business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of a possible merger of Ahold and Delhaize, or the purchase of Ahold’s US interests by Delhaize, MNB user Mark Heckman wrote:

I have from very reliable sources that no talks are currently occurring. But down the road it would seem that Ahold’s USA assets could be attractive to Delhaize from the standpoint of filling in some markets contiguous to those in which they currently operate.

MNB user Danny Raulerson had some thoughts about the spinach crisis:

What is unfortunate is the FDA has never mentioned that it is still safe to eat fresh spinach that has been cooked. It is these broad strokes of misinformation and lack of complete information that hurts the industry. It would be interesting to monitor the sales of processed canned spinach to see if the consumer turns away from buying spinach all together.

Another MNB user wrote:

There has been so much written on this in the past week that it boggles the mind. Best guess is that the E. coli came from water contaminated by animal waste which is probably an environmental issue beyond the control of the spinach farmers and packers. Some have speculated that the E. Coli is "inside" the produce - can't be washed off. Seems to me that if it could happen to spinach it could happen to other greens, and would not be limited to "bagged" produce. I suspect that the incidence of E. coli in ground beef is just as high but ground beef is generally cooked at a high enough temperature to kill this bacteria. It's a fair bet that USDA inspection isn't catching all of the E. coli contaminated beef. Unfortunately the public has an irrational fear (fueled by consumer activists) of irradiation, a process that might be the best way to protect the public from this serious food hazard.

MNB user Marty Nicholson wrote:

There are several varieties of spinach grown in the U.S. – and not all of it is grown in California. The prime suspect in this outbreak seems to be Baby Spinach grown in Salinas, CA. This is what consumers generally see in packaged salads. There is also curly-type spinach which is sold in bulk, individual bunches or in bags. Additionally, spinach grown anywhere else in the U.S. has not been implicated in the outbreak.

I feel for the California growers and the companies who have been named in lawsuits. I certainly feel badly for the individuals and families who have suffered death and sickness. But we hope the spinach that is safe can be released for sale and identified as safe to the consumer as quickly as possible.

MNB user Al Kober wrote:

If this was from beef, would the media allow it to (be) pushed…under the rug and forget about. It doesn't appear to have gotten the same negative press as they give meat related concerns. I wonder if the spinach/fresh vegetable industry, will respond with the same intensity and success that the beef industry has done. I doubt it. The drive-by media loves its fruit and vegetable industry and does not have the same warm and fuzzy feeling for the meat industry.

We’d have to disagree that the media has let the spinach business off the hook. Quite the opposite seems true to us.

We had an email on MNB yesterday that read:

I am amazed at how quickly we rush to believe a news story. The media said there is a problem with spinach. As of today nothing has been positively identified. I am not saying there is no problem with spinach, what I am saying is there is no proof that there is. Currently the FDA has said eat no spinach. As we saw with Hurricane Katrina, the Federal government is not always on top of their game. I believe that the FDA is in a reactionary mode when it comes to spinach.

The media has consumers all riled up and so the FDA MUST do something. Even if it is the wrong thing to do. As members of the industry, shame on us for not being the voice of calm during this hysteria. News outlets want to sell newspapers or increase viewership. As responsible veterans of this industry it is time to step to the forefront and respond correctly. When something is proven or even more concrete than what we are seeing let's move forward and address the issue. Until then, stop the hysteria.

To which we responded:

As a member of the media, we’d like to point out that the media didn’t make more than 130 people sick, nor did it kill someone. From everything we know, spinach did. That’s not hysteria.

But the MNB user who’d written in though we misinterpreted the original email:

Sadly you missed the point. I did not blame the media. You chose to zero in on that. If you were a ball player I would say you have rabbit ears. The point is even though you mistakenly stated that spinach made 130 people sick, as of Wednesday there is no concrete proof that it did. There is evidence pointing in that direction, but we are still waiting to see the smoking gun. Remember we like the media...if we didn't we wouldn't be reading Morning News Beat.

It may be that we’re a little over-sensitive about “blame the media” trends in this country…which will become evident when you read “OffBeat” this morning…

KC's View: