Taking the pulse on sustainabilityChecking in at near the end of the day today. Visited with Joel Nelsen today about sustainability issues. More to come on that point; look for a guest column from Joel in the next edition of The Packer. Also, I visited with David Gombas on his recollections on the origins of food safety audits in the produce industry; again stay tuned.

Just a few quick hitting headlines tonight:

 Check out activity on The Packer Market  and the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group. It’s been a very active day.

 Other notable headlines today:

NYT: Nudged to the produce aisle


With those same guinea-pig customers, the scientists tinkered again with the cart, creating a glossy placard that hung inside the baskets like the mirrors. In English and Spanish, the signs told shoppers how much produce the average customer was buying (five items a visit), and which fruits and vegetables were the biggest sellers (bananas, limes and avocados) — information that, in scientific parlance, conveys social norms, or acceptable behavior.

By the second week, produce sales had jumped 10 percent, with a whopping 91 percent rise for those participating in the government nutrition program called Women, Infants and Children. Lowe’s was so excited that it now plans to put the placards in every cart at its 22 stores in El Paso and nearby Las Cruces, N.M., and perhaps later at all 146 of its stores.

Comment by Scott Rafferty on FDA’s third party certification of food imports, from www.regulations.gov.

From the comment:

The FDA faced a daunting challenge in designing the first large-scale use of third-party certification by a government regulator. These initial comments of Scott J. Rafferty1 focus on four issues that the FDA has not yet resolved.

(1) The FDA is long overdue2 in meeting the Congressional directive to use private inspections3 in the regulation of imported foods. The proposal still omits many terms that are essential to permit the public to comment meaningfully. The FDA has not stated what qualifications inspectors must have or what the scope and nature of their inspection will be. The proposal fails to strengthen existing substantive international standards for food products and does not require laboratory testing nor specify other means to verify that specific products are reasonably safe.

(2) The proposal fails to outline a meaningful incentive to create demand for voluntary inspections, but still appears to assume that all existing accrediting bodies apply for and receive FDA recognition. Even though it has deferred stating the qualifications for inspectors, the FDA assumes that existing inspection firms continue to receive accreditation and meet dramatically increased demand in the number of facilities audited. This is not realistic. Nor, in light of the variability in the quality and capacity of current inspection firms, is unselective accreditation desirable.

(3) The proposal affirmatively excuses inspection firms from insurance requirements that international standards currently require. “Skin in the game” is a powerful, market-based protection against conflicts of interest, “paying for the grade,” and other low-quality audits. The FDA should bolster the liability system by requiring inspection firms to indemnify the first $1,000,000 in claims awarded based on adulterated food from

(4) The FDA errs in demanding “routine access” over all “records” of inspections, not just a regulatory report.4 Asserting that inspectors may be required to transmit recommendations for improvement threatens to disclose proprietary techniques and could even, perversely, diminish the quality of inspections. The FDA should seek more detailed feedback from industry and the public before striking the balance between regulatory access and commercial confidentiality.


More links of interest:

Hardships in America – Census Bureau

Small farmers revolt over food safety rules – Overlawyered