Produce, food safety culture and Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt toured Sydney Harbour and tried Vegemite, first time for the Missouri native.

I got to hang out at Darling Harbor in Sydney and chat with some Australian produce folks; some wanted to talk more, some wanted to throw me in the get.that.finger.out.of.your.ear.airplaneHarbour with concrete shoes.

Amy, my lovely and loving partner, quipped, “a typical Powell talk. Now get Sorenne ready and let’s go” or something like that.

(She’s actually a great counselor for my whines, anxieties and insecurities.)

I was speaking at the Australian Produce Marketing Association gabfest about food safety culture stuff.

I asked the delegates if they enjoyed the raw sprouts on their salad the night before, stated how many times I go to food safety things and get served raw sprouts (even in my own university) and suggested why that may not be a great idea.

(30 minutes after I was done talking, yet another sprout recall, this time Salmonella in Canada.)

I told them how we took the kid out to get some chips along Darling Harbor, and since they were served with aioli, I asked the server if the aioli was made with raw eggs (because Australia has a raw egg problem, most recently 140 sick in Canberra). She didn’t know but asked the chef, and the answer was yes.

I asked for tomato sauce instead (ketchup).

I complimented the Expo Center for having paper towels in the bathrooms, a rarity in Australia, but that the water flow was almost non-existent and two-darling.harbor.jun.13out-of-three sinks did not respond to the hand activation (vigorous water flow, rubbing and the friction of drying with paper towel are the key components of good handwashing).

I told them about a whole bunch of outbreaks, and one grower said I used scare tactics, and I said 33 people dying from eating rock melon (cantaloupe) wasn’t really a scare tactic, just what’s out there.

Like the 99 now sick from Hepatitis A in organic frozen berries.

I talked about food safety culture, tools like infosheets, repeated, rapid, reliable and relevant messages, about Frank and Chris and Ben and Amy and how they had all influenced my thoughts on the topic, but that to really seal the culture deal, growers and retailers had to brag about it.

I talked about the cantaloupe growers in California who have adopted some mandatory audit-inspection things, and all the problems and outbreaks that happen with places that have audits and inspections, and that big boys and girls take care of their own problems and get help when they need it.

I said how disappointed I was that as a consumer, there will be no label on these inspected cantaloupe, so as a consumer, I have no way of knowing whether a particular grower had even thought about microbiological food safety or was any good at it.

I tried to be triumphant and said, this isn’t a crisis, it’s an opportunity, for all you good Australian growers to get ahead of the curve, put in place the data collection and risk management efforts, the food safety culture, and go brag about it.

All the usual stuff.

And largely, the usual response.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to chat with growers and retailers – I always liked that – and thankful for the opportunity to clarify in my cobwebs a few things about what I should be doing.

But I’m no Brad Pitt.

I don’t want to be.

And get your finger out of the Vegemite. You don’t know where that finger’s been.