It’s a disgusting notion, and in a way confirms our worse fears about imported food: that the handling practices overseas are subpar, and diseases lurk within the polished exterior.
The CEO and managers all down the supply chain at Patties Foods, the Victorian company which sells frozen berries under the Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet brand, woke up to a nightmare this week. Their products have been implicated in a spate of Hepatitis A infections across the country, and are now in the process of a national recall.
The commentary of this berry debacle has thus far greatly annoyed me, because it is being approached through the wrong lens. Whilst driving to work yesterday, a representative from a farmer’s association was on radio commenting that consumers should be buying Australian grown produce because ‘it’s a safer, better quality product than imported’. Firstly, it’s a given that buying Australian produce is preferable – but that’s not the issue here. The issue is that it’s shifting the blame from the company that imported the berries, and placing it squarely on the consumer. And how dare they do that? It’s also tarring all imported goods with the same brush, and that’s not fair on anyone.
The responsibility lies solely on the company who imported and distributed the contaminated products. The quality of the produce may not make the same grade as the Aussie-grown stuff, but the safety of the product should never be in dispute.
Importing and distributing goods is kind of like gambling. It’s legal, it’s risky, and the potential gains can be very enticing. But there is a lot that can go wrong. It’s not to say that importers make more money than their locally-manufactured counterparts, but the margins are certainly wider. After all, that’s the whole point.
The problem we’re facing in this country, is that with the vast majority of our consumer products manufactured abroad, and indeed a growing percentage of packaged foods – the Australian companies cannot afford to play catch-up on safety standards.
Patties Foods now face a tough road ahead. Having been implicated in a health scare of this magnitude, they walk the gauntlet of being forever labelled the ‘hepatitis berries’ in the mind of the consumer.
The future of their company rests upon being able to prove to the Australian market that their scrutiny processes have been revolutionised. But until I see their CEO tucking into a Berry Smoothie – I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.
About the author:
Colin Porter is the publisher of Dynamic Business and the founder and MD of credit reporting bureau, CreditorWatch. He has over 20 years experience as a business owner, specialising in general small/medium business issues, cashflow, credit management and online business. Follow CreditorWatch on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.