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Price Chopper Settles Suit, Defends Use of 'Farm Fresh' in Vermont

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Price Chopper here yesterday defended its use of the term "farm fresh" to describe a truckload of corn or apples delivered to its distribution center and then sent overnight to its stores, despite a Vermont regulation that defines the phrase only as product delivered directly from a farm. The chain's defense came the same day that Vermont attorney general William H Sorrell in Montpelier said that he and Golub Corp., Price Chopper's owner, had settled a lawsuit involving Golub's advertising of "farm fresh" produce in the state.

According to the lawsuit, the ads violated the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act because they were inconsistent with a state regulation requiring produce advertised as "farm fresh" to be delivered directly from the farm to the place of sale.

Under the settlement, Golub will comply with the straight-from-the-farm requirement, and has agreed to use the term "farm fresh" to advertise fresh produce only if the items are delivered to the place of sale directly from the farm where they originated, and will inform its advertising staff of this requirement. The chain will also pay the state $10,000.

During the spring and summer of 2002, the complaint alleges, Golub Corp. placed at least 14 weekly inserts with a two-page advertising spread for fresh produce and related products under the headline "Farm Fresh Produce." These ads appeared in such publications as the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer, Burlington Free Press, Caledonian Record, Newport Daily Express, Rutland Herald, St. Albans Messenger, Times-Argus, and Valley News.

However, the suit says, many of the items of produce weren't shipped to the store directly from the farm where they were grown, but instead came, by way of shippers, brokers and warehouses, from all over the country including from Illinois, Florida, Texas, and California.

Price Chopper, in its statement, said, "The term 'farm fresh' has been used all over the country to define fresh produce for over 60 years." The grocer said that the Vermont regulation "makes no sense," since "the attorney general cannot prove that it either hurts or deceives the customer in any way."

Price Chopper president and c.e.o. Neil Golub said in the statement that a court trial would cost so much that paying the $10,000 fine would be inexpensive in comparison. "I'd much rather save the money to donate to Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association," he said.

The family-owned Golub Corp. owns and operates over 100 Price Chopper grocery stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Golub employs more than 23,000 associates who collectively own 55 percent of the company's privately held stock.
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