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Hepatitis A Outbreak Numbers Rise Again: 127 Sick in 8 States

The Hepatitis A outbreak linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey continues to grow. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said five more illnesses have been confirmed as part of the outbreak, bringing the total to 127 ill in 8 states.

According to CDC, all of the confirmed victims became ill after eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend, a frozen berry blend sold across the country in Costco stores. Harris Teeter also sold the now recalled product, but so far no illnesses have been linked to the retailer.

The updated case count by state is as follows: Arizona (17), California (64), Colorado (25), Hawaii (7), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), Utah (2), and Wisconsin (2). [Note: The cases reported from Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the product in California.] Nearly 60 percent of those sickened are women. The ages in the outbreak range from 2 to 84 and include 6 children under the age of 18. CDC said none of the children had been vaccinated. More than half of those ill required hospitalization.

The outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, according to CDC.

Three weeks ago, Townsend Farms Inc. recalled certain lots of the product linked to the outbreak because it has the potential to be contaminated. This week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled certain lots of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels, also thought to be at risk for contamination. Both companies are based in Oregon.

Food Safety News

Bad start yet again for Israeli bell pepper

Bad start yet again for Israeli bell pepper

After a number of bad years, this season was looking to be better for Israeli bell pepper growers. The Russian boycott was to give the sector good export opportunities. But nothing could be further from the truth, says Frank Mosterd of Gilad. “It’s as if they switched to eating potatoes and carrots instead of bell peppers.”


Risky market
“Everyone thought it would be exceptional, but the opposite is true. Instead of being a very good market, the Russian market is very risky.” That’s what Frank Mosterd of Gilad says about the Israeli bell pepper export to Russia, which doesn’t seem to get off the ground. “The Russian economy isn’t going well, the rouble isn’t working in our favour, and demand is limited,” he explains. “Perhaps the period between the boycott and the Israeli season was too long.” Until a few weeks ago, prices were still reasonable in Russia, but meanwhile a lot of Israeli produce has been shipped. “The market is saturated.” The organic market is having a tough time as well at the moment. “We started out with reasonable prices, but currently the prices are also too low for the time of year.”


Third bad year in a row
For the Israeli bell pepper sector, this is the third, downright bad year in a row. “I was there last week,” Mosterd says, “and I haven’t spoken to a single optimistic grower.” Just like in the Netherlands, many cultivation companies are under water. “Quite a lot of growers are going bankrupt, and instead of those greenhouses being emptied, they’re bought by other growers.” Cultivation companies also rent out their greenhouses to other growers, or to export companies, and the acreage remains constant. “November and December have already been bad in recent years – we have to make our money in January, February and March. If that turns out badly, even more growers will have to quit.”


Improvement
For the coming weeks, Mosterd is expecting improvements. “The market is slowly starting to recover again. Also because of the holidays, we are shipping more now.” Since Friday, there’s been a bit more demand. That means prices of around 7.00 Euro for red and yellow, and 8.5 Euro for orange, per 5 kg box. “From Spain, not a lot of oranges are coming. That’s when you see buyers switching to Israeli produce.” But if there aren’t any shortages, it’s hard for Israel to gain a foothold in Europe. “Just like last year, you see the programmes for packaged bell peppers in Spain, which is the main reason for the limited demand for Israeli bell peppers in the Netherlands.” A pity, actually, Mosterd remarks. “Because the upside is that the quality is really top notch this year.”


For more information:
Gilad Produce
Tel: +31 174 518 530
Fax : +31 174 528 502 
Frank Mosterd
Mob: +316-2255 6700
www.giladproduce.com

Publication date: 12/17/2014


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How being too late and selling too little will help Kroger win, again

Sell to you? I hardly even know you.

