retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York has a story that is an absolute must-read for food executives - a look at the nation's food safety apparatus that includes a profile of Bill Marler, described as "the most prominent and powerful food-safety attorney in the country," who has "filed hundreds of lawsuits against many of the largest food producers in the world. By his estimate, he has won more than six hundred million dollars in verdicts and settlements, of which his firm keeps about twenty per cent."

"Many people," The New Yorker writes, "who work in food safety believe that Marler is one of the few functioning pieces in a broken system ... Robert Brackett, who directed food safety at the F.D.A. during the George W. Bush Administration, told me that Marler has almost single-handedly transformed the role that lawsuits play in food policy: 'Where people typically thought of food safety as this three-legged stool - the consumer groups, the government, and the industry - Bill sort of came in as a fourth leg and actually was able to effect changes in a way that none of the others really had'."

Another former food safety official says that the lawsuits Marker files “can be a stronger incentive or disincentive than the passing of any particular regulation," while another says that Marler has become "a central element of accountability.”

You can read the entire sobering story here, or in the February 2, 2015, edition of the magazine. The story is entitled, "A Bug In The System."
KC's View:
I want to venture into delicate territory here - talking about an MNB sponsor from an editorial perspective - but it strikes me in this case as a relevant and appropriate thing to do. (But I also want to be transparent about it.)

I have been working on a project in recent weeks tied to the fact that new regulations under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) - bipartisan legislation, by the way - will go into effect in August 2015. Those regulations, which require a great deal more record keeping on the part of every player in the food supply chain, as well as the ability to produce those records to FDA inspectors on 24 hours notice, put the CEOs of all these companies at personal legal risk if their companies cannot do what the law requires them to do. Think of this as Sarbanes-Oxley for the food safety system.

I got involved with this because of a company called ReposiTrak, which has developed an efficient and effective way for companies to do the required record keeping. ReposiTrak, as it happens, has been endorsed both by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Retailer Owned Food Distributors & Associates (ROFDA), which are working to make the system available to their members. And, ReposiTrak has been delivering this overall message here on MNB, and will continue to.

I'm going to put this bluntly. If you read this New Yorker piece and you have anything to do with the food business, it should scare the crap out of you. Because there are so many holes in the system, and business leaders will very shortly be required to plug them up ... or pay the cost.

Read the story. The legislation is not going away. And I am utterly persuaded - not just by ReposiTrak, but also by FMI and some enlightened industry executives with whom I have spoken - that companies not prepared to comply with its demands are making a serious mistake that could put their businesses in jeopardy.