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Friday, April 17, 2009

From Evernote: Do you trust your food sources?


Do you trust your food sources?

by rweinert


Your Views: Food Safety, Front & Center

In the more than seven years that MorningNewsBeat has been posted on a daily basis, there have been countless stories and even more emailed responses to them – but this may be the first time that “Your Views” is the lead story.

The reason? Yesterday there was a story on MNB that generated a number of emails, many of them similar … and these emails may illustrate an industry-wide condition that needs to be assessed and corrected…if indeed a correction is even possible.

The story concerned Domino’s Pizza, and read, in part:

“Two Domino’s Pizza employees have been hit with felony charges after they deliberately contaminated food that they were making, and then posted video of their acts on YouTube.com … The videos were seen more than a million times on YouTube.”

The antics, according to the New York Times, included an employee who “prepared sandwiches for delivery while putting cheese up his nose, nasal mucus on the sandwiches, and violating other health-code standards while a fellow employee provided narration.”

Beyond the obviously awful behavior of these two young people, there has been criticism of how long it took Domino’s management to react to the issue. I commented that I was not sure what they could have done that would have been reassuring the shoppers, and wrote:

“On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for supermarkets to advertise ‘guaranteed mucous-free pizza.’”

This final line was the one that seemed to grab people’s attention…but not the way I intended.

MNB user Jerry Sheldon wrote:

Would consumers believe a grocery store advertising guaranteed salmonella free pistachios or peanuts? I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but food safety affects everyone, and though I suspect you meant your comment tongue-in-cheek, the next grocery store scare is right around the corner. Seems like over the last few years, we’ve been good for a major issue at least once per quarter.

MNB user Mark Wright wrote:

How would the supermarkets know, any more than Domino’s “knew”?

And another MNB user wrote:

What in heaven’s name makes you think Supermarkets can guarantee mucous free pizza – they can’t guarantee any product is safe from practical jokes or angry employees. The Domino’s situation goes undiscovered regularly – I’m sure you’ve sent a steak back to the kitchen.

Another MNB user wrote:

You missed the issue. Any food safety issue hurts everybody, even the most careful and diligent. Ask anybody in the peanut, cilantro or tomato business how bad press hurt them.

For the average consumer they'll paint with the same brush Subway, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, etc.; anywhere where low paid employees assemble food for delivery.

And your sophomoric comments don't help but fan the flames.

This is an industry issue now, not just Domino's.

Exactly. (And I don’t even mind that you thought my little joke was “sophomoric.” At least I didn’t make the same joke that another MNB user did, suggesting that at supermarkets, “boogers cost extra.”)

These were just some of the emails received by MNB on this subject, and the majority of them took the same position – that my joke about mucous-free pizza ignored the reality that none of us really know what is in any of the foods we get from supermarkets.

Which makes me wonder if we’ve begun to approach some sort of tipping point when it comes to food safety assumptions. Whether the constant barrage of food safety incidents – spinach, tomatoes, peanuts, pistachios, rats at Taco Bell, etc… - has finally gotten us to the point where we don't trust anyone. If true, this could create enormous problems and challenges for the food industry, which could find itself playing defense in a variety of theaters.

And if not true today, is it possible that reaching this tipping point, where automatic distrust of the foods we eat and the systems that produce them, is inevitable?


This is the situation in which we find ourselves. Nothing funny about it. And worrisome, since – to quote a Latin proverb used before here on MNB - “trust like the soul never returns once it goes.”

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