Vt. cites Price Chopper over ‘farm fresh’

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced yesterday that his office has settled a lawsuit filed against the owner of over 100 Price Chopper supermarkets over its use of the phrase “farm fresh” to describe its produce.

Although it admitted no wrongdoing, Golub Corp. of Schenectady, N.Y., agreed to abide by Vermont regulations that require that produce described as “farm fresh” must be delivered directly from the farm to the place of sale. The company also has agreed to pay the state $10,000.

Golub owns over 100 Price Chopper supermarkets in the northeast, including two in New Hampshire, one in Keene and another in West Lebanon.

The attorney general said that during the spring and summer of 2002 the company placed at least 14 weekly inserts with a two-page advertising spread for fresh produce and related products under the banner headline, “Farm Fresh Produce.”

According to the complaint, many of the items advertised as “farm fresh” were not shipped to the store directly from the farm where they were grown. Instead, they came, by way of shippers, brokers and warehouses, from all over the country, including in many cases from Illinois, Florida, Texas and California.

Although Golub denied any wrongdoing, under the settlement the company agreed to use the term “farm fresh” to advertise fresh produce only if the items are delivered to the place of sale directly from the farm where they originated. In addition, Golub will inform its advertising staff of this requirement and pay $10,000 to the State.

Neil Golub, president and CEO of the firm, said the Vermont regulation makes no sense because the term “farm fresh” has been used all over the country to define fresh produce for over 60 years. He also said the company contends that “a truckload of corn or apples delivered to its distribution center and then sent that night to its stores can rightfully be called ‘farm fresh.’”

It helps no one and the Attorney General cannot prove that it either hurts or deceives the customer in any way and asked the court to dismiss the complaint. The court agreed that the Attorney General did not prove that the customers were deceived but allowed them to take it to trial.

Golub said he agreed to the settlement because a court trial would be costly.

“I’d much rather save the money to donate to Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association” he said of the $10,000 settlement. – JEFF FEINGOLD

Categories: News