With everyone having the capability of digital imaging, buyers have the means of instantly emailing you images of your fruits or vegetables upon arrival ostensibly giving you the quality and condition of your product. While the photo or photos are very informative, it does not, however, take the place of a USDA or Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection certificate. Neither the PACA nor the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation will accept digital imaging (pictures) as evidence of a breach of contract as it relates to off-condition. The only time pictures are acceptable by either agency is when they are part of the USDA or Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection certificate and referenced as such.
I, therefore, strongly recommend when you as a shipper receive pictures from your buyer that you tell your buyer you can only grant adjustments based on official government inspection certificates. Pictures cannot tell you the whole story of the condition of the load. As an example, consider how many times you may have received pictures from a buyer and many of the pictures were actually of the same piece of fruit or vegetable merely taken from several different angles. While some images containing recorded pulp temperatures may be helpful, they cannot provide the whole story, such as percentages of defects or a proper sampling.
One area in which pictures might be helpful is in a load shift; however, even in this instance you will need an accompanying inspection issued by the government in order to prove the product was damaged due to such a shift.
Whenever your customer is requesting an adjustment or other changes to the terms of the contract, I leave you with the following thought. When it comes to determining the quality and condition of your product, only consider either a USDA or Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection certificate as evidence. There is no better proof for you and your grower when it comes down to the condition of the product.
Should at any time you need assistance in reading the results of a government inspection or wish to discuss the possibilities of a claim, please contact me at TommyO@wga.com or 949-885-2269.