business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note yesterday of a Cooking Light piece that detailed what some major supermarket companies are doing to respond to the E. coli outbreak that has been traced to romaine lettuce grown in and around Yuma, Arizona.

This prompted one MNB reader to write:

The Cooking Light review of retail actions in response to the recent outbreak is really a testament to the great job retailers have done in this case.  When government said “Don’t eat Romaine from Yuma,” there’s little way a consumer was going to be able to make that call.  What we saw is that retailers (and restauranteurs) across the country did exactly what they should do – acting as buying agents for the consumer – and cleared shelves of product from that one region and replaced it with product from an area not in question.  Retailers protected their customers appropriately.
Now, should every store have also posted signs saying “Our Romaine is not contaminated” or even “Our Romaine is not from Yuma?”  I submit there’s little to be gained by that – retailers acted responsibly by sourcing the correct product, without stoking greater fears about Romaine itself, or stoking fears of an entire growing region.  Americans consume millions of servings of healthy and safe Romaine a day.  And, Yuma is the nation’s salad bowl all winter, with tens of thousands of acres across a hundred mile region.  99.999% or more of lettuce grown in Yuma was not related to this outbreak.  But, unfortunately, that was the best FDA could do to identify a source.  Retailers acted responsibly in protecting public health, and in sourcing new Romaine for shoppers.

MNB reader Gary Loehr had a thought:

Can you imagine the farmers in the Yuma area whose crops had no e-coli issue?  They must have gotten crushed. Imagine that you work for months to get your product ready for market, then demand goes to zero in a few days time.  I would never want to be a farmer.

Me neither, though I’d be more concerned about the long hours, manual labor, and the possibility that I might occasionally have to grab onto an udder.

We referenced a Quartz piece yesterday about what the author saw as a fascinating trend - the propensity of powerful, wealthy white people to prefer bland food, while poorer, ethnic communities prefer food that is more heavily spiced. (In case you missed it, you can read it here.)

MNB reader Randy Evins responded:

I’ve sometimes wondered if I have a rogue Hispanic gene somewhere because I absolutely adore all things Mexican Food. Menudo is my favorite soup and I go to my local “mom and pop’ Mexican restaurant on Saturday’s just to get it fresh. It’s really kinda funny as the mostly Hispanic waiters give a look like “what’s this old white guy doing ordering Menudo?”…….Someday, maybe I am naive, we can quit the race analysis and just celebrate that different is cool and food choices aren’t genetic…

But MNB reader Mary Schroeder thought something else could be at work:

One other thing to consider, the ‘powerful’ people in the world are almost universally old.  They just can’t eat spicy foods any longer without living through an antacid commercial.

To me, not being able to eat spicy food would be an unacceptable corollary to the aging process. Luckily, it hasn’t happened yet.

For MNB reader Julia Ann Mataras, it isn’t about power or race:

Simply: I like spicy food- but it doesn’t like me.  The heartburn that I get from it is just not worth eating it.

We also posted yesterday a link to a Washington Post opinion piece by Michael Gerson in which he suggested that if you are anti-GMO, you are anti-science.

MNB reader Jeff Weidauer responded:

Interesting article, but he misses the point. Actually, three of them.

While there are certainly an abundance of flat-earth type advising the world to avoid GMOs at all costs, there is another contingent (a larger one, I hope) that is more concerned about what the GMO is modified for. Insect resistant? Absolutely, bring it on. Pesticide resistant, so it can be doused in Round-Up to aid in the harvest? Pass.

Two, a big part of the problem is the food industry itself. Instead of addressing these concerns up-front (as you’ve pointed out many times), they instead ignored it in hopes that the furor would go away. Now it’s taken on a life of its own, and the monster has broken out of its cell. If the GMA had spent as much money educating folks as they did lobbying, we might not be in this mess.

Third, there is a general mistrust about the food industry – the folks who brought us Iron Fortified Froot Loops, part of a healthy breakfast. They have no credibility any longer to make any health claims.
As for the CPGs he names, I can’t blame them for touting non-GMO – they are only marketing to their audience.

Finally, I got some comments about the email we posted yesterday from the fellow who objected to my officiating as an “ordained minister” at a wedding ceremony, suggesting that it was part of the decline of the culture.

One MNB reader wrote:

This morning, I read your readers' views on your wedding "sermon", and I was particularly struck by the individual who lambasted you, citing a 50% divorce rate and "the religious component of marriage". While I respect everyone's beliefs and opinions, I just couldn't let this one lay...

I got married in a small apartment outside of Phoenix. We had two witnesses and a friend of ours, recently ordained on the internet, perform the ceremony. Unconventional? Probably. Unqualified? ...define unqualified. Everyone in that apartment knew all they needed to know--that here were two people deeply in love with one another, who were willing to commit their lives to one another. There was no church or religion involved, and that was our choice. 

Fast forward 13 1/2 years and my husband and I are stronger than ever. We have a home and a community of friends and family and have built a growing business together. We're talking about doing something "extra special" for our 15th anniversary in 2019. 

So I can't help but feel that your reader may have been feeling quite jaded--dare I say bitter--when writing to you. I'd also go so far as to say they have no right to define anyone else's marriage--not the couple you recently wed, not mine, not the person down the street--based on lack or inclusion of religion, counseling, spiritual guidance, or who wed them. I would encourage them to do whatever they would like in their love life, and let others do the same. 

My good wishes to your recently-wed friends and congratulations to you and Mrs. Content Guy on 35 years!

One of the things I wrote yesterday was:

I do not take marriage lightly. I’ve been married for 35 years, and so I have enough experience to know that a marriage taken lightly cannot possibly survive. And I have, from time to time, been accused of a certain uxoriousness.

That said, I like to recall what the great Robert B. Parker once told the Wall Street Journal about marriage:

“I've been married 52 years, and I like it a lot. I think it's the quintessential way to live, but not the only way. It's valuable to have a partner, regardless of gender or legal nature. It's good to have someone to love in addition to the dog.”

MNB reader Deborah Faragher responded:

Thanks for the vocabulary lesson today. Learned the meaning of “uxoriousness”! And I can see how that may have applied to you though I’m guessing it would be more excessive than submissive. On the subject, I’ve been married for 43 years with the ceremony having been performed by a friend of the family who happened to be a judge. The ceremony was personal, as was the one you performed, and we were surrounded by family and close friends. So chalk up one for the “non-traditional” start.
KC's View: