Paramount Farms facing litigation over tainted almond case
April 10, 2005
by Joan Murphy
Nearly a year after Paramount Farms announced a massive recall of millions of raw almonds and after negotiations failed to reach a settlement, two law firms have sued the company on behalf of plaintiffs who said they got ill from eating the company?s almonds.
Marler Clark, the Seattle-based law firm, and Martinez & Potter, a Los Angeles-based law firm, filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven people who became ill with Salmonella Enteriditis infections after eating Paramount Farms? raw almonds between September 2003 and May 2004. The lawsuit was filed in the South Judicial District of the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Last May, Paramount announced a nationwide recall of all raw almonds sold under the "Kirkland Signature," "Trader Joe?s," and "Sunkist? labels. Costco mailed more than 1 million letters to members known to have purchased the recalled product in the United States, and the recall was later expanded to include nuts sold in bulk to approximately 50 other commercial customers, some of whom repackaged almonds for sale under other brand names. The recall included almonds exported to France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
The recall was launched after Oregon health officials spotted a cluster of five patients infected with Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis. The investigation then identified 29 patients in 12 states and Canada sick with the same strain of Salmonella.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, tests of raw almonds recovered from a patient?s household and samples collected at Paramount were negative for Salmonella. Health officials isolated Salmonella in one environmental sample collected at Paramount and in three samples from two huller-shellers that supplied Paramount, said CDC.
In response to the lawsuit, Paramount Farms, the world?s largest supplier of pistachios and almonds, said that it is company policy not to comment on ongoing litigation.
Since the recall was announced last May, the company said it has worked proactively to make sure that its products are safe.
?Now no raw almonds are released from the plant unless they undergo a kill step," said Chris Tuffli, communications director for Paramount Farms, who added that raw almonds are treated either with propylene oxide or undergo a scientifically validated pasteurization process.
In the wake of the Salmonella outbreak, the Almond Board of California has drafted an action plan calling for pasteurization of all raw almonds. The board is working with the industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to turn the plan into a mandatory rule as part of the marketing order, said Julie Adams of the board.
However, the industry is still conducting research on the appropriate technology and treatment techniques that can remove the bacteria while still not interfering with the sensory characteristics of raw almonds. Any technique that implements a new food-safety process is going to cost the almond industry, she said. The board also has to ensure that there is capacity for small, medium and large plants to implement the new safety requirements.
In the meantime, the lawsuit alleges that all seven plaintiffs who are suing the company had Salmonella infections linked to almonds manufactured and sold by Paramount Farms. Paramount recalled roughly 18 million pounds of almonds in May 2004 after the CDC traced the Salmonella illnesses to consumption of Paramount?s raw almonds between September 2003 and May 2004, said Marler Clark.
?We have been working to settle our clients? Salmonella claims against Paramount Farms for almost a year now," said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. "Unfortunately, Paramount has not made reasonable offers to our clients to settle their claims? The plaintiffs live in California, Washington and Arizona. "At this point, we feel that the only chance of obtaining just compensation for our clients is letting a jury decide the value of these claims," Mr. Marler said.
NEPC expo: Want loyal customers? "Moments of Magic" may be the answer
April 10, 2005
by Gordon M. Hochberg
BOSTON - If the well-worn but nevertheless crucial idea of "satisfying your customer" is still the key to success for any business, then attendees of the New England Produce Council?s expo heard a dynamic and magical presentation that told them exactly how to get that key.
Shep Hyken, a professional speaker and author, delivered a high-energy keynote speech Wednesday morning, April 6 here at the Hynes Convention Center. His address, part of the council?s annual Produce & Floral Expo, was titled "Moments of Magic," and Mr. Hyken indeed used magic card tricks to help illustrate his points as well as keep his audience entertained.
The speaker began by emphasizing that "satisfying? customers is hardly sufficient in today?s competitive business environment, since "satisfied? really means "just satisfactory." Instead, the successful business will strive to make its customers fiercely loyal.
Building true customer loyalty involves "creating a moment of magic? by a business that customers will notice, enjoy, appreciate and remember. (Doing the opposite creates, of course, a moment of misery.) "A moment of truth is anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, and has an opportunity to form an impression," Mr. Hyken quoted Jan Carlzon of Scandinavian Airlines as saying. And "every moment of truth," said Mr. Hyken, is an "opportunity to create a moment of magic."
For the NEPC audience, Mr. Hyken offered the example of a produce delivery truck pulling up to a supermarket. If the truck is clean, it will make a good impression " a moment of magic if you will " he said.
The keynote speaker then detailed his top 10 specific strategies toward creating moments of magic and, in turn, loyal customers.
Manage the first impression. This sets the tone for further interaction.
Knowledge of your business. You should know virtually everything about your business, since you want your customers to come to you for answers to their questions. If you don?t know the answer to a specific question, you should know where to find the answer. Build rapport. The ability to talk about things in general, whether world events or your customers? kids, help cement relationships.
Enthusiasm. If you?re not excited about your business, your customers won?t be either.
Imagination. It is very important to "get inside? your customers? heads, so ask questions to help you understand your customers? needs in a very specific way. For example, if a customer says he needs your product delivered "quickly," ask him directly, "How quickly??
No mistakes. This is the goal, since everyone makes mistakes, Mr. Hyken noted. But when you make a mistake, fix it as quickly as possible to renew your customer?s confidence.
Quality. Strive for the best quality, of course, but since many of your competitors may have equal quality, delivering that product quickly and efficiently will help to differentiate you from the competition and help build long-term relationships.
Under promise, over deliver. In other words, set an expectation and then exceed it. For example, if your customer says he needs a product delivered by noon tomorrow, try to get it there an hour earlier.
Consistency. This refers to not just consistently good product but to "consistency of attitude," he said. Everyone at your company must make the effort to exhibit a positive attitude.
Appreciation. Say thank you over and over again to your customers, both in person and on the phone.
Following the keynote presentation, the council announced that in its Best Booth Contest, Carbone Floral Distributors came in first in the single-booth category and Don Shapiro Produce came in first in the multiple-booth category. Paul Kneeland of Roche Bros. Supermarkets, who was also the 2005 NEPC Expo Committee chairman, was honored as Retailer of the Year by Produce Business.
Attendees then made their way to the highlight of the event, the trade show, which this year boasted 186 booths, according to NEPC Executive Director Laura Sullivan. Total attendance at this year?s event was still being tallied at press time, but Ms. Sullivan estimated that it could approach 1,000.