperature abuse by customers. You can catch it here.

October 11, 2006, we ran Carrot Juice Still On Canadian Shelves, we noted that Canadians were getting upset over the inability of Canada’s public health authorities to execute a simple product recall and that the frequency of recalls was raising questions over the safety of California produce. Read it right here.

On October 13, 2006, we ran Lobbying For Better Refrigeration urging industry lobbyists to work on legislation to make sure consumers have the tools they need to keep product safe at home. The article is here.

October 18, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag — Thermometers In Refrigerators, disagreeing with our urging of legislation regarding thermostats and refrigeration. You can read the piece here.

Spinach Crisis Summary Rewind XXVII

With so much having been written in so short a time, thought it would be helpful to publish a sort of round-up of available material to help people understand the whole situation regarding spinach and this E. coli breakout:

The Perishable Pundit itself has dealt extensively with the subject in several major pieces. On September 15, 2006, we published Spinach Recall Reveals Serious Industry Problems, which addressed the implications of this crisis for the fresh-cut industry. You can read the piece here.

On September 18, 2006, we published Organic Dodges a Bullet, which deals with the implications of the outbreak for the future of organic farming. You can find this piece here. Also on September 18, 2006, we ran a piece called Ramifications and Reflections on the Spinach Recall, which provided our first 10-point analysis of the situation. You can read it here.

September 19, 2006, we asked Is FDA’s Concern Now an Obsession? — a piece in which we assessed whether a national recommendation to not eat spinach made any sense. You can review this here.

On September 20, 2006, we noted 10 Peculiarities about the E. coli Outbreak and reviewed why certain aspects of the situation are unlike past food-safety challenges and other unanswered questions regarding the outbreak. Read this one right here. Also on September 20, 2006, we did our third 10-point list, calling this one “Spinach Recall Begs for Solutions”, where we reviewed how the trade can deal with this issue for the future, including looking at the meat industry, the prospect of universal testing and the use of RFID and GTIN. You can read all this here.

On September 21, 2006, we asked Is FDA Causing Long-term Damage? Here we posed the question of whether punishing the innocent and the guilty alike doesn’t reduce incentives to invest in food safety. You can read this piece right here.

The September 25, 2006 edition of the Pundit includes our fourth 10-point list entitled Though Not ‘All-Clear’, Consumers Can Eat Spinach Again, which reviewed many issues facing the industry as spinach begins to reenter the market, including the FDA’s announcement, PMA consumer research, the behavior of industry association, battles over fresh-cuts and organics, the reintroduction of Salinas Valley production, the FDA’s capabilities, and more. You can read this piece here. Also on September 25, 2006, we reviewed The Role of Retailers And The Future Of Food Safety, which pointed out that buyers have an important role in insuring food safety. Catch this piece here.

Additionally, on September 25, 2006, we ran the Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industryin which a panel of retail pundits gave us insight into the way the spinach issue played in store and with consumers. You can read it here.

The Pundit on September 26, 2006, included an articled entitled The California Department of Health Services Owes People An Explanation in which the question was raised whether certain parties received preferential treatment in the current spinach/E. coli outbreak. Read it right here. Also on September 26, 2006, we did a piece questioning the efficacy of our trace-back systems. The piece was titled More Recalls Trickle In, and you can read it here.

On September 27, 2006, the Pundit analyzed the bad publicity that the Salinas Valley has received and asked Is Salinas Getting A Bum Rap On Food Safety? The piece can be read right here.

September 28, 2006, the Pundit included a piece entitled Call For Stronger FDA that analyzed the demand of some in the food industry for beefing up the FDA and its budget within the context of the spinach/E. coli situation. You can read it here.

On September 29, 2006 we did a piece called Lies, Damned Lies And Statistics that explored the contradiction of modern life that has led things to seem less safe, even as they are actually safer. Read the piece here.

October 2, 2006 we ran The FDA Needs to Reexamine Its Methodology, inquiring why it was necessary to shut down a whole industry when, as far as we know, it was only Dole brand bagged spinach that was implicated? Read it here. Also on October 2, 2006, in a piece called Needless Recalls, we examined how even if many of the recalls were unnecessary, the recalls revealed big flaws in the trade’s traceback systems. You can find the piece here. Another piece October 2, 2006, entitled Deconstructing FDA, analyzed the FDA’s statement regarding the end of the spinach crisis. The piece is right here.

