National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Checking in with one industry leader yesterday, he said the failed merger of United and PMA is having a real cost to the industry now. With both PMA and United Fresh engaging members for a comprehensive response to the FDA proposed produce safety and preventive control rules (plus more to follow), it will mean some duplication of effort by member companies. What do readers think? Is it overkill to have both organizations working full tilt on food safety regulations, or will that redundancy somehow pay off?

I noted one headline this morning in the OC Weekly "Be ready to pay more for lettuce - a lot more" The blog post went on to refer to The Packer's coverage of temperature swings in desert growing areas. pimping the pub as the "bible of the produce industry."  Check out one of the apostles, Mike Hornick, and his coverage of the desert lettuce deal here.

Another headline from around the Web detailed the NPD's report on fresh fruit and snacking. The NPD report  is only teased in this news release, headlined "Fresh fruit is top and fastest growing snack in America."

The NPD research found, according to the release,  that for the two-year period ending March 2012, fresh fruit was consumed as a snack in 10 more times a year than chocolate and and 25 times more than potato chips. Those are the second and third most popular snack foods, NPD says.

NPD researchers found that fresh fruit ranks number one in five of the six needs states: health and weight, hunger satiety, convenience, routine/habit and satisfying a craving.

Also working favor of fruit is the fact that it is a snack option that transcends all ages. Teens eat the least amount of fruit but they eat more as they get older, and consumers over 65 eat the most fruit. 

The Drudge Report this morning featured a story with the headline "New data show 1 in 4 children on food stamps."  From the story, sharp criticism for Ag Secretary Vilsack:

“It has become sadly clear that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack wishes to make welfare part of the normal American experience, with no regard for social or economic consequences. How else can you explain why he gave an award to a recruitment worker for overcoming the ‘mountain pride’ of rural Americans?” (Alabama Republican Jeff ) Sessions told The Daily Caller, recalling one of the many outreach efforts the USDA has engaged in over the years to get more people on SNAP.

But how much worse would it be if Vilsack was trying to discourage eligible families from applying for food stamps? While welfare shouldn't be "normalized," don't fault the USDA for trying to deliver the program. That's their job.

There is another report bemoaning food waste. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK issued a news release on the Global Food Report. Find the full report here.

From the report, an indictment of a focus on cosmetic standards at retail. Can't we all just buy ugly produce? From the report:

Incongruously, it is in the most ‘advanced’ and affluent societies where the largest quantities
of food are wasted at the consumer end of the chain.[52,65] Although mature, developed societies have substantially more efficient, effective and well-engineered market logistics, 30% of what is harvested from the field never actually reaches the marketplace (primarily the supermarket) due to trimming, quality selection and failure to conform to purely cosmetic criteria.[66]

This can include such reasons as the packaging is slightly dented, one piece of fruit is bad in an otherwise perfectly good  bag of fruit, or it is thrown out in the warehouse because it had ripened too soon.

In this way the global food industry produces large amounts of food waste, with retailers generating 1.6 million tonnes of food waste per year.[66] Of the quantity that does reach the supermarket shelves, 30–50% is thrown away by the final purchaser in the home,[52,66] often at the direction of conservative ‘use by’ labelling. Labelling of many foods can actually encourage waste. Many consumers have a poor understanding of ’best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, and these dates are generally quite conservative, as they are driven by the retailer’s desire to avoid legal action.

Promotional offers and high-pressure advertising campaigns, including bulk discounts and ‘buy one get one free’ offers, encourage shoppers to buy large quantities in excess of their actual needs[52], which leads to substantial food wastage in the home.

TK: We've heard this before, but how much more can the industry do to prevent food waste? Where can the biggest gains be had?