Here is another great post from Fresh Talk's most prolific guest blogger, Jay Martini. From Jay:

When I decided nearly 30 years ago to make the leap of faith from a safe & insular but financially unstable existence as a waiter in an Iowa City restaurant to office manager for my father’s tomato brokerage company, I had little knowledge of sales, marketing, accounting, and…tomatoes. My philosophy professors at the University, damn their eyes, hadn’t granted me a priori thinking, the ability to sense the future, i.e., the pile of doo-doo into which I was stepping.

I was looking at two-fifty a week, I was engaged, and scratching my head a lot of the time trying to figure out what was next. In essence, I was a typical 22-year old. (Author’s note: for those of you with 22-year-old offspring, don’t let them snow you into believing they’ve acquired all the answers. They don’t know jack.)

For awhile, many years in fact, none of us thought about it. You know, the food safety thing. Well, we thought about it in passing, but it was much like the fleeting notion, while driving, about what would happen if you turn the steering wheel about ten degrees to the left, crossing the double-yellow center line into oncoming traffic. The catastrophic result would be the direct effect of that misguided and psychotic decision.

But from a blame standpoint, it’s very clean for those of us who prefer the black/white dichotomy of events & why they happen rather than grey areas, the shocking finality notwithstanding.

That’s where the similarities end.

For those of us in the tomato chain of command, it is entirely possible--likely I’m afraid--that if a food safety situation arises, the very people and companies that are so pro-active & striving so hard to keep our commodity pathogen-free will be the ones that suffer the most even though there will be no responsibility attached to them.

The traceback that is mandatory from field to end user is no doubt necessary, but ironically that same linkage makes it easier for the skewed legal system to have their way. And those lawyers have no compunction about filing lawsuits against every company along the way, whether they actually handled the product or simply handled an invoice. Doesn’t matter—when it hits the fan, we’re ALL in the same boat.

That’s why I hope, similar to the malpractice tort reform being bandied about in the healthcare arena, that there be guidelines proposed & remedies discussed for frivolous lawsuits being brought against firms that bear no blame in a food safety event. It would maybe cut down, eventually, on the massive amounts of liability insurance each company has to carry as a cost of doing business, and possibly make an attorney think twice before serving papers on any company in its gunsights, responsible or not.

And I’m not even talking about lost business during a media sensation-fueled crisis. As long as the government agencies are impotent in trying to control the TV networks, cable and traditional, that’s a problem that’s going to continue until it’s fixed from the inside out. We’d like to think that the FDA, CDC & the broadcast media will perform better under pressure next time, but I’m not counting on it.

Later,

Jay