The Pundit also ran a piece entitled Action Plan to Regain Consumer Confidence that both discussed the industry plan and proposed an alternative plan. Read about it here. Also on October 2, 2006, we did a piece called Collateral Damage vs. Assumption of the Risk, which analyzed some of the liability issues surrounding the outbreak. You can find the piece here. Additionally, on October 2, 2006, we published the second in our series of Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry. This one including insight from Bob Edgell of Balls Foods and Ron McCormick of Wal-Mart, regarding reaction at retail as spinach outside California became available. Read it here.

On October 4, 2006, the Pundit ran a piece entitled In Defense of Salinas, in which, based on a discussion with a Salinas farmer, we outlined five points you need to understand about the relationship between the Salinas Valley and this outbreak. You can find it here. Also on October 4, 2006, we published Notes On Natural Selection: It Could Happen To You, which discussed the new food safety plan revealed by Natural Selection Foods and discussed the necessity of product testing. Read it here.

October 5, 2006, we analyzed the implications of the FBI raid in Salinas with Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… You can read the piece here.

We also explained on October 5, 2006, the involvement of Growers Express in the FBI raid in a piece entitled Bailando Juntos (Dancing Together), which you can find right here. What’s more, we discussed on October 5, 2006, why Canada is still banning U.S. spinach and what that implies about relations between the FDA and CFIA. The piece is called U.S. Spinach Still Banned in Canada, and you can read it here.

On October 6, 2006, the Pundit pointed out the importance of considering the human costs of our actions in A Look At The Faces, which you can read here. Also on October 6, 2006, we analyzed how increased use of a federal network was bound to mean the recording of more frequent food safety outlets in a piece entitled PulseNet Ups Ante In Food Safety Battle, which can be read right here.

Although not strictly speaking spinach-related, when one company voluntarily recalled certain green leaf lettuce, it was a decision affected by the overall environment caused by the spinach/E. coli situation. In Nunes Recall Reveals Testing Dilemma, published on October 10, 2006, we analyzed how stricter standards may lead to more frequent recalls. Catch the piece here.

October 11, 2006 we pointed out that the Center for Disease Control was beginning to see fresh-cut in a whole new light. You can read CDC’s Aha! Moment right here. Also on October 11, 2006, we offered Heads Up — Political Posturing On Spinach Begins, pointing out that the a State Senator in California was going to start some hearings. Read the piece here.

On October 12, 2006, in PulseNet Asleep At The Wheel, we detailed that the nation’s food safety bulletin board likes to take off on weekends. Read this astounding piece here.

Dangerous E. coli Found On One Ranch ran on October 13, 2006, and points out that this finding doesn’t tell us much. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006, we ran Fast Testing For Pathogens Necessary, which pointed out that product testing is bound to happen and discussed options and obstacles. You can read it here.

October 18, 2006 the Pundit ran a piece in which PulseNet Explains Why It Doesn’t Work Weekends.You can find the piece here.

On October 19, 2006, the piece Pundit’s Mailbag — Greenhouses and Vertical Farmingexplores the potential of greenhouse and hydroponic growing in the light of the spinach/E. coli crisis. The article also explores the potential for vertical farms in urban neighborhoods. Read it here.

On October 24, 2006, we published Town Hall Spinach Meeting: Unanswered Questions, in which we analyzed what we learned and what was still a mystery after attending a Town Hall Meeting on the spinach crisis at the PMA Convention in San Diego. You can find this piece here.

October 27, 2006, we ran a piece entitled PMA Commits $1 Million To Food Safety Fixes and you can read it here. Also on October 27, 2006, we thought part of the fallout from the crisis would be a reexamination of the industry’s government relations efforts and so wrote PMA/United Merger Fresh On Our Minds. You can read it right here. Additionally on October 27, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Greenhouse Solutions dealing with whether Controlled Environment Agriculture might be the solution to the trade’s food safety issues. Read it right here.

On October 30, 2006, we responded to a very important proposal from several leading members of the buying community with Buyer-Led Food Safety Effort Leaves Open Question of Buyer Commitment.You can read the piece here. After the government announced that it was looking at wild pigs as the culprit in the E. coli contamination, we ran, on October 30, 2006, a piece entitled Now We Know Why Spinach Salad Is Served With Bacon Dressing. Read it right here.