In so many words, that’s been Kroger’s posture when it comes to e-commerce. While the Cincinnati-based grocery giant has spent a decade separating itself from peers with leading strategies around supermarket basics like loyalty, pricing and service, it was a seeming laggard in the e-commerce world: Beyond a rarely-discussed Internet shopping experiment in Denver and off-and-on flirtations with partners like Peapod over the years, it seemed as though Kroger was content winning sales in the physical world and leaving the digital battlefield to the more intrepid.

Turns out that was the plan all along.

While Kroger still isn’t doing a whole lot of sales on the Internet, the foundation upon which it could build sales might surprise you.

“Maybe we were unconventional a bit in our thinking on this, but rather than focusing on e-commerce as the core of a digital strategy, we really thought it was critical to first establish what we call a digital relationship with our customers,” Kevin Dougherty, Kroger’s group vice president of digital, said in a presentation at Kroger’s analyst meeting this week. “And that is a basic concept that we thought would, over time, enable us to have millions of unique communications with each of our customers.”

These communications cover things like shopping lists, recommendations and presentations of weekly store specials reflecting a customer’s shopping habits as determined by loyalty data. Because these things have proven value for shoppers in the real world, Kroger reasons, customers are more willing to accept them in the virtual world. And Kroger doesn’t come off quite as desperate as some of its e-retailing peers.

“In a day when most of the email that is sent by retailers is typically ignored and usually quickly deleted, we really … are focused on making each of these touch points more relevant,” explained Matt Thompson, director of digital and ecommerce for Kroger. As a result, Thompson said, response rates to Kroger’s virtual offers are three to five times greater than industry averages.


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As Kroger finally turns its attention to digital sales — with eyes on expanding both the Express Lane click-and-collect model it reeled in with Harris Teeter, as well as newly acquired vitamin and supplement e-tailer Vitacost — Doughtery says Kroger has “a late arriver advantage.”

“We get to lever the investments and learnings of lots and lots of other people,” he said. “And we’ve gone to school pretty heavily in the last several years on this regard.”

Your move, Internet.

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Consumer Group Again Calls on FSIS to Address Food Safety Inspector Shortages

Food & Water Watch (FWW) continues to prod the U.S. Department of Agriculture about shortages of food safety inspectors.

In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday, FWW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter cited incidents of understaffing in the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which she said “directly contradict” agency testimony before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in April that there have not been any gaps in inspection.

The move follows a letter the organization sent last February, which described the FSIS policy of hiring “temporary inspectors” and the inspector vacancies resulting from a hiring freeze. The letter also claimed that there has been an increased number of recalls for products that had not received the benefit of inspection.

Hauter noted that a draft of the FY 2015 FSIS Appropriations Explanatory Notes posted on the USDA’s website in March included a paragraph about personnel reduction stating that, “Due to anticipation of the Poultry Slaughter Modernization rule publication in FY 2014, the Agency has determined that it is not prudent to rehire formerly filled positions at this time because the new methods for poultry slaughter require fewer Federal in plant personnel.”

Since the February letter, FWW has obtained several FSIS emails that suggest a lack of inspections.

According to the letter, Spam® was produced on April 27 without the benefit of inspection, an April report about inspection visits for the Denver District showed that there were 100 instances in which establishments didn’t receive inspection and 17 instances in which establishments were short-staffed, a FSIS front-line inspector described “severe” inspection staffing shortages in Alabama, and a series of emails directed inspectors not to visit processing plants because they were needed to cover slaughter assignments.

Responding to The New York Times article about FWW’s February letter, FSIS Deputy Assistant Administrator Aaron Lavallee wrote in an agency blog post that, “FSIS is legally required to have a sufficient number of inspectors present in every single meat and poultry plant in the country. No plant in America is allowed to operate if it does not have the required number of safety inspectors in the plant at all times, and every plant currently operating in America has the necessary food inspection staff.”

Lavallee explained that vacancy rates should not be confused with plant inspector shortages, implying that meat and poultry are less safe because of them.

“There is no connection between recent recalls and FSIS vacancy rates, and any claims that these issues are linked are false,” he wrote.

