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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur

Perishable Interviews

2006

Maurice Totty
Senior Procurement Manager Produce
Foodbuy/ Compass Group
Charlotte, North Carolina

TAGS: food safety, foodservice, chain, suppliers, distributors, retail, government, outbreak, Totty, Foodbuy, Compass, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Foodbuy’s Maurice Totty points out that foodservice operators are a difficult bunch for the produce industry to get in sync with. The problem is that while retailers have dedicated produce personnel, foodservice operators tend to buy many products, more often being general food and beverage buyers. One exception to that rule is Maurice Totty of Foodbuy, the purchasing arm of the Compass Group. Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, spoke with Maurice as part of our series of Foodservice Pundit Pulses. We’ve reached out to foodservice because the general perception in the industry is that with an ability to focus on a limited number of items and an aligned supply chain driven by contracted produce; foodservice operators do a better job on food safety than do retailers. 12/21/2006

Curtis Granger
Program Manager
Public Health Institute (PHI)
Oakland, California

TAGS: health, program, produce, consumption, public, 5-a-day, nutrition, Granger, Public Health Institute, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Increasing Produce Consumption At The Worksite extends congratulations to Curtis Granger, most recently with Ripe ‘N Ready Tree Fruit, as he has accepted a new position as Program Manager at the Public Health Institute (PHI), Oakland, California. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to talk with Curtis and the interview is very intriguing. The public health approach to boosting produce consumption that Granger is now championing combines a very specific effort to change behavior with a recognition that the public health benefits of increased produce consumption are not randomly distributed through the population. We can get better bang for the buck and help people more by focusing on certain “at risk” groups. 12/20/2006

Samantha Cabaluna
Senior Manager of Communications
Natural Selection Foods
San Juan Bautista, California

R.C. “Buddy” McEntire, Jr.
President and Owner
McEntire Produce
Columbia, South Carolina

TAGS: food safety, testing, water, lettuce, spinach, E. coli, field, Cabaluna, Natural Selection, McEntire, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit Special Science Report: Part 3 — Product Testing At Natural Selection Foods & McEntire Produce recognizes that the first two parts of this report covered the subject of product testing, so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to get “real world” application of product testing from the folks at the epicenter of the spinach/E. coli crisis, Natural Selection Foods, which now tests product as it comes in from the farm. Mira spoke with Samantha Cabaluna, Senior Manager of Communications at Natural Selection Foods. And we finish our Pundit Special Science Report with insights into another processor’s program for product testing. In the first part of our Special Report, Yuma Post-Harvest Specialist Jorge Fonseca referenced a long-established program at McEntire Produce in Columbia, South Carolina. Mira touched base with R.C. “Buddy” McEntire, Jr., and got him to give us a little background on his food safety efforts. 12/15/2006

Charles Sanchez
Director and Professor of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences
University of Arizona, Yuma Ag Extension Service
Yuma, Arizona

TAGS: water, testing, irrigation, food safety, Salinas, Arizona, growers, perchlorate, Sanchez, University of Arizona, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit Special Science Report: Part 2 — The Science Of Waterborne Bacteria in addition to exploring the differences in environmental conditions and growing practices between Salinas and Yuma, we still wanted to know more about Yuma and particularly water issues there, so Mira Slott, Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, spoke with Charles Sanchez of the Yuma Ag Extension Service and Director and Professor of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona, Trevor Suslow of UC Davis and Richard Smith of the Cooperative Extension in Monterey County, California. 12/15/2006

Jorge Fonseca
Post-Harvest Specialist
University of Arizona, Yuma Agriculture Extension Service
Yuma, AZ

