Hinting at food safety – marketers play games but invoke consumer concerns

I shop at Dillons in Manhattan (Kansas), owned by Kroger. I’ve gotten to know the staff, we talk food safety stuff, and I’ve really enjoyed the few times I’ve chatted with Gale Prince, who used to be head of food safety at Kroger.

But I don’t understand the press release Kroger sent out today about its new line of salads which includes new technology on the packaging that enables customers to learn where the produce was grown as part of Kroger’s "Quality You Can Trace" program.

I don’t really care where it was grown. I do care if it was grown in cow shit.

The Kroger’s Fresh Selections are the only salads with HarvestMark technology sold in the U.S. today. Each bag carries a 16-digit code shoppers can enter at HarvestMark.com to learn more about the salad’s origin, packing location, ingredients, date and time the product was packed.  Customers can also offer their feedback on the product.

The PR BS goes on to say,

"Kroger continues to be a leader in offering customers innovative food safety tools and resources," said Joe Grieshaber, group vice president of Kroger’s meat, seafood, deli and produce departments.  …  Food safety is a top priority at Kroger.  Our partnership with HarvestMark makes it easy for customers who are interested to learn more about the food they purchase for themselves and their families. 

This has nothing to do with food safety. A food safety program for leafy greens would provide at retail – or at least through a url – practices on irrigation water testing, soli amendments and human hygiene programs for the workers. Market food safety directly and stop dancing.

Left, is a bag of Dole spring mix, purchased at Dillons. Included on the package is a salad guide that says taste, 4, on the mild to bold scale, and texture is 2 on the tender to crunchy guide.

The label also says the spring mix pairs well with balsamic vinaigrette, crumbled goat cheese, julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes and a pinch of Mediterranean herbs. It’s thoroughly washed, preservative free and all natural. And Kosher certified and has a recipe for Balsamic vinaigrette.

I want to know if it has E. coli and is going to make me barf. Don’t eat poop. And if you do, cook it.

Whole Foods fairytale

Baby Sorenne is already taking an interest in colorful books and images. Soon it will be storytelling.

The Whole Foods blog had a particularly fantastical and derogatory tale today.

Joe Dickson writes in a piece entitled, Standards Even A Kid Can Understand, that he couldn’t figure out how to write about the complexity of quality in one post so he gets to do a series.

Joe, it’s called editing. You’re a terrible writer.

“Is everything here organic?” and Paige said “no” but that everything was natural. And then fumbled through various attempts at explaining what natural means – realizing as she rambled that a typical 11-year-old doesn’t have the background to understand how much junk is in our conventional food supply. Paige eventually came up with this: “You won’t find blue catsup here because catsup comes from tomatoes and tomatoes aren’t blue in nature.” And the friend got it: “So, catsup is red here?” Yes.

Joe the former nursery school teacher then introduces those readers who haven’t fallen asleep or clicked elsewhere to Quality Standards Storytime.

Once upon a time there were only natural foods. I know this is obvious, but one of my most strongly-held beliefs about food is that we should pay attention to the diets that humans have followed for 200,000 years or so. Our bodies and brains evolved on a diet of unprocessed foods — mostly plants and nuts, some animal protein and very little else. The 50-100 years since the advent of food processing and artificial preservatives occupies about .05% of that timeline. I think it’s fairly logical to play it safe and stick to the diets that have proven safe and healthful for most of recorded time.

Then, sometime in the twentieth century, Artificial Preservatives, Colors and Flavors were invented by “food scientists,” devoted to improving the quality of our lives through science. The ability to color, flavor and preserve food indefinitely made it possible to recreate authentic-seeming foods and make them last virtually forever. …

The Organic and Natural Products movements were born in opposition to these changes, based on the belief that natural food is healthier, better for you and better tasting. As the conventional grocery industry got weirder and weirder, the group of resisters got bigger and bigger. Whole Foods Market was born out of that opposition, founded in 1981 as a natural alternative to mainstream grocery stores. Organic agriculture also followed a similar route, rising as a resistance movement to chemical/industrial agriculture during the 1970s and 80s.

What a fairytale. Maybe Whole Foods should worry first about keeping dangerous bacteria out of the food it sells – it’s part of that food science thing – so its customers don’t barf.

And leave the storytelling to experts like Robert Munsch of Guelph, Ontario, whose 1986, Love You Forever, is one of the most popular children’s books ever, with some 8 million copies sold (my kids preferred The Paper Bag Princess, while I preferred Good Families Don’t, because it’s about farts).

Shortly before baby Sorenne was born I gave an animated telling of the story to our prenatal class, complete with bad singing, based on years of practice, and because I’d seen Munsch tell the story a few times.