017204-grocery-shoppingThe next time you walk down the produce aisle (with your kids in tow) picking out fruits and vegetables to feed your family, ask yourself the question I ask myself when I do the same: “Does this grocery store – locally, regionally or world-wide owned – really care if what it sells you has a pathogen on it, or in it, that can kill or maim you or your family?”

Of course it says it does.  You can see it in ads to entice you into the store to buy the produce – “farm fresh” or “local” – you have seen it, and likely believed it.

But, it’s a lie.

The grocery store might well talk about food safety of the produce it sells, but it knows very well that it has had a bevy – or, is it a gaggle? – of lawyers, whose job it was to write contracts to push responsibility for safe food as far away from the grocery store as lawyerly possible.

Please bear with me and actually read some real contracts between grocery stores and brokers, shippers and farmers, where grocery stores pushed food safety responsibility on to those brokers, shippers and farmers.

INDEMNIFICATION. ___________ shall protect, defend, hold harmless and indemnify ___________, including its officers, directors, employees and agents, from and against any and all lawsuits, claims, demands, actions, liabilities, losses, damages, costs and expenses (including attorneys’ fees and court costs), regardless of the cause or alleged cause thereof, and regardless of whether such matters are groundless, fraudulent or false, arising out of any actual or alleged:

(b) Death of or injury to any person, damage to any property, or any other damage or loss, by whomsoever suffered, resulting or claimed to result in whole or in part from any actual or alleged use of or latent or patent defect in, such Merchandise, including but not limited to:

(i) Any actual or alleged failure to provide adequate warnings, labelings (sic) or instructions,

(ii) Any actual or alleged improper construction or design of said Merchandise, or

(iii) Any actual or alleged failure of said merchandise to comply with specifications or with any express or implied warranties of Supplier.

And, here is another:

Indemnification.  a)  __________ shall indemnify, defend and hold __________, its parent, subsidiary, and affiliated corporations, and their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents, harmless from and against any and all liability, claims, and damages (including reasonable fees of an attorney of __________’s choice) arising from or in connection with the Products including, but not limited to: (i) claims for property damage, personal injury or death; (ii) claims by governmental agencies; and (iii) claims for refunds or credits due to the weight of the packages or poor quality.  b) This indemnification shall not apply to the following: i) liability, claims, and damages which are caused solely by the negligence or intentional misconduct of _________.

What does the above really mean?

It means those grocery stores can push all responsibility for the production of safe food on to others.  Simply put, you may well think that the grocery store actually cares that the food you buy from it is safe, but they have spent much on lawyer fees to make the reality something very different.

And, when you consider that those same grocery stores can also set the price they will pay for the produce that they buy, they also deny the pennies that brokers, shippers and farmers need for fair profits, fair wages and food safety.

Grocery stores know that when brokers, shippers and farmers sign these contracts, and say a spinach E. coli outbreak sickens 205, killing five, or a Listeria cantaloupe outbreak sickens 147, killing 33, the grocery stores can talk about safe food but never really pay for it.

The only ones who really pay for it are sick consumers and their families.