TAGS: Salinas, Yuma, irrigation, spinach, E. coli, food safety, water, outbreaks, Arizona, Fonseca, University of Arizona, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit Special Science Report: Part 1 — Food Safety Vulnerabilities In Yuma And Salinas asks what do we really know about E. coli and the growing end of the business? With everyone focused on green onions, it’s worth noting that we do not fully understand the cause of the spinach/E. coli outbreak. There was a lot of attention paid to Salinas and possible problems with that growing area. Now that production has shifted to Yuma, we wanted to assess the vulnerabilities in the region and visit with academic researchers in Yuma as well as Salinas working to understand the horticultural roots of foodborne illness outbreaks. To kick off the effort, Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, spoke to Jorge Fonseca Post-Harvest Specialist at the University of Arizona, Yuma Agriculture Extension Service. 12/15/2006

Jon Austin
Senior Vice President
Fleishman-Hillard
St. Louis, Missouri

Brian Dixon
Vice President of Marketing
Taco John’s
Cheyenne, Wyoming

TAGS: food safety, outbreak, lettuce, E. coli, taco, Austin, Fleishman-Hillard, Dixon, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Taco John’s Drops Its Produce Vendor Too mentions we haven’t written about a separate E. coli outbreak that has been going on in the Midwest at Taco John’s, or its decision to drop its produce vendor, Bix Produce Company. Despite the oddity of two taco chains having outbreaks at the same time, the testing indicates they are different outbreak strains. In order to understand the story better, we had Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, talk to both Jon Austin, Senior Vice President, Fleishman-Hillard, a PR agency brought in specifically to deal with the situation for Bix Produce and a Brian Dixon, Vice President of Marketing at Taco John’s, who shared the following information. This business of dumping one’s produce vendor the minute there is an outbreak is getting bizarre. 12/15/2006

Joel Ippolito
President
Ippolito Fruit and Produce
Burlington, Ontario

TAGS: Salmonella, spinach, testing, safety, CPMA, curly, recall, Ippolito, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Spinach Take Two — This time It’s Salmonella thinks a salmonella finding on a small sample of Texas-grown, Canadian packed Queen Victoria brand curly spinach at one retail store in Atlantic Canada wouldn’t be news if it wasn’t for the hyper-sensitivity to foodborne illness and spinach that we are living in right now. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to get the full story. She spoke to both a representative of the processor and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Joel Ippolito, President of Ippolito Fruit and Produce, Burlington, Ontario. 12/14/2006

Michael Spinazzola
President
Diversified Restaurant Systems
San Diego, California

TAGS: Foodservice, food safety, spinach, Subway, auditing, distributor, Spinazzola, Diversified Restaurant Systems, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Michael Spinazzola Diversified Restaurant Systems to better understand the elements of effective food safety programs, we are running a series of Pundit Pulses focused on foodservice operators as the industry consensus is that foodservice is ahead of retail in the quality of food safety programs. Today’s interviewee, Michael Spinazzola of Diversified Restaurant Systems, represents a larger organization as his company supplies the Subway chain. He also has a PMA connection, serving on the foodservice board of PMA.

Mira Slott, Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, spoke to Michael about food safety. The Pundit extends much appreciation to Michael for helping the industry by giving some insight into his thoughts on food safety. We take away three big concepts. 12/6/2006

Michele Payne-Salomon
President and Founder
Extreme Health
Walnuut Creek, California

Robert Schueller
Director of Public Relations
Melissa’s/World Variety
Los Angeles, California

Karen Caplan
President and CEO
Frieda’s
Los Angeles, California

TAGS: Goji, berries, Dole, Costco, health, Tibet, Payne-Salomon, Schueller, Melissa’s, Extreme Health, Frieda’s, Caplan, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Are Goji Berries The Next Health Craze? received an astonishing number of inquiries about Goji berries lately— some from consumers looking for where to buy them, a few from retailers looking for where to buy them, and many just looking for information. Upon investigation we found Dole recently put its brand on dried Goji berries, interesting because Dole brand opens the door to generalized retail distribution. We sent Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, out to learn more. Dole wasn’t saying much about its dried Goji berry venture, so she spoke to various people involved in some way with Goji: Michele Payne-Salomon, President and Founder of Extreme Health; Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s/World Variety and Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s. 12/5/2006

