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Trader Joe’s, Costco, Wild Oats – they’re all names you’ve heard of. CRF Foods? Probably not. It turns out CRF Frozen Foods supplies frozen fruit and vegetables — organic and otherwise —- to a lot of well-known brands. And it’s just issued a huge product recall covering 360 different products that could be contaminated with listeria.
The recall affects 42 different brands. It covers products processed and packaged at CRF as far back as two years ago. Haley Oliver, a food scientist at Purdue University, said now that outbreak investigations look so far into the past, companies can be held liable for a lot more than they used to be.
“From an economic viability standpoint, that can be really challenging for some of these companies,” she said. “And if you look in this instance at the amount of product that’s about to be recalled, that can be financially devastating.”
Particularly to the supplier under investigation. But it’s no picnic for the supermarkets either. CRF, which is based in Washington state, is a big supplier. It specializes in organic fruits and vegetables. Crisis manager Jonathan Bernstein said the stores’ recovery will depend to some extent on whether they have other suppliers lined up.
“If they have to scramble now, there’s going to be a delay and obviously loss of revenue as a result,” he said.
Freezer shelves sit empty until new green peas and broccoli arrive. But Tom Pirko of BevMark Consulting said during times like thi,s some retailers look for a silver lining. They encourage consumers to try something else — something more expensive.
“What they really want to do is switch you over, away from the low-margin profit margin frozen item, and get you over there into that produce section they have,” he said. “So this is an opportunity to actually make some money.”
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