On October 31, 2006, we published Western Growers Association Calls For Mandatory Food Safety Standards, in which we discussed the epochal change taking place as the industry looked to move to mandatory, as opposed to voluntary, food safety standards. You can read it right here.

November 2, 2006, we published Opportunity For Buyer’s Food Safety Initiative, which raised the idea that not involving growers in setting food safety standards was a good idea. Read it here.

On November 7, 2006, we ran a piece entitled NRA Forms Produce Safety Working Group that discussed a new National Restaurant Association initiative to impose standards on suppliers to foodservice. You can find the piece here. Also on November 7, 2006, we published Pundit’s Mailbag — United’s President/CEO Responds (Part 2), which dealt with the question of how much difference a good government relations program can be expected to accomplish at a time of crisis. Read it here.

November 8, 2006 we ran a valuable Pundit’s Mailbag — Insights From A Conscientious Growerthat focused on the value that buyer’s can bring to food safety programs. You can read it here.

In addition, the Pundit has done several smaller pieces that touched on various aspects of this crisis. On September 18, 2006, we raised the issue of whether food safety outbreaks such as this raise long-term issues about the viability of cartoon character tie-ins in Who Has Marketing Fortitude? You can read about it here. Also on September 18, 2006, we wrote Fit To Be Tied, which dealt with the way some companies have little sense of decency when it comes to marketing their products in the midst of a crisis. You can read this one right here.

Additionally on September 18, 2006, our Pundit’s Mailbag focused on letters received by United President/CEO Tom Stenzel and incoming Chairman Emanuel Lazopoulos of Del Monte Fresh, which dealt with the confluence of United’s Board Meeting and the spinach crisis as well as issues of industry leadership. You can find this one here.

On September 19, 2006, we noted that there might be a Greenhouse Opportunity in all this. Read this here. Also on September 19, 2006, we noted that, though fruits and vegetables are healthy, fresh produce is not necessarily the best choice for those with a compromised immune system. The piece is called Marketing Nightmare and you can find it right here.

On September 21, 2006, we did a piece called Wal-Mart Deli/Bakery Has Crisis Of Its Own that draws a link between the difficulty of preventing a Salmonella outbreak at one store with the difficulty of preventing an E. coli outbreak on an industry-wide basis. You can read this piece here.

On September 25, 2006, the Pundit noted Another Oddity In Spinach Crisis and raised the question whether some or all of the product being marketed as conventional might not be organic. Read it right here. Also on September 25, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag which dealt both with the utility of loyalty card programs and with the nature of large, multi-line fresh-cut packing facilities. You can read this one right here. Also we did a short piece on what change was actually necessary if consumers were to be reassured of the safety of spinach. Read it here.

On September 26, 2006, we discussed the issue of recalls and how insurance plays into that. You can read this here. Also had an unrelated piece on Wegmans that included a video clip on how consumer media is dealing with the reintroduction of spinach. You can catch it here.

Additionally on September 26, 2006, we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag exploring the causes of the outbreak. You can read this piece here.

September 27, 2006, we focused on a piece in the Washington Post that helps us in Putting Things In Perspective. How does the Spinach/E. coli outbreak relate to the total numbers that get sick and die each year from foodborne illness? You can read it right here.

On September 28, 2006, we published a terrific Pundit’s Mailbag exploring the frustration the buy side felt in dealing with the spinach/E. coli situation. Read it here.

October 2, 2006, we had some Questions For Western Growers that asked how far the WGA was willing to go to make sure foreign growers meet the same standards as Salinas area farmers. Read about it here. We also asked How Committed Is The Produce Industry To Broad/National Food Safety Program. You can read the piece here.

In addition, on October 2, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: Another Despicable Marketing Attempt that pointed out how a seed company was taking advantage of the situation and, possibly, leading to harm, by pushing its products. Read about it here.

On October 4, 2006, we ran a piece entitled Primary And Secondary Suppliers, which details how this food safety crisis has to impact retail vendor selection. Catch it right here. Also on October 4, 2006, we discussed how to help innocent spinach farmers who were victimized by this crisis in Everyone Needs to Do A Little Bit. The Pundit pledged to do its own bit. Read it right here.

