1 Grower, 6 Brands, 18 Retailers

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some of the tomato brands that have been recalled

I found out about a grape tomato recall from twitter today. It turns out that on April 29, 2011, Six L's of Immokalee, Florida, (a farming, packing, selling and distribution company) issued a recall of a single lot of grape tomatoes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The tomatoes were grown at a farm in Estero, Florida, that was not named. (You can read the whole recall article here.)

While it is not surprising that mass agriculture is producing another salmonella outbreak, what did surprise me was the long list of possible places this "single lot" of tomatoes ends up. These tomatoes are being shipped to 18 different retailers. And the most surprising thing is that 6 of these retailers repackage the tomatoes under their own brand name products;

  1. Cherry Berries Grape Tomatoes
  2. Cutie Brand Grape Tomatoes
  3. Fancy Sweet Grape Tomatoes
  4. Aldi "From the Vine" Grape Tomatoes
  5. Sunset Grape Tomatoes
  6. Trader Joe’s Splendido Little Tomatoes

The rest of the retailers use the tomatoes as ingredients in their own products like kabobs and cobb salads.

But the plot thickens. Presumably the distribution company gets lots of grape tomatoes from lots of growers, and they all get mixed together and then shipped out to the 18 different retailers. So there is no way of knowing where this one batch ended up, and now tons of tomatoes and tomato-containing products are getting wasted.

I think it is quite incredible that we have the capacity to produce and move food all over the globe, but their has got to be a better labeling system. We are learning that the reason brands exist is for trust and quality. If one distributor is distributing tomatoes from who knows how many farms, and then these tomatoes are being labeled with 6 very different brand names, then you can't trust where the tomatoes are from, you have to rely on your trust of the brand from whom you are purchasing them, who also won't know exactly where they're from. Is it possible to change the way we distribute goods so that all batches of tomatoes coming in to the processing facility are labeled with the farm where they are grown? Or at the very least, when the tomatoes are packaged under six different brand names, to add a "Grown in Southern Florida" label? While the name of the farm where they are grown would be ideal, a state and region would be the next best thing.

One Response to “1 Grower, 6 Brands, 18 Retailers”

  1. emedist.com Says:

    Tomato Recall 2011…

    When grape tomatoes were originally recalled on April 29, 2011, it seemed like a small matter. One lot of “Cherry Berry” grape tomatoes, from grower Six L’s Packing Company, were being recalled. The lot was found to be contaminated with Salmonella o…

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