Janet Erickson
Vice President of Purchasing and Quality Assurance
PMA Executive Committee Chairman
Del Taco
Lake Forest, California

Daniel Crimmins
Purchasing Manager
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, Indiana

TAGS: Foodservice, buyer, buyer-led, Food Safety, spinach, Erickson, Crimmins, Notre Dame, PMA, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Del Taco’s Janet Erickson Notre Dame’s Dan Crimmins revisits our series of Retail Pulses in which we spoke with leading retailers to see how they were dealing with different facets of the spinach situation. One of the things that has come across in the course of discussion on the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative is that most shippers think the foodservice industry is light years ahead of retail on food safety. We thought we would conduct a Foodservice Operator Pulse to see what foodservice operators think. As such Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, spoke with Janet Erickson, Vice President of Purchasing and Quality Assurance for Del Taco and PMA Executive Committee Chairman and also Daniel Crimmins, Purchasing Manager at the University of Notre Dame. 12/1/2006

Tim York
President
Markon Cooperative
Salinas, CA

TAGS: Buyer, buyer-led, food safety, retail, spinach, PMA, York, Markon, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Tim York Takes Leadership Role In Food Safety Crisis reports that we’ve been dealing extensively with the Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative. Growing out of initial conversations between Dave Corsi of Wegmans and Tim York of the Markon Cooperative, the Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative was quickly endorsed by nine important buying organizations, now another 10 important retailers have added their signatures to the letter, all of whom we list here. Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, talked to Tim York to get an update on the progress of the Buyer-Led Food Safety Initiative. 11/21/2006

Ed Adamczyk
Produce Manager
Westborn Markets
Dearborn, Michigan

John Clark
Senior Produce Manager
Westborn Markets
Dearborn, Michigan

Mike O’Brien
Vice President of Produce and Floral
Schnucks Markets
St. Louis, Missouri

Bruce Peterson
Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager of Perishables
Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Arkansas

TAGS: spinach, outbreak, E. coli, retail, sales, O’Brien, promotion, signage, merchandising, Schnucks, Wal-Mart, Adamczyk, Clark, Peterson, Wal-Mart, Schnucks, Westborn, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Westborn Markets, Schnucks, Wal-Mart in response to industry inquiries, we launched a Pundit Pulse series to ascertain the way the spinach crisis is impacting sales at retail. Mira Slott, Special Investigator and Special Projects Editor for the Pundit, went to work. Are sales recovering? How fast? Are other produce items benefiting? What are people doing that works? As always the Pundit expresses great appreciation to those retailers willing to share their experiences with the whole trade. In today’s Pundit Pulse, we reached a store-level manager at Westborn Markets in Dearborn, Michigan. Every so often we like to go to the store level where so many things VPs think are happening, don’t happen. In this case we found a problem with outdated store-level signage. 11/15/2006

Lawrence C. Edwards
Director Food Safety Programs
Food Marketing Institute
Washington, D.C.

Bill Greer
Director of Communications
Food Marketing Institute
Washington, D.C.

TAGS: FMI, buyers, produce, food safety, initiative, outbreak, E. coli, Edwards, Greer, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

FMI Steps Into The Food Safety Fray comments that here at the Pundit, we’ve been focused quite heavily on the role buyers can play in helping the industry produce safer produce. Now FMI is stepping into the game, organizing a food safety conference on December 5, 2006. We sent Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Lawrence C. Edwards, Director Food Safety Programs, and Bill Greer, Director of Communications, at the Food Marketing Institute. One super big mistake: Media have been banned from the conference. If the goal is to build public confidence in the process the industry is going through, you not only open it to media, you send a velvet invitation to the big consumer media groups. 11/10/2006

Marvin Lyons
Produce Director
Bigg’s division of Supervalu
Milford, OH

TAGS: Bigg’s, Supervalu, spinach, salads, merchandising, sales, FDA, Lyons, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Bigg’s Marvin Lyons received a call recently from Bruce McEvoy, Director of Global Affairs for Seald Sweet. 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. 11/9/2006

Dr. Donna Garren
VP Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs
National Restaurant Association
Washington, D.C.