But Hauter was not convinced by Lavallee’s blog post.

“[I]t is apparent to us that FSIS is in complete disarray and is in need of an overhaul of leadership,” she wrote. “We have lost confidence in that agency because its leaders cannot be trusted to tell the truth and on the current course it is heading public health is being placed in jeopardy.”

Food Safety News

Foster Farms chicken again linked to salmonella

Foster Farms, the California processor linked to an ongoing salmonella outbreak that started last year, has recalled an unspecified amount of chicken products that may be contaminated with salmonella Heidelberg, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

The fresh and frozen chicken products may have been sold at Costco, Foodmaxx, Kroger, Safeway and other stores in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

The recalled items were produced from March 7-13. FSIS asked Foster Farms to recall these products because they are known to be linked to a specific illness.

“At Foster Farms, our first concern is always the health and safety of the people who enjoy our products, and we stand committed to doing our part to enhance the safety of our nation’s food supply,” Foster Farms said in a press release.

A full list of recalled products can be found on the Foster Farms website.

The outbreak that started last year has so far sickened 621 people in 29 states and Puerto Rico, according to the CDC.

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Defense Again Raises Possibility of Separate Trials for Parnell Brothers

In prosecuting the former executives of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), government attorneys are going for convictions that, for the first time, could put defendants in a foodborne illness case behind prison bars. Rarely do food executives responsible for products causing sickness and death face criminal charges, and those who do seldom face real jail time.

This officially “complex” case is now on the verge of going to a jury trial in federal court in Albany, GA, which is about one hour away from the now-abandoned PCA peanut processing plant that was involved in a deadly outbreak of a common strain of Salmonella. The case is being watched by food industry executives and their lawyers like nothing in memory because the stakes are so high for those charged.

Two of the five original targets of a four-year investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agreed to plead guilty in exchange for consideration at sentencing, which won’t come until after the trial that could see both of them testify for the government. Both Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey were top PCA managers at Blakely, and both now await sentencing.

Not-guilty pleas were entered for the three others, who are scheduled for trial July 14. Stewart Parnell, who was chief executive of the now-defunct PCA, his brother Michael, the peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, the former manager of quality assurance at the Blakely, GA, plant, are putting their futures in the hands of a jury.

In the 16 months since the indictment of the former peanut executives on a total of 76 federal felony counts, prosecutors have had to deal with plenty of maneuvering by the skilled defense attorneys. Those charges include conspiracy, interstate shipments fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, and introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead.

Conviction on any one of those counts can result in prison sentences of five to 20 years. Being found guilty on multiple counts of such crimes could quickly add up.

But on the eve of the trial long thought to be about foodborne illness and the resulting deaths, the defense is moving to exclude the jury from hearing any mention of outbreak-related illnesses or deaths. They say the way the charges are drawn, the government has made the coming trial about “incurred monetary losses” and obtaining money “by means of fraud and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.”

“Notably, the government’s indictment makes no mention of any victims of these alleged crimes other than the eleven customers that were defrauded by this scheme,” Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr., defense attorney for Stewart Parnell has told the court. “The pleaded harm that resulted from this alleged criminal scheme consists of monetary harm to customers that the individuals named caused to PCA’s eleven named customers.”

“Despite the fact that the government’s entire case is premised on the alleged wrongful conduct of obtaining money by false pretenses, it is anticipated that the government will attempt to introduce evidence at trial of an alleged nine deaths and over 700 illnesses related to allegations that salmonella-tainted peanut products left PCA,” Bondurant added.

Bondurant goes on to assert that the reason the government focused on the “economic harm rather than the physical harm” is because “it cannot establish that any illness or deaths related to the salmonella outbreak originated from PCA or formed part of the conspiracy and fraud alleged in the indictment.”

Besides wanting to keep out any mention of foodborne illnesses or deaths, defense attorneys also want Dr. Ian Williams, who has led outbreak response for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 20 years, prevented from testifying as an expert witness at the trial.

