. COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNI WASHINGTON. D.C. 20548 ’ ’llililllllllllllllllllllllllllillllllllll LM095525 .., Dear Senator Holdings: \L This is in response to your letter dated July 19, 1971, requesting a full-investigation of Army purchasing.procedures for food forperson- / , nel in Europe.1 You reques'G%'?a-T$%.5fic report on a shipment of peaches f%%-South Carolina to Europe, as well as some assurance that the Army's 7 2.4 buying practices for food are in order., As you know, the shipment of peaches was a joint promotional venture of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and the South Carolina Peach Council. The objective of this effort was to expand t.hemark,et of the South Carolina pes.$h_Jndustry by shipping peaches to a private importer in Europe who would sell to the U. S. Army those peaches that met its specifications. !ihe peaches that did not meet the Army's speci- fications were to be sold through commercial channels by the import agent. Although a contract was not entered into, the promotional plan was well received by Department of Defense officials prior to the shipment of peaches. The shipment originated on June 24, 1971, at a packing plant in 1 Sumter, South Carolina. An inspector of the U. S. Department of Agri- !&, Y culture (USDA) graded the shipment of 877 3/4 bushel boxes of Coronet 2_ variety peaches as being within the U. S. Standards established for grade U. S. Extra # 1. The certificate issued indicated that the size range was "generally ? to 3 inches, mostly 2 to 2$- inches" and that the peaches were "mostly hard, some firm" possessing 80 percent fancy color. The peaches were loaded in a refrigerated shipping container and a representative of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture accom- panied the container to The Netherlands to monitor the temperature controls and to record the temperature several times daily. The sealed container was cooled to a fairly even and constant temperature through- out. The refrigeration unit of the shipping container was in constant operation during the entire trip and maintained the temperature at the desired settings. Upon arrival at the cold storage facilities of the importer in Zaltbommel, The Netherlands, on July 7, 1971, a preaward survey was made by a purchasing agent for the U, S. Army, Europe. His report recommended that the peaches not be purchased because they were 100 percent immature, hard, green to light green in color with sizes ranging from 1 3/4 to 3 inches. 50TH ANNIVERSARY 1921- 1971 r L On the same day, representatives of the Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Rotterdam, were on hand to evaluate the arrival condi- tion and reported that there was very little damage to the crates or peaches, less than 1 percent decay, and that the fruit would require 2-3 days at 70 degrees before being edible. A USDArepresentative took 3 boxes of the peaches, one each from the front, middle, and back of the container, to the USDAlaboratories at Rotterdam for a ripen- ing analysis. On July 8, the day after arrival, the Army made a second survey-- this time by a member of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Inspection Section. The purpose of this survey was "'To see if the whole lot is fit to be considered for purchase." The inspector reported that the peaches did not meet the following U. S. Army, Europe, specifications. Required by Found Specifications Size 2-3 inches 2s inches minimum Color light green turning turning yellow/yellow yellow Fimness hard hard only allowed on yellow peaches The inspector told us while he had seen very little decay during his survey he wasn't really looking for defects of this kind since the shipment had already failed to meet specificationsP After this second survey, the importer resized the entire shipment to meet Army specifications of a 2s inch minimum, On July 12, 1971, a representative of the Army Purchasing Department made a third preaward survey and reported that the %+E Fruit was fairly well colored, with excellent blush. Peaches had no indication of sweetness and very little peach aroma." Based on a sample size of 100 peaches, the in- spector reported the following quality and condition defects: Defect Percent Decay Bruises Worm-holes 3 Immature 19 Undersize 50 -2- Meanwhile, at the USDAlaboratory in Rotterdam, the 3 boxes of peaches were maintained at a temperature of 45' for 2 days, then half of the peaches were held at a temperature of 70' for 3 days and the other half was held at 60° for 4 days. The USDArepresentative reported that the fruit showed good ripening characteristics and eating quality and were very comparable with Italian fruit seen on the local market. However, bruising and decay increased as shown in the following statistics recorded by the USDAlaboratory., 397 peaches at 191 Peaches at 191 Peaches at 450 - 2days 6o" - 4 days 700 - 3 days Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Bruising 2 -5 5 2.6 13 6,8 Decay 10 2.5 31 16,2 32 16.7 The USDAlaboratory report indicated that most of the decay was on fruit that had been mechanically injured, It was not possible to locate the cause of the mechanical injuries since it could have happened at any point from the picking process to the point of delivery. The report also stated that most of the bruising recorded was slight in nature and would not detract from salability. We discussed this matter with the Regulatory