TAGS: National Restaurant Association, tomatoes, Salmonella, outbreak, buyer, leafy, Garren, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

NRA Forms Produce Safety Working Group The National Restaurant Association has formed something called the Produce Safety Working Group, whose purpose is to develop new food safety standards for both growers and distributors who supply fresh produce to restaurants. NRA is being secretive and doesn’t want to identify the names of the 20 foodservice operators contributing staff to this effort. Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, interviewed Dr. Donna Garren, VP of Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs for the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C. What we should have learned from the FDA loss of confidence in the industry is that food safety is not something that we negotiate over. It has to be driven by the best scientific knowledge we have. This initiative seems a way to move in that direction. 11/7/2006

Dr. Wences Arvelo
EIS Medical Officer
CDC Foodborne Illness Division
Atlanta, GA

TAGS: Salmonella, CDC, Pulsenet, DNA, outbreak, Arvelo, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Salmonella Update: CDC Still Searching reveals the Centers for Disease Control are continuing to investigate the Salmonella outbreak. Although the authorities are comfortable saying it is produce-related, they are uncertain of the exact cause — although they report many patients reporting eating “red brown tomatoes.” We asked Pundit Investigator Mira Slott to speak with Dr. Wences Arvelo, EIS Medical Officer in the CDC Foodborne Illness Division and try to learn more. Here we cover a few key points. 11/2/2006

Peter Gerner-Smidt M.D., Ph.D.
Acting Chief, Enteric Diseases Laboratory Response Branch
Center for Disease Control & Prevention
Atlanta, Georgia

TAGS: PulseNet, spinach, CDC, illness, outbreaks, foodborne, Gerner-Smidt, Center for Disease Control, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

PulseNet Explains Why It Doesn’t Work Weekends details how we’ve been exploring the story both here and here that PulseNet, which is the major mechanism for identifying foodborne illness outbreaks, closes on the weekend. In the spinach crisis, the key report connecting the dots of people getting sick and their consumption of bagged spinach was sent to PulseNet after 5 pm on Friday, when PulseNet was closed for the weekend. It is possible that people got sick, because that important data sat unlooked at until Monday morning. Here we link to the LA Times article that establishes the timeline. Pundit Investigator Mira Slott was able to get a comment from Peter Gerner-Smidt M.D., Ph.D., Acting Chief of Enteric Diseases in the Laboratory Response Branch at the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. 10/18/2006

Lee Frankel
President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Nogales, Arizona

TAGS: protectionist, lettuce, Mexico, recall, trade barrier, ban, Frankel, Fresh Produce Association, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Is Mexico Giving U.S. A Taste Of Its Own Medicine? following up on our piece Lettuce Ban: Is Mexico Protecting Health Or Practicing Protectionism, which you can read here, Pundit Investigator Mira Slott interviewed Lee Frankel, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas — an association of Mexican-produce importers and distributors — to get his take on this perplexing situation in which Mexico is banning imports of all U.S. lettuce. 10/12/2006

Erich Kuss
Senior Agricultural Attaché
Embassy of the United States
Mexico

TAGS: protectionist, lettuce, Mexico, recall, trade barrier, ban, Kuss, Embassy, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Lettuce Ban: Is Mexico Protecting Health Or Practicing Protectionism? reports that this morning we were greeted by an announcement that Mexico had banned the import of U.S. lettuce. At least from a public safety standpoint, to ban all U.S. lettuce imports made no sense. We searched for more answers and Pundit Investigator Mira Slott found some in her interview with Erich Kuss, Senior Agricultural Attaché, Embassy of the United States, Mexico. 10/11/2006

