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Target has problems with some gift cards

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Target Corp. said a “small percentage” of its gift cards were not properly activated and, as a result, are not working properly when customers try to redeem them.

“We are aware that some Target gift cards were not fully activated and apologize for the inconvenience,” Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in an e-mail, Reuters reported.

According to Target, less than 0.1% of the total of gift cards sold during the holiday period were affected by the problem. The retailer promised to honor the cards. Customers can bring faulty cards to any Target service desk or call 800-544-2943 for help.

The gift card issue follows a massive security breach the retailer experienced in December that affected as many as 40 million credit and debit cards holders.

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Walmart does donkey meat doubletake in China

BY CSA STAFF

Food safety and compliance issues earned Walmart some unwanted attention this week after it was learned that snacks made with donkey meat in China were also found to contain fox meat.

The incident received widespread attention among U.S. media outlets who found Walmart and fox-tainted donkey meat a delectable combination during a slow news week. The product in question was something called “five spice” donkey meat that Walmart sold in stores in the city of Jinan in eastern China. Fox was not supposed to be one of the spices in the product, but fox DNA and that of undisclosed other animals were said to have been found in the product, according to media reports.

To its credit, Walmart showed its concern for the matter by having the company’s highest ranking China executive issues a statement as opposed to a public relations spokesperson.

“We have been deeply shocked by this incident,” said Walmart China CEO Greg Foran. “It has provided a deep lesson and shown that we need to continue to increase investment in supplier management.”

According to Chinese media report, the issue of the adulterated donkey meat product came to light after a customer bought 1,600 packages of meat and then demanded compensation when tests he commissioned showed the donkey product contained fox meat.

It is a little strange that a customer would conduct their own DNA tests on products, which suggests there may be more to the story than meets the eye. Either way, the issue is a reminder that policing suppliers at a company the size of Walmart, which operates in some exotic locales, is an enormous challenge. When incidents do arise they tend to be magnified because of Walmart’s involvement moreso than if a local Chinese retailer had been found selling a donkey meat that contained fox.

That was the case a few years ago when Walmart was criticized in China, a country where counterfeit product and mislabeling is said to be rampant, when it incorrectly identified pork as being organic in some of its stores.

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Whole Foods expands loan program

BY CSA STAFF

Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program has reached the initial goal of funding $10 million in low-interest loans to local and independent food businesses, and has now committed an additional $15 million for a total of $25 million in funding.

The Local Producer Loan Program (LPLP) has provided 184 loans to 155 companies since its inception in 2007.

In providing easier access to loans for budding food businesses, the program’s first $10 million in funding has not only enabled growth, but also supported pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health and sustainable packaging.

“Expanding the Local Producer Loan Program is a direct result of the innovations and successes of our loan recipients,” said Betsy Foster, Whole Foods Market global VP of growth and business development. “By playing a role in advancing new ideas, growing businesses and realizing dreams, Whole Foods Market stays connected with both our neighborhood producers and our global food community.”

With the additional commitment of $15 million in funding, the company welcomes new loan applications from producers seeking to expand their businesses. Whether applicants offer a distinctive artisan food product or a new hydroponic farming facility, Whole Foods Market loan administrators, buyers and local foragers work closely with business owners to drive growth and success.

The most recent loan, pushing LPLP to the $10 million milestone, was awarded to WholeSoy & Co., an independent, San Francisco-based producer of non-GMO, organic, vegan, gluten-free soy yogurt. The company received $400,000 — one of the program’s highest loans to date — to help build their own (dairy-free) yogurt facility after their co-packer unexpectedly closed for business in mid-2013, leaving them without a way to package their yogurt.

“The loan from Whole Foods Market, one of our original and long term retail supporters, gave us access to the resources we needed at a crucial time. After raising most of the funds required, this additional $400,000 will help us realize our dream of having our own dairy-free yogurt facility,” said Ted Nordquist, CEO of WholeSoy & Co. “Whole Foods Market truly cares about our success and worked closely with us to support our re-entry into the marketplace. Their commitment to the brand has been critical in our being able to get WholeSoy back on the shelf for our many loyal consumers in 2014.”

While some loan recipients sell products in Whole Foods Market stores, such as organic vegetable farmers, grass-fed cattle ranchers, natural body care producers and gluten-free bakers, many other recipients operate businesses that support the natural foods industry. Additionally, 43 companies are owned by women and an additional 36 are co-owned by women.

Loan recipients must meet Whole Foods Market’s quality standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan. Typical loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and have fixed low-interest rates.

Previous loan recipients have used their loans for purchasing more livestock, investing in new equipment, expanding production facilities, adapting to more sustainable practices or converting to organic production.

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