“One bad apple will spoil the barrel” is almost as familiar as the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
We know that the second phrase came from Wales, first noted in 1866, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and keep your doctor from earning his bread.”
The bad apple spoils the barrel phrase dates back to colonial days when apples were shipped to England in wooden barrels.
We prefer the healthy slogan because it communicates good health, and when we hear about bad apples, it sends chills up our backs. That is because now more than ever those chills are most threatening to us all.
Last year, it only took a handful of apples to disrupt the cart nationally as well as internationally because of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak.
Bad news spreads faster today than ever before, thanks to social media and the Internet. We could be in the midst of a full-blown, foodborne outbreak within hours of the first detection.
Consumers today may not know exactly what Shiga toxin, E. coli or Listeria are, but they do know that they are bad and people can die from them.
Earthbound Farm, Dole, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Bidart Brothers, to name a few, can all attest to the importance of food safety after being the subject of food safety investigations. Spinach, cucumbers, melons, onions, cider, and yes, apples have all been found “guilty” at one time or another.
We all remember the spinach outbreak in 2006 and the three deaths associated with that outbreak.
We also know that Congress in 2011 reacted to such outbreaks by passing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Our industry is now trying to understand and comply with the new rules. It’s no easy task.
After the 2006 crisis, the produce industry quickly realized the need for a central clearinghouse to focus exclusively on produce safety research, in order to try to proactively prevent future food safety events.
Supported by both private and public partnerships, the resulting Center for Produce Safety has provided over $18 million to fund produce safety research and, in 2015, launched a national campaign to raise $20 million over the next five years.
This aggressive objective clearly identifies the need for more research based on sound science to continue to address food safety for produce, including apples.
Since 2007, the CPS has become one of the most credible sources for the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health to obtain the needed data and information as it pertains to produce safety in our country.
Recently the Washington State Tree Fruit Association announced its commitment to raise $750,000 to help CPS reach its goals over the next five years.
The association joins a select few organizations and companies that have pledged over $500,000 toward the goal. For the apple industry, or any produce sector, this is a huge and most notable commitment.
It certainly exemplifies the seriousness and the importance of the cause.
Other apple-producing states are being asked to step up and contribute as well. Individual apple companies are also starting to share in the commitment, and to all of them and to Washington state, well done! All apple growers and produce associations across the country should also consider joining this effort, now.
It should be a national effort, because all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the barrel.
Jim Allen is president of the New York Apple Association, Inc. This essay originally appeared in Core Report, the official newspaper of the New York Apple Association.