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June 12th, 2013

Rotten Tomatoes: Walmart’s Latest Produce Initiative

Walmart cannot fix our food supply

By Tyler Shannon

Only Walmart can make headlines with a new policy not to sell consumers rotten produce. Just last week, Walmart announced a new “fresh produce guarantee” allowing consumers to get their money back if they’re unhappy with purchased produce that’s, presumably, old or expired. Walmart is not even asking customers to return the produce to get their money back, indicating that it already knows it may have a problem.

This initiative is clearly in response to recent discoveries that the company has been selling customers expired produce, which, according to analysts, is likely due to a severe reduction in the number of employees responsible for stocking shelves and checking on produce.

Once the news of the problem got out, instead of addressing the actual issue of not enough employees assigned to the task, Walmart set the PR machine into motion, trying to improve its image with consumers through yet another initiative, following other pledges to improve their environmental sustainability and food procurement.

However, what Walmart’s spin doctors aren’t broadcasting is that this new policy includes an insidious change in how the company deals with fruit and vegetable producers. Walmart, well known for putting intense pressure on its suppliers to cut costs, has eliminated the middle person in many cases and will now apply pressure directly to the farmers with which it does business. Walmart does not like to deal with multiple, small or even mid-sided suppliers, instead choosing to deal with a few huge suppliers for each product in order to maximize efficiency. The same will likely be true here, with Walmart turning to only the largest operations run by the biggest businesses in the fruit and vegetable industry.

In addition to its produce quality woes, a recent report released by the congressional House Committee on Education and Workforce showed problems outside the produce section. Analyzing state Medicaid and benefit records in Wisconsin, the congressional committee found that each Walmart superstore in the state was costing Wisconsin taxpayers a minimum of about $905,000 per year as a result of its low wages and minimal employee benefits, including, among other things, Medicaid, section 8 housing assistance, reduced price lunches, and food stamps. The analysis only counted actual enrollees in state services.

So much for the Walmart motto “Save Money. Live better.” It looks like Walmart is just talking about its corporate executives and top shareholders, not its employees or its customers.  

7 Comments on Rotten Tomatoes: Walmart’s Latest Produce Initiative

  1. Ib Knutsen says:

    You raise some very valid points in your blog, but I would like to ask for a bit of sensitivitiy with regard to selling consumers expired produce. There is a growing awareness that way too much perfectly good food is being discarded by supermarkets in order to attract customers. Much of this food are fruits and vegetables that gets thrown out when it is ripe, as customers usually buy to keep at home. If there is ever going to be a reduction in this type of food waste, both retailers and consumers need to revise their views on selling expired produce. I am not advocating selling bad food to anyone, but expiry dates vary very much according to product, handling and storage.

  2. Mary Hinkley says:

    These things are why I refuse to shop at Walmart!

  3. Pat Anderson says:

    Please help me find out who is going to provide the food for the “Breakfast in the Classroom”. Will Walmart be serving kids rotten tomatoes in this program recently adopted by the LAUSD Board of Education? Walmart is listed on the website as a “Core Partner” as well as a “Supporter” of the program. The website suggests that the program is trying to make sure no child is hungry. We are told at school that since children eligible for free breakfast were not claiming it, they are planning to serve to all the children DURING CLASS TIME IN THE CLASSROOM (literally, NOT in the cafeteria). This increases the number of breakfasts that will be served (and largely thrown out by students) by streamlining these meals for everyone. If you’ve already eaten breakfast at home they still want to serve you a school breakfast. Who is making money from this program? ABC Local’s website lists this as a 6.1 million dollar program from federal funds. I am told the LAUSD Board was given the choice of no breakfast or this version of “Breakfast in the Classroom.” It will not be served in the cafeteria; there was no chance to keep things as they have been. Something does not smell right here and the first visit to the website showed “Core Partners” to be: Food Network, ConAgra Foods Foundation, and Walmart. Walmart is also listed as a “Supporter”. Can anyone help get more information about this very strange and suspect turn of events in Los Angeles schools?

  4. Joanna Gradilone says:

    God forbid Walmart owners should give up a little money to help the rest of the world. Put the burden
    on someone else – right.

  5. Cheri Cline says:

    All this while the list of the five wealthiest women was published and TWO of the top five wealthiest women were related to founder of Walmart &Sam’s Club. Bet they aren’t eating bad producer begging for healthcare.

  6. Janna says:

    Walmart is also selling GMO Corn.
    I thought about going in and leaving a sign on their corn shelf.
    Might not be a bad idea. Turn around and walk out.

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