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COMPTON, Calif. -- As Ralphs awaits action from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) regarding last week's Mexican grape controversy, it's business as usual among the Kroger-owned grocer's shoppers.
"There has been no impact on sales, no negative comments or actions from our shoppers at all," Ralphs spokesman Terry O'Neil told Progressive Grocer. "It's a complete non-issue for them."
California growers, on the other hand were concerned about Ralphs and its sister chain Food 4 Less mislabeling grapes imported from Mexico as California-grown produce. The chains could face steep fines for advertising the Mexican-grown grapes as coming from California farms, according to published reports.
Responding to complaints from farmers, the CDFA launched a formal review of the chain's violations of rules governing the use of "California-grown" logo and term. The inquiry could result in referral to the attorney general for prosecution and fines as high as $3,000 for every mis-advertised bag of fruit sold.
O'Neil characterized the mislabeling as "purely human error," noting that both Ralph's and Food4Less chains have taken every corrective action required of the companies by CDFA.
The 4-year-old California Grown campaign is a joint effort of farmers and the state to bolster the value and consumption of California agricultural products. Trade associations representing producers of everything from apples to wine have signed up to use the logo to market their goods.