Editor's Plate: 3 New Year's Resolutions for You

Jan. 8, 2024
Police for child labor, roll back some price increases and keep kids' foods pure.

New Year’s Day always seems to be the day for people to look back, look ahead and make some resolutions to be better in the new year. Consider this your list of New Year’s resolutions.

1. No more child labor!

When that story first broke in 2022, it seemed limited to the cleaning service Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI). That use of a third-party service created some plausible deniability for companies like Cargill, JBS, Tyson and a handful of smaller meat and poultry companies. And only meat and poultry companies.

But continuing investigations in 2023 by the New York Times, Politico and the Dept. of Labor found many more instances of underage workers in unsafe conditions being employed directly by food companies. Hearthside Food Solutions took the biggest hit in a Times expose, but General Mills and PepsiCo were guilty by association, and names like Ben & Jerry’s, Walmart, Target and Whole Foods also were mentioned.

For 2024, make it clear to your plant managers, third-party service providers and co-packers that underage workers are not tolerated. Take it a step further and tell your employees that if they “see something, say something” – to sympathetic management.

2. Roll back some prices.

In our 2023 January issue, we posed the question: “Inflation or greed?” After going along with price increases caused by inflation and the supply chain issues of 2021-2022, consumers in early 2023 started to question the prices they saw at their grocery stores.

The pandemic wind-down was a time of record profits for some companies, and the multi-million-dollar salaries of food & beverage company CEOs never suffered – two points not lost on some consumers.

There’s a long-held belief that margins are razor-thin in this business. While I don’t know enough to dispel that, there are doubters. U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (Pa.) in December published a report, “Shrinkflation: How Corporations Are Shrinking Products to Super-Size Profits.” It’s not a pretty picture, and he threatens to do something in Congress as chairman of the Subcommittee on Children & Families. Head him off at the pass.

3. No more adulterants in children’s foods.

2023 ended with the recall of toddlers’ applesauce pouches; apparently lead was introduced as an economically motivated adulterant in the cinnamon. The source may have been in Ecuador, but that doesn't relieve responsibility from the American firms whose brands were on those pouches.

Schnucks (not the only brand impacted) is a sizable grocery chain with 115 stores in St. Louis and adjoining states, so they should have done a better job of auditing their supplier in Ecuador and, for that matter, their supplier's suppliers.

While this was intentional adulteration, lead and other heavy metals have long been an issue in children's foods. Back in 2019, the Baby Food Council was formed, including four baby food processors, with a mission to set voluntary standards for four heavy metals (arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium) in baby food. As laudable as that effort was, it fell apart. That sounds bad.

Congress and the FDA both have promised action – for quite some time now – but you never know, one or the other may actually act one day. Why not get ahead of this?

You're lucky I only had room for three; I've got dozens more "honey-do's" for you. I think the common thread is: Don't just be more profitable this year, be better.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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