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Pundit’s Mailbag —
Population Inured By Recalls

We mentioned the Nunes green leaf lettuce recall here and heard a lot of praise for the proactive attitude The Nunes Company took in initiating a voluntary recall when nothing had been found on the product:

The Nunes Company could not have done a better job with the green leaf. Their response was evocative of the way the Tylenol and Odwala Juice crises were handled, and those two incidents are normally held out as the best examples of what to do.

I agree that we will have a rash of recalls as new and more stringent tests, such as this water check, are now in place, and a hyper-sensitive news media is looking for all related stories on food safety.

While this would seem to be a negative in the short term, it could be a positive in the long term. The more recalls and warnings occur with no one getting ill, the less sensitive the public will be to the announcements. Also, the more commonplace these warnings, the less interested the media will be. The overall numbing affects of overexposure will occur.

Also, with each of these incidents, we see a faster, more specific response, again, with no illness or death reported. This will eventually bolster consumer confidence.

Finally, the next wave of “in depth” stories on safety in our perishable food chain should, and if history proves correct, will stress the health benefits of fresh food and especially produce consumption weighed against the infinitesimal risk of infection as borne out by data.

All in all, more responses like Nunes without subsequent infections will do more to restore the public confidence in Salinas produce, fresh produce in general and food safety.

— Richard Kaiser
The Richard Kaiser Company

Richard is reacting to my take that constant recalls will be bad for the industry. Richard is basically saying that if we have a lot of recalls, people will become used to them and see them as background noise, the way lions in Africa that are raised in game reserves don’t object to the vehicles going by; they see them as part of nature. But open the door and break the profile of the vehicle and you can get eaten pretty easily.

It is a reasonable point. But I think it would be better if we didn’t have to announce recalls at all.

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