Jim Goeser
Owner
Jim’s Market and Locker, Inc.
Harlan, Iowa

TAGS: E. coli O157:H7, ground beef, USDA, FSIS, Goeser, Jim’s Market, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Beef Recall Smacks Of Incompetence got a notice from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service with a recall of 5,226 pounds of ground beef possibly containing E. coli O157:H7 that came from Jim’s Market and Locker, Inc. which seemed very odd. The release said the products were produced on August 31st and September 1st, and the recall was issued on October 6, well over a month after this product was produced. Why would the USDA suddenly get microbiological tests back on 35-day-old product? Jim’s owner Jim Goeser said tests have negated the government’s claim that his meat may have the same E. coli strain responsible in the recent spinach outbreak. Goeser said he doesn’t expect many returns, since the meat had a 25-day window for consumption that ended last month, and he elaborates in an interview here with Pundit Investigator Mira Slott. 10/10/2006

Danny Dempster
President
Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Heather Holland
Senior Technical Manager, Food Safety and Government Relations
Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

TAGS: spinach, outbreak, FDA, CFIA, CPMA, phytosanitary, Dempster, Holland, Canadian, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

U.S. Spinach Still Banned in Canada identifies an area that has shown severe weakness is the relationship between the FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As an American, it is easy to blast the CFIA, but other countries are not obligated to parrot whatever the FDA says and, if anything, the CFIA is guilty of taking what the FDA says more seriously than the FDA does. One day the FDA is saying that nobody should eat spinach from anywhere — a week later everything is safe, although nothing has changed. How does the CFIA know that the FDA didn’t bow to political pressure and there isn’t still danger? To understand better the exact situation in Canada, Mira Slott, our ace reporter and Special Projects Editor here at the Pundit, interviewed Danny Dempster, President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), and Heather Holland, CPMA’s Senior Technical Manager, Food Safety and Government Relations. 10/5/2006

Woody Johnson
VP Sales and Marketing
Growers Express
Salinas, California

TAGS: spinach, E. coli, retail, outbreak, food safety, FDA, Johnson, Growers Express, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Bailando Juntos (Dancing Together) presents a new name brought into the spinach fiasco by the execution of the search warrants in Salinas is Growers Express. Pundit Investigator Mira Slott spoke with Woody Johnson, VP Sales and Marketing for Growers Express, who was kind enough to share his take with the industry. One of the Growers Express technical programs is called “Bailando Juntos”, which translates into “Dancing Together”, and they define the program as “Sharing expertise to drive excellence.” With news reports still coming out every day, the industry will be dancing together for some time. 10/5/2006

Robert DiPiazza
Senior Vice President and General Merchandising Manager for Fresh
Sam’s Club
Bentonville, Arkansas

Jerry Hull
Senior Produce Buyer
Sam’s Club
Bentonville, Arkansas

Bob Harding
Produce Buyer
Westborn Markets
Berkley, Michigan

Don Harris
Vice President Produce/Floral
Wild Oats
Boulder, Colorado

Jeff Lyons
Senior Vice President of Fresh Foods
Costco
Issaquah, Washington

Mike O’Brien
Vice President of Produce
Schnucks Markets
St. Louis, Missouri

TAGS: spinach, E. coli, retail, outbreak, food safety, FDA, DiPiazza, Hull, Harding, Harris, Lyons, O’Brien, Sam’s, Westborn, Wild Oats, Costco, Schnucks, Perishable Pundit, Jim Prevor, Mira Slott

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry wonders what has it been like on the front lines during this spinach/E. coli crisis. The Pundit asked Mira Slott, ace Special Projects Editor to reach out and capture the pulse of the industry at retail. We thus present the first in a new series in which we collect opinions and insights from different industry sectors on different subjects. Our Pundit Panel of the day includes: Robert DiPiazza, Senior Vice President and General Merchandising Manager for Fresh, and Jerry Hull, Senior Produce Buyer, Sam’s Club; Bob Harding, Produce Buyer, Westborn Markets; Don Harris, Vice President Produce/Floral, Wild Oats; Jeff Lyons, Senior Vice President of Fresh Foods, Costco; and Mike O’Brien, Vice President of Produce, with Schnuck Markets. 9/25/2006

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