August 10, 2022

Shippers: Don’t Accept Buyer’s Photos as Proof of Product Condition

Using a smartphone, buyers can instantly text or email you photos of fruits or vegetables you sold upon arrival, ostensibly giving you an indisputable snapshot of the quality and condition of your product. While such images can be informative, they should not take the place of securing a USDA or Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection certificate in validating a claim.

Neither the PACA nor the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation will accept third-party digital images as evidence of a breach of contract as it relates to off-condition. The only time images are acceptable by either agency is when they are part of the USDA or Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection certificate and referenced as such.

When you, the shipper, receive images from your buyer, it is strongly recommended that you inform the buyer you can only grant adjustments based on official government inspection certificates. Unless you’ve agreed otherwise pursuant to a supplier/vendor agreement, images should not be accepted as evidence.

Photos can be misleading and may not tell an accurate story of the condition of the load. For example, buyers have been known to send images of the same piece of fruit or vegetable taken from several different angles, while purporting to be representative of the larger load. While images of recorded pulp temperatures or transit handling information can be informative, they may be missing key elements of a claim, such as percentages of defects or a non-biased representative sample of the load.

Whenever your customer is requesting an adjustment or other changes to the terms of the contract, always remember:

                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 credible evidence for you and your grower when it comes 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 949.885.2392 or [email protected].