Tell it to The Packer | Letter to the Editor

Tony Ertle, produce manager
Edwards Right Price Market, Fort Morgan, Colo.

I am writing in response to Earl Reichle’s letter to the editor about food safety on the retail level (“Maintain safety at the retail level, Page A6, March 24).

I am a produce manager at an independent grocery retailer in a small rural town in Colorado. I work hand in hand with farmers during the busy harvest times in summer and throughout the year.

Although I agree with Mr. Reichle’s belief that the onus of food safety should not rest solely on the shoulders of the growers, his assertion that grocery retailers do not care or worry about the “bacteria and disease” spread to their consumers is totally false.

Billions of dollars are spent annually by grocery retailers to prevent foodborne illnesses from spreading to the population, especially to their consumers whose health and trust are vital for financial success.

I personally take food safety extremely serious in my produce department, and my produce clerks and the store’s employees are constantly supervised in this area.

In our small town, repeat business is absolutely crucial, and just one case of a person who gets sick from our products can lead to catastrophic consequences for our store.

I can understand Mr. Reichle’s frustrations with the constraints laid upon him by a variety of sources regarding the steps he must take to ensure the food he distributes is pathogen free, but, as in the case of the Jensen brothers in Granada, Colo., whose infected cantaloupe killed more than 30 people and sickened more than a hundred more, can we really afford not to place such constraints on the grower?

In my opinion, it is everyone’s responsibility to take food safety concerns seriously.

From the grower to the distribution centers to the retailer to the consumer, if we don’t all take the necessary steps to protect the food chain from foodborne illnesses, people will continue to get sick or die, and there will surely be plenty of blame to go around.