Ahead of an important pre-trial hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. this coming Tuesday, the prosecution team has roared back at the defense, charging that they are attempting to keep the government “from presenting proper, direct, intrinsic and inextricably intertwined evidence proving the charges and facts alleged in the indictment.”

“The indictment sets forth information pertaining to salmonella, the effects of salmonella to a person’s health, the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) role which determined the chain of events that led to PCA’s Blakely facility, and that salmonella adulterated PCA’s peanut products,” Patrick H. Hearn, attorney from the Consumer Protection Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, wrote in a response filed with the court.

In his 17-page response, Hearn “connects the dots” that will make the Salmonella illnesses and deaths the narrative for the coming trial. “The CDC with the assistance of state and local health authorities traced salmonella from individuals who were ill or who had died from salmonellosis,” he stated. “The individuals were tested for salmonellosis. Food products the individuals had consumed were tested for salmonella. The food products were peanut butter and peanut butter crackers.”

“The suppliers of the peanut butter and manufacturers of the peanut butter crackers identified PCA Blakely as the source of the peanut butter,” Hearn continued. “As a result, the FDA sent investigators to the PCA Blakely plant. This chain of events explains how and why the FDA went to PCA Blakely.”

“Produced in discovery by the government was an FDA test from a salmonella positive sample of Austin Peanut Butter Crackers provided to the FDA by a woman in South Carolina sickened with salmonellosis …. The peanut butter in the crackers came from PCA,” he stated.

Hearn cites a 1997 Supreme Court case (Old Chief v. United States) giving prosecutors “broad latitude” to present evidence in a criminal trial. Multiple counts of the indictment involve adulteration of food.

“Food is adulterated if it ‘bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health,’” the DOJ lawyer noted.

“Evidence of illnesses and deaths that stemmed from the PCA salmonella outbreak is directly relevant to providing that, per this definition, PCA products were adulterated, as alleged in this indictment,” Hearn wrote, adding that the prosecution “is entitled to prove its case by evidence of its own choice.”

Just as the prosecution’s task would be far more difficult if they are not allowed to speak of Salmonella illnesses and deaths or call witnesses on those subjects, the defense also want to keep laboratory test records from being read in court as simple business records.

Defense attorney Edward D. Tolley, representing Michael Parnell, says that records of those tests should only be accepted by the court if the scientists and testers are made available for cross-examination to protect the Sixth Amendment rights of the accused.

At a minimum, such a ruling holds the likelihood that getting lab results for Salmonella testing will take more time and could result in boring and repetitive questioning.

One issue that has not gone away is whether the Parnell brothers can, or should, be tried by the same jury. The issue has come up again in arguments over whether to accept the CDC’s Dr. Williams as an expert witness at the trial.

In a motion joining with his brother’s objections about Williams being allowed as an expert witness, the attorney for Michael Parnell says that the CDC official’s testimony could have a “spillover effect” on his client, causing him to “continue to insist that he be severed from Defendant Stewart Parnell, either physically in a separate trial, or in points of instructions to the jury along the way.”

Michael Parnell, with a company of his own called P.P. Sales Inc., was a peanut broker. Tolley states that, “to the extent that Dr. Williams’ testimony relates to illnesses and death arising from King Nut peanut butter and/or Parnell’s Pride peanut butter, produced by PCA, which was not peanut butter contracted from delivery by P.P. Sales Inc.”

The outbreak was also an economic train wreck. Within a year, either PCA or its customers, or both, recalled 3,918 food and pet food products thought to contain peanut products made at the Georgia plant. It was the largest ingredient recall in U.S. history and came at a cost of as much as $ 1 billion, according to food industry experts.

Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing will be held at the C.B. King U.S. Courthouse in Albany, GA, before W. Louis Sands, senior U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Georgia.

