As our initial pieces and follow-up articles pointed out, the method of Food Safety Leadership Council members trying to enforce their standards upon growers has caused quite a controversy. Back channel communication with a lot of different parties has led to a few points:
- Legal is behind a lot of this. How can companies minimize liability? These initiatives are often not in the control of produce or even Quality Assurance.
- Some of the quality assurance people at Food Safety Leadership Council companies are upset with the way this has been handled. They feel that, internally, people bent to the concerns that the legal departments expressed.
- Many supermarket CEOs are bitterly angry at the Food Safety Leadership Council companies. They resent what they perceive as an attempt to ‘one up’ their own food safety credentials. They have been praising the assertiveness of the produce industry in fighting the FSLC.
- The idea of one standard is simply not going to survive. We will have to look at how to live in a multi-standard world. There may be ways to do base audits with add-ons to reduce costs. We have to view regulatory initiatives as base standards and expect companies to supplement — not only in terms of food safety but supplemental environmental, labor and social responsibility standards.
- McDonald’s, with its massive purchases and highly aligned supply chain, is likely to lead the way in establishing separate food safety standards for its purchases.
- The Food Safety Leadership Council companies are all leaders in their fields, and most have agreed to quiet discussions that will likely result in at least some changes to the FSLC standards. However, those companies that have requested vendors to commit to the FSLC standards are not withdrawing those requests. But few companies are signing.