Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Health & Safety
From the Editor’s Desk: November 2008

November 2008


November 10, 2008
By Cam Wood

Topics

The widespread concern over the state of our food safety continues to dominate headlines. We could go about the scientifics of it all, jump on the blame bandwagon, and such; but the real issue of what it all means to the pizza market on a day to day basis is fairly clear.

cam-wood

The widespread concern over the state of our food safety continues to dominate headlines. We could go about the scientifics of it all, jump on the blame bandwagon, and such; but the real issue of what it all means to the pizza market on a day to day basis is fairly clear.

While Canadians have not traditionally been as xenophobic as our neighbours to the south, issues like this are likely to give rise to a more demanding consumer on the origins of their food.

At the end of September, the United States Department of Agriculture’s country-of-origin-labelling law came into effect. And while targeted specifically at the retail level, the law is surely set to expand into greater purpose.

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Processed foods have been spared in the initial guidelines; meaning such items as tomato sauces, meatballs, sausages and mixed-product packages (vegetables) do not fall under these guidelines … yet. Nor has the commercial food sector been affected … yet. But there is little doubt that this legislation will be expanded into the foodservice industry, given that a 2007 Consumer Reports survey revealed that 92 per cent of Americans support the law.

What does that mean for Canadian pizzerias?

Our culture is influenced by the trends of the western world’s largest consumer market, so it’s likely we will see this same brand of legislation come our way. Canadian producers will already be coping with the cost introducing this change to their exports.

But more so, consumers in Canada rarely live in a Made-in-Canada bubble. They take note, and begin to ask questions.

As early as July – before the Listeria bacteria was found – an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that 46 per cent of consumers were concerned they may get sick from eating contaminated food. The survey also revealed that 86 per cent of respondents said produce should be labelled so it can be tracked all the way back to the farm gate. A clear 56 per cent added that they believe there are not enough inspectors to keep us safe from tainted imports.

It’s very likely that many of you have been answering questions on the source of your cheese and meat products since the outbreak of Listeria across Canada in August. Cheese companies in Quebec have shuttered their operations because of it, and the provincial government is responding with a total aid package to the tune of $19.7 million.

Chinese dairy products, American tomatoes, Mexican peppers and Canadian beef, have all suffered through terrible food safety issues of late. But in tragedy comes opportunity – the opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Wouldn’t it be a great addition to the strength of your brand to be known as the pizzeria with the answers, not on consumers’ hunger, but on consumers’ thirst for knowledge? As independents, you have control over the source of your ingredients – and first-hand knowledge of what is going on your customers’ pies and its origins.
Being proactive, and sharing that information quickly and readily will go a long way to easing the concerns your customers may have over food safety. Or do you think the counter staff at the large chains can answer those same questions better than you?