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The 10-acre terminal market, which supplies produce to restaurants, hotels, retailers and distributors in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Arizona, has reportedly seen a 35 percent reduction in sales over the past year, as well as a significant change in the types of products being sold.

“For the last two years, we have seen how things have worsened,” said Pedro Astorga, president of the market’s vendor association. “That’s why we’ve had to tighten our belt and, like us, so has every person in the supply chain; producers, distributors, vendors and customers in general.”

Commenting on recession-related changes in demand, Astorga added, “People are not going to stop eating, but the menu is definitely changing. We no longer sell specialized or exotic products; people are simply not buying them.”

Note to distributors: If you—or your customers—are buying produce from a wholesale market, be sure to check it out from a food safety standpoint. Two years ago, this same L.A. market was the subject of an undercover investigation by local TV station KNBC, which found deplorably filthy conditions, including rats, produce stored next to porta potties and garbage dumpsters, no hot water and soap, vendors urinating out in the open near open boxes of produce, and countless other egregious food safety violations. In the report, Caroline Smith De Waal, a consumer advocate from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, noted that wholesale produce markets are a hidden hazard and a weak link in the food chain.

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