Branch, Fruits and Vegetables Division, USDA, which has as one of its main functions, the settlement of disputes between contractual parties in the commercial wholesale business of perishable fruits and vegetables. A representa- tive of this Branch stated that if the case was presented to him, he would have to say that the Army had no basis for rejecting those peaches which met its buying requirements of 24 inches because (1) the certif- icate by the USDAinspector at the shipping point indicated that the fruit was mature and of good quality and (2) although the 3 boxes may not be representative of the entire shiment the laboratory analysis supported the conclusion in the USRA8sinitial report that the shipment arrived in good condition. It was the consensus of the USDArepresentatives that the basic reason for the Army's rejection probably was the hard condition of the peaches upon arrival. The hard to firm condition was stated by them to be normal for Shipping perishable fruit and it did not harm the ripening process at the market end as long as the fruit is mature. We were told that the fruit in this shipment had to be picked hard in contrast to fruit shipped by European growers whose travel times and distances are much shorter. -3- The United States Standards For Peaches established by the USDA defines maturity as meaning "that the peach has reached the stage of growth which will insure a proper completion of the ripening process," Immaturity is scored as a grade defect in the inspection process; however, the USDAinspector at the packing plant in South Carolina did not indicate any defect for innnaturity in his sample of 600 peaches. We contacted an experienced buyer of fresh fruits and vegetables of the Defense Supply Agency and asked him if he would consider buying peaches of the Coronet variety if they were "light green and turning yellow" in color. He advised us that, based on his experience, he would buy Coronet peaches of such color and that they would be perfect for anybody's use. He further stated that he would not buy yellow or ripe Coronet peaches because they would be overripe by the time they reached the ultimate consumer, whereas, by buying green peaches they would ripen in transit and on the ccmtmissary store shelves. In its third preaward survey, the Army expressed concern about the worms and worm damage found in the peaches. USDArepresentatives indicated that a special effort was made by the Rotterdam laboratory to locate worms, worm holes or worm damage in the peaches after the lab- oratory was notified by the Army that a 3 percent defect for worm holes had been noted. The laboratory reported that each peach of the 3 boxes was examined and that there was no indication of worms, damage or holes in the 397 peaches. Also, the USDAinspector at the packing plant in South Carolina detected no worm damaged peaches in the sample he exam- ined. Consequently, representatives of the USDAquestion whether the Army, in its inspection, noted actual worm damage. On July 23, 1971, after spending more than two weeks in trying to get the Army to buy the peaches, the importer sold on the local market the peaches that were still in salable condition, At that time about half of the original shipment of the peaches had to be destroyed be- cause of their deteriorated condition, We were not present at any of the inspections nor did we see the shipment upon arrival in Europe. It appears, however, from examining available records and discussions with individuals who are experienced in the field of perishable fruits and vegetables, that good quality fruit was received by the importer in Rurope. As a result> it seems that a portion of the shipment met Army specifications and should have been accepted for use by the military, This situation points up inconsistencies in standards for inspect- ing food products by representatives of the Departments of Defense and Agriculture. In this regard, last year we completed a review of the inspection activities of these and several other agencies and issued a report to the Congress entitled, "Need to Reassess Food Inspection Roles of Federal Organizations" (B-168966, June 309 lg70)o We are enclosing a copy of this report which identifies a naber of prob- lems that have arisen and points out the need for maximtamstand- ardization in requirements, procedures, and concepts to enable inspections to be made more effectively and econotically~ Q 21 our report WE recommended that the Office of Management and 27 ../ Rudget (OMB) make a detailed evaluat-ion of the food inspection function to determine the most effective method of improving the administration of this function. OMl3started to follow-up on our recommendation but work was suspended pending implementation of the President's Departmental Reorganization Plan. This pPan protides for consolidating some of the food inspection functions, We have a review under way of the Army's procedures for purchas- ing food in Europe and will furnish you a copy of the report upon completion. If we can be of further assistance, please let us know, We are /- *-; sending a similar report to Senator Strom !!!hurmond.@ --- Sincerely yours, Comptroiler-Geheral of the United States Rnclosure The Honorable Ernest 3'. Rollings United States Senate
Investigation of Army Purchasing Procedures for Food for Personnel in Europe
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-09-08.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)