The Produce Marketing Association responded to recent food safety issues in the produce industry with an announcement that its board had authorized $1 million over the next 14 months for a food safety program:
The plan will be coordinated with key industry association partners to avoid duplication and ensure a timely response. The activities in the plan will also form the basis of proactive communications with state and federal government regulators.
The multi-faceted program will include a research agenda to enhance growing and processing practices, enhanced education and training for all parts of the supply chain, and a verification component to help industry members evaluate their adherence to benchmark practices. In addition, the plan calls for a consumer communications campaign aimed at rebuilding confidence in produce.
It was an important thing to do. If it accomplishes nothing else, it allows the PMA to go back to government and show that the industry is making a good faith effort to enhance safety.
Let us hope it doesn’t give the industry a false sense of security that the problem is being “taken care of.” First, the amount of money being spent, though a very significant investment for PMA, is still a very small amount compared to the enormity of the problem.
“A consumer communications campaign” alone would not be considered heavily budgeted if the proposal was to spend ten times a million dollars. There are 300 million Americans — and remember this crisis affected the perceptions of Mexicans, Canadians and others all around the world.
If you want to spend just one penny per American, you need to spend $3 million. And how much awareness does one penny buy you?