It is all about the peanuts - The Lempert Report

The Lempert Report
February 18, 2009

The Lempert Report Food News: Marketing, analysis, issues & trends and the impact on food and retail environments, specifically for the B2B food world with reporting and commentary on consumer and retailing trends by Phil Lempert. Phil can predict the future —and then help businesses and consumers understand it. For more than 25 years, Lempert, an expert analyst on consumer behavior, marketing trends, new products and the changing retail landscape, has identified and explained impending trends to consumers and some of the most prestigious companies worldwide. Known as The Supermarket Guru®,, Lempert is a distinguished author and speaker who alerts customers and business leaders to impending corporate and consumer trends, and empowers them to make educated purchasing and marketing decisions. To see more of The Lempert Report visit: The Lempert Report for Thursday February 19, 2009 It is all about the peanuts. Consumer confidence in our food supply is being tested yet again as the corporate officers of Peanut Corporation of America prove how unscrupulous people can be. Pleading the "fifth" in government hearings is not acceptable when people have died. There is little doubt that this company will survive, but they are not the only culprits. Federal frugality has its price and it is Americas sickened consumers that pay the awful tab when food safety is compromised. An ugly truth about plant inspections came to light with this salmonella contamination of processed peanut products, which has led to 600 plus illnesses and nine or more deaths so far: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relied on state investigators to perform more than half of its food inspections in 2007, according to an Associated Press analysis of FDA data. That represents a dramatic rise from a decade ago, when FDA investigators performed three out of four federal inspections. The problem is that spending increases have not kept up with inspection responsibilities at the state level. Though FDA does cover some of the costs for states to inspect plants, AP reported that food safety spending rose only slightly since 2003 in states with the largest numbers of food-processing plants—Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts. In Georgia, FDA relied on the state to inspect the culprit plant between 2006 and 2008. But Georgia failed to identify problems, even as the companys own internal testing repeatedly found salmonella in its products and Canada rejected a shipment of its peanuts because of metal contamination, according to the AP. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Agriculture Committee told the AP To say that food safety in this country is a patchwork system is giving it too much credit. Food safety in America has become a hit or miss gamble, and that is truly frightening. Its time to find the gaps in the system and remedy them. Gaps are substantial. Between 2003 and 2007, FDA lost more than 400 federal field food inspectors, its budget revealed. At the same time, the number of businesses requiring oversight increased by 7,200, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Costco and other retailers come to the rescue. The wholesale club called 1.5 million of its 54 million card-carrying members about peanut butter products as recently as last week, and more calls are planned, Craig Wilson, assistant vice president of food safety for the chain, told KOMO News in Seattle. It is estimated that of those food retailers who have frequent shopper programs, over a third of those alert shoppers about food recalls. Such personalized warnings that come on such a large scale and at such a fast pace could help restore some consumer confidence in the food supply; and there is no question that this kind of effort rewards the retailer with fierce customer loyalty. To reach me directly, please email me at For information on New Products, visit our weekly videocast