Friday, June 26, 2009

OOIDA’s food fight

Major players in the food supply chain often get together to share knowledge and information about ways to protect the nation’s food supply. But for years, they’ve left out the people who have a huge role in food safety and security – the small-business truckers who haul the majority of the nation’s fresh food and produce.

But that’s changing, thanks to the persistence of OOIDA.

Recent positive developments offer a perfect example of how OOIDA works to not only give truckers a voice, but also to raise the nation’s level of awareness on how important the driver’s role can be.

With our “food fight” as an example, here’s the way it has happened:

In September 2006, a massive recall of contaminated spinach left produce-hauling members stuck with contaminated loads. They communicated their frustrations with their professional association.

The bigger picture then and now is that truckers can’t get anyone of importance to listen when they rave about the gap in the food safety chain. The facts of what is happening to the food while it’s in transit are ignored.

Regulatory specialists here at OOIDA have taken up the issue. It really pushes buttons with Regulatory Specialist Joe Rajkovacz, who hauled produce for years. He’s got the expertise and the passion.

In the case of the contaminated spinach, OOIDA’s media arm – specifically Land Line Staff Writer Clarissa Kell-Holland – initiated an investigation. Once she was on the food safety trail, she was a bulldog. Mother of three, she’s a safe-food zealot. Her investigations have resulted in a number of acclaimed investigative articles on how food safety honchos have unwisely ignored the role that truckers play.

Joe, meanwhile, has tried to get OOIDA a place at the discussion table. The Association has sent him to meetings coast-to-coast where he gives the big picture to anyone who will listen.

Three years later, people in administrative positions ARE listening. Suddenly, they get it – and that’s a HUGE step.

Earlier this summer, a large attendance at the Association of Food and Drug Officials conference in Oak Brook, IL, asked Joe to give the transportation perspective on critical issues affecting the supply chain regarding food safety and security. Of course, he was on his game. For many there, it was a real light bulb moment.

You can read Clarissa’s Special Report on any of our OOIDA Web sites this week, or click here.

I want to say that as a staffer here at OOIDA, I am proud of the critical developments in the area of safe food. It’s extremely rewarding to be a part of something that has the potential to make a positive action that will affect every single citizen of our nation.

sandi_soendker@landlinemag.com