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Buying Community Strangely Quiet
On Food Safety Standards

On January 19, 2007, writing on behalf of “Markon Cooperative and 21 other major buyers of fresh produce,” a letter was sent out over the signature of Tim York to the California Department of Food & Agriculture. The final line of that letter:

“We strongly urge that the marketing agreement be implemented.”

The question is were these people all serious or was this a matter of PR?

The Buyer-led Food Safety Initiative has 22 total signatories. Of these 22, three have declared that they will only buy from signatories to the California Marketing Agreement:

David Corsi, Wegmans Food Markets
Reggie Griffin, Kroger Company
Tim York, Markon Cooperative

This leaves 19 total signatories who have not yet agreed to restrict their supply chains to those who have signed the California Marketing Agreement.

Ron Anderson, Safeway, Inc.
Gary Bergstrom, Publix
Craig Carlson, Pathmark Stores
Jim Corby, Food Lion
Greg Corrigan, Raley’s
Brian Gannon, Big Y Supermarkets
Gary Gionnette, Supervalu Inc.
Mike Hansen, Sysco Corporation
Don Harris, Wild Oats Markets
Gene Harris, Denny’s Corporation
Mark Hilton, Harris-Teeter
Craig Ignatz, Giant Eagle
Jim Lemke, C.H. Robinson Worldwide
Mike O’Brien, Schnuck Markets
Frank Padilla, Costco Wholesale
Greg Reinauer, Amerifresh, Inc.
Roger Schroeder, Stater Bros.
James Spilka, Meijer, Inc.
Mark Vanderlinden, Price Chopper

There is a lot of resentment building. There is a sense that buyers led the supply community to believe that this is what they wanted but, now, when it is possible that by restricting the supply chain it might cost a buying organization some money, all the sudden the buying community has gone quiet.

We’ve been willing to cut the buyers a break. As we mentioned in Trust But Verify, we could live with a declaration that all product bought will either be from companies who signed on to the California Marketing Agreement or from companies independently audited to meet or exceed Marketing Agreement standards.

There is still time to act, but not much. By law, handlers have to sign on before the fiscal year starts on April 1, 2007. If the buying community doesn’t act now, the suppliers won’t know what standard the buyers want. Or, more specifically, what standard the buyers are willing to pay for.

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