Note the small print on any condiment bottles: “Not for Resale.” Hidden within Bob Brackett’s testimony before a Senate committee is this doozy:
On September 14, FDA held a press teleconference and issued a press release alerting consumers about the outbreak, stating that preliminary epidemiological evidence suggested that bagged fresh spinach may be the cause and advising consumers to avoid bagged fresh spinach. Over the course of the next few days, the advisory was expanded to include all fresh spinach to ensure that consumers could adequately avoid eating any tainted product. This revision to the initial advisory became necessary when we learned that bagged spinach was sometimes sold in an un-bagged form at the retail level.
So, basically, what this is saying is that every bag of spinach sold in a retail package should have a line: “Not To Be Opened And Sold As Loose Spinach,” and retailers have to be informed that their salad bars and deli operations have to purchase specific foodservice packages of spinach.
Here is a simple way that retailers could help the industry: All retailers should sign a pledge that no packaged product bought for retail sale will be used loose in their stores.
This commitment fits with the trend of substantial retail foodservice operations using both more produce and different produce than is sold at retail. It also will end a sacred tradition at retail in which deli managers source produce by sending the night clerk in to steal it.
By being able to reassure the FDA in any future outbreak that retail product is retail product and foodservice product is foodservice product, we significantly reduce the likelihood of a total industry shutdown.