October 5, 2006, we ran a piece focused on another outbreak of foodborne illness — in this case, botulism in carrot juice. The focus, however, was on the necessity to change attitudes as the produce industry becomes less a packing industry and more a processing industry. It is called Botulism III, and you can read it here.

On October 6, 2006 we pointed out The Botulism And E. coli Connection where we explained that our focus on pathogens at the product source, though important, is insufficient. Read it here. Also on October 6, 2006 we ran Pundit’s Mailbag: What Are The feds Up To? This answered a reader’s letter inquiring as to whether the FBI being in Salinas implied industry members weren’t cooperating. You can find this item here.

Food Safety, Good Delivery And Temperature Monitoring was published on October 10, 2006, and pointed out that old temperature recording devices have to be superseded by new temperature monitoring technology on all trucking of vulnerable products. Catch the piece here.

On October 11, 2006, we ran a piece that grew out of the decision of Publix to stop giving some perishables away because of food safety concerns it is called Culture of Risk-Aversion Hurts the Poor and you can read it here.

Nunes Tests Negative on October 13, 2006, raises the question of the appropriateness of recalls for generic E. coli in irrigation water. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006, we ran Lobbying For Better Refrigeration, which pointed out that consumers are not given the tools needed to be vigilant at home. Find it here.

In addition on October 13, 2006, we published PulseNet Redux pointing out, once again, that this outbreak could have been caught earlier had the government not taken off for the weekend. Read it here. Also on October 13, 2006 we ran a Pundit’s Mailbag — Population Inured by Recalls? This piece raised the possibility that frequent recalls, with no subsequent illness, would rebound to the benefit of the trade. Please read it here.

On October 17, 2006, we ran Will Hydroponics Be A Solution To Spinach Woes? and analyzed the potential of hydroponics to head off future outbreaks. Read it here.

October 18, 2006, we had a Pundit’s Mailbag — Thermometers In Refrigerators, in which the Pundit was challenged for urging excessive governmental interference. You can find it right here.

October 20, 2006, we had two pieces related to the Nunes recall on Green Leaf lettuce. First, in a piece entitled Closure For Nunes, we detailed that the product had been declared clean by the FDA. You can read it here. Second, we had a piece entitled Partial Closure In Mexico, which explained that Mexico had decided to allow the import of U.S. lettuce but not spinach. You can find the piece right here.

On November 1, 2006, we ran a piece entitled Canada Opens Door To More, But Not All, US Spinach. You can read it right here. Also on November 1, 2006, we had an interesting Pundit’s Mailbag — The Acceptance Of Risk, which included a fascinating comparison on how the FAA views safety in airlines as opposed to the FDA looking at food. Read it here.

November 3, 2006, we published Food Safety And Why The Problem Will Only Get Worse…Or Won’t, which dealt with the way enhanced detection technology is likely to increase reports of foodborne illness — even as the food supply gets safer. Read it here. Also on November 3, 2006 we ran a brief note entitled Broader Concern For Food Safety, which linked to an FDA-produced slide show on the spinach outbreak as part of a broader food safety perspective. You can catch it right here.

Additionally on November 3, 2006, we ran Pundit’s Mailbag — CPMA’s President Sets The Record Straight, in which CPMA’s President Dan Dempster addressed the importance of communication between the public health authorities in the U.S. and in Canada. Find the piece right here.

On November 7, 2006, we ran FDA Focuses On Retail And Foodservice Food Safety which gave news of an FDA satellite broadcast for retailers and foodservice operators and addressed the general issue of buyers and food safety. Read it here. Also on November 7, 2006, we ran an Erratum correcting some calculations in our previous piece Food Safety And Why The Problem Will Only Get Worse…Or Won’t. You can find it right here.

Several additional pieces appear in the Perishable Pundit today, and they will be incorporated into future iterations of this Spinach Crisis Summary.

In addition to our own work, there are many excellent sources of information out there that do not require payment, membership or registration. Three of the Pundit’s favorites:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has offered daily information on the crisis right here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deal with the outbreak here.

The Produce Marketing Association has maintained an excellent industry resource on the subject right here.

please feel free to write or call if you are looking for specific information not included here. Note that many of the articles and websites have links to other resources.

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