It’s the nature of the news business that bad stuff dominates.

Sometimes it pays to stay out of the news

Fred Wilkinson
Food for Thought

Let’s face it: Half a million commuters make it to and from work safely is not news; two die and three injured in five-car pile-up is.

In the produce business, there’s no worse news than food safety outbreaks, related product recalls — and worst of all, product purchasers falling seriously ill or dying.

The produce industry endured just such a game-changing tragedy about three and half ago years during the E. coli outbreak in fresh spinach.

As a wakeup call for the industry and the way it would address food safety, it was akin to the way the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, forever changed how the U.S. would look at and deal with terrorism and national security.

The outbreak was bad news for marketers of leafy greens in particular, and, like I said, bad news is often big news.

Handlers of spinach and similar products formed the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement in response to the outbreak.

But how much media attention did that positive response receive compared to the tragedy that inspired it?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest — which has frequently been critical of the food industry over the years — to its credit has paid LGMA a compliment for its efforts.

CSPI’s Nutrition Action Health Letter recently had an article  (with the catchy title “CAUTION! On the Menu: Russian Roulette”) looking at food safety incidents, including the 2006 spinach case.

Despite the inflammatory title, the article is even-handed in detailing the events of the outbreak and steps taken in its aftermath.

CSPI ends the piece noting that since LGMA’s formation and implementation of handling protocols there have been no large-scale outbreaks of serious illness and no deaths linked to California leafy greens.

That’s good news.

But how much of the general public has even heard of LGMA or its efforts?

Sometimes no news is good news.

That the general public doesn’t know about LGMA means it’s working because fewer people are getting sick.

E-mail fwilkinson@thepacker.com

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