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Boskovich Hires Former
Yum! Brands Exec

Well, they say that what goes around comes around. And that must be true in this case. Boskovich Farms has made an announcement:


Boskovich Farms, leading grower/shipper/ processor of fresh produce, is pleased to announce that Dave Murphy has joined the company as Director of Food Safety and Quality Systems. Dave’s position will coordinate the continued development of the company’s quality and food safety programs.

Dave enjoyed a successful career at Yum! Brands restaurants, developing their food safety and quality programs through partnerships with produce suppliers, and building long term relationships within the industry. He also worked with fresh-cut processor Ready Pac Produce as Vice President of Quality Assurance and most recently with Danaco Solutions, a produce procurement company, where he provided food safety support for many leading restaurant companies. Dave served as Chairman of PMA’s Food Service Board, and was a member of PMA’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

George Boskovich, Chief Executive Officer of Boskovich Farms, Inc., says “Dave is recognized and well respected in our industry. His background on both the supplier and customer sides makes him not only an asset to us, but to our food service and retail customers as well. Dave’s knowledge and experience will be a valuable resource for our company. His expertise offers our customers the assurance and the confidence that Boskovich Farms is committed to producing safe and healthy products.”

“The food safety and quality programs of Boskovich Farms are excellent” adds Dave Murphy. “We want to make sure we remain in the leadership position in the industry and with our customers. I think customers appreciate working with a family-owned business that is able to relate closely with them, and can make things happen without a lot of red tape”.

Dave is a veteran in the industry as the announcement explains. But he won his fame in the produce trade running the quality and food safety program for fresh produce at Yum! Brands for over a decade.

Though Murphy wasn’t working for Yum! Brands when its Taco Bell restaurants experienced an E. coli outbreak in December of 2006, it is ironic that he now works for Boskovich, the company wrongly implicated by Taco Bell as the cause of the outbreak and the company that is suing his former employer.

Not all that long ago we published Boskovich Sues Taco Bell and pointing out the following:

In the midst of the Taco Bell/E.coli 0157:H7 situation we published Taco Bell’s PR Fiasco, which pointed out that Taco Bell had unfairly released preliminary information because of its own interest in seeing the situation resolved. This is part of what we wrote:

The key to the Johnson & Johnson campaign, though, was to first clear the decks by recalling everything and then, having identified and fixed the problem, come back to market with a new triple-sealed Tylenol.

The plan is now standard and Taco Bell was in a sense trying to do the same thing: They closed implicated restaurants, threw out all the food, sanitized them and then were ready to do business again.

In this case, however, the translation from the Tylenol incident to food was difficult. The Tylenol method depends, crucially, on being able to identify and solve the problem.

So what Taco Bell executives wanted was for something… anything… to be identified as the “cause” of the problem so that the problem could be “fixed.”

To publicize two separate presumptive positives would keep doubt alive in the mind of the consumer, so the decision was made to announce the green onion presumptive positive and squash the chili pepper presumptive positive.

The truth is that most food safety experts were aghast at Taco Bell’s decision to release the presumptive results at all. One put it this way:

“Taco Bell made public the results of its presumptive E coli testing. Such tests are known to frequently result in false positives. Taco Bell consciously made this decision without regard for confirmatory testing in the works by FDA. This premature release of misleading data and subsequent premature incrimination of a particular food item, green onions, formed the basis for the Taco Bell statements about the safety of operations that I and others have pointed out.

Until the food item that served as the vehicle for E. coli is identified, Taco Bell cannot rightfully claim the outbreak is over. You know Taco Bell has some pretty sharp food safety people, I have worked with them…. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the discussions leading up to the release of the presumptive positive results.”

After announcing the presumptive positive on green onions, Taco Bell removed them from their restaurants. The obvious implication: Like Tylenol’s triple-seal cap, Taco Bell wanted its customers to believe that the removal of green onions was a corrective action to the problem.

In effect, of course, this indicated that Taco Bell was willing to throw the grower of its green onions to the wind to save its own skin. This is not really surprising since Taco Bell dumped Ready Pac, its actual direct supplier, for no reason at all — just a hope that it could intimate that other people were responsible for the Taco Bell problem.

Now the LA Times is reporting that Boskovich Farms is suing Taco Bell. As Boskovich’s attorney Thomas Girardi explains:

“Taco Bell engaged in an irresponsible and intentional crusade to save its own brand at the expense of an innocent supplier.”

Which is certainly the way it seems. Taco Bell claims it was just releasing all the information it had, but it did not release the presumptive positive on chili pepper.

The most reasonable explanation, as we wrote back in December 2006, is that Taco Bell desperately wanted to get the situation behind it and, to do so, it needed a simple “cause” of the problem.

An easily expendable item — green onions — fit the bill. Boskovich paid a big price, and now Taco Bell should pay up to compensate for the harm caused by its irresponsible and self-serving actions.

Boskovich is famous for green onions, and the FDA has identified these as a higher risk item, but a food safety expert once wrote us and singled out Boskovich:

I have to take my hat off to those like George Boskovich, who hired my company years ago after they were wrongly implicated in the green onion crisis to turn his company upside down and find the problems and weak links again and again, day after day. Today, Boskovich Farms is one of the finest processors in the business because not only are they constantly challenging their systems but they also are not getting rich on it either. (By the way, they were doing a great job of food safety before the green onion crisis — another testament to their programs four years ago.)

Boskovich Farms is good, honest people doing their due diligence, as many others we service are also trying to do.

We are sure Dave Murphy will do fine. The key to being a good food safety director: A supportive management team. He has that at Boskovich and that is more than half the battle.

Best of luck to Dave in his new role.

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