It wasn’t that long ago that the term “fake news” was limited to gossip-style publications that adorned supermarket checkstand racks with outrageous headlines. Topics including outrageous subjects such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster or space aliens.

The public to some degree ate it up and purchased enough to keep the publications in business. If nothing else, this served as a form of entertainment.

I only bring this up as lately many traditional or long-established news organizations stand accused (whether true or otherwise) of pushing a certain agenda, being biased in their reporting, even saying something that is completely without merit, without fact verification, and in some cases, without printing a retraction.

Yeah, yeah, Armand. What does this have to do with fresh produce?

More than you realize. Long-established and reputable publications (such as The Packer, of course) consistently demonstrate a wholesome discipline when it comes to reporting, verifying quotes, fact-checking, and other things that ensure that the news you read is the real deal.

On the other hand, who’s the nemesis in all this? 

The Internet, of course. It’s chock-full of people who spew everything and anything about our industry. Without knowledge to the contrary, you would be horrified to read that this fruit is poisonous, or eating a certain root provides healing qualities, or another vegetable can help you regrow your hair (I wish). All bunk.

The ancient Egyptian scribes were highly valued for their skills. Modern history’s writers were trained to disregard any misinformation. I’ve heard it said that all a person needs now to be web-published is a computer and a Wi-Fi password. 

Presto! They can say whatever they want. 

And just like that, protected under the blanket of free speech lies the danger of — yes — fake news. It affects otherwise seemingly harmless outlets such as social media sites where fresh produce has been sometimes misrepresented in any number of ways. It brings to mind one die-hard writing rule I recall from a course that stressed, “Good writing is accurate writing.”

As produce retailers, what you can do is stress the truth.

You can deliver truth-with-advertising — by sharing a single known fact, for example, on a sign about kiwifruit: “Did you know an enzyme in kiwi prevents Jello from setting? The same enzyme can be used to tenderize meat; just spread kiwi slices over the tougher cut, cover and refrigerate overnight.”

If information originates from some squirrely website, who knows if it’s so. If a store posts helpful hints, consumers are far more likely to accept such things as truthful, as the source is present — and accountable.  

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].


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