Food Safety News

Florida orange crop estimate drops again

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast of the 2013-14 Florida orange crop decreased 6 million boxes to 104.3 million boxes. While early-mid varieties accounted for 53.3 million boxes, Valencias dropped 6 million boxes to 51 million boxes.

“This decrease is about what we expected with the continuing effects of HLB, or citrus greening so we are not surprised,” Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. “The flip side is without the resiliency and superior production methods of the Florida citrus grower it could have been worse. The crop is still very high quality.”

More than 750 people are gathered June 11-13 for the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference at the Hyatt Coconut Point in Bonita Springs to discuss the state of the Florida citrus industry. The annual event mixes business, industry issues and camaraderie.

“Our record Conference attendance even in these trying times is a testament to our commitment to the future of our $ 9 billion industry and the 76,000 jobs it supports,” Sparks said in the release.

During the 2012-13 season, Florida produced 133.6 million boxes of oranges.

The USDA’s estimate of the 2013-14 Florida grapefruit crop stayed at 15.6 million boxes, and specialty fruit held steady at 3.83 million boxes.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

China may be open again soon to California citrus

China has been a $ 75 million to $ 80 million market for California citrus, and growing, but in April 2013 Chinese officials closed access to the Chinese market for California citrus after a plant disease called phytophthora, commonly known as brown rot, was detected on several different loads of fruit.

Since then, the California industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been working with China in an effort to re-open the market, and California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen was optimistic that those efforts may be about to pay off.

“I am feeling pretty good about it,” he told The Produce News May 20, following an announcement that USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has reached an agreement with its counterpart agency in China on an export protocol.

Nelsen said he was also optimistic last November when “we thought we had an agreement to reopen the market” just before the start of the California Navel season. But “problems developed” and it didn’t happen. “As a result, the Navel orange industry lost the whole export season for the 2013-14 crop year.”

But “to their credit, USDA continued to persevere and continued to challenge China on the obstacles that they were placing in our way,” he said. In April, APHIS officials traveled to China and reached a “tentative agreement” with Chinese officials “on what the industry is obligated to do.”

In June, a Chinese delegation will visit California to review the California citrus industry’s field and packinghouse operations and how enforcement and documentation will be carried out, “and thus assure themselves” that the protocols in the agreement will actually be carried out.

Pursuant to that visit, “the goal is for them to announce in early July that the market will be reopened in time for some summer exports of Valencia oranges and lemons” and well in advance of the Navel export season, which typically starts in December, Nelsen said.

The Chinese delegation will be visiting production areas in Ventura County and in the San Joaquin Valley. “We will take them to packinghouses. We will take them to groves. We will let them visit with the county commissioners, because that is a system unique to California that affords better enforcement of these trade protocols,” he said.

Before the market closed a year ago, China was the third-largest export market for California citrus, following South Korea and Japan. Navels are the state’s leading citrus export item to China, followed by lemons and “to some degree” Valencias, he said.

In compliance with the agreed protocol, California citrus growers will be skirting, or trimming, the trees higher above the ground than has been standard practice.

“We do that as a normal practice because of other pest issues,” Nelson said. “But they want them skirted a little higher for export, so we are going to do that. We are also going to be managing a spray program,” using a benign copper spray that “provides a good shield against the [phytophthera] bacteria manifesting themselves onto the fruit.”

The spray schedule will be based upon climatic conditions.

The industry will continue to handle fruit at the packinghouses using “our traditional post-harvest materials,” he said.

China has not previously recognized the efficacy of those materials, but has now agreed to do so.

Finally, “we’ve got to inspect the fruit, both in the field and at the packinghouse, to a greater degree than what we are doing,” he said. “All of that is manageable, and we are more than happy to do it to satisfy the concerns from China.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Loblaw takes cheese title from Whole Foods, again

Loblaw Cos. took back the record for most Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheels cracked simultaneously with 1,008 wheels cracked at banners across Canada on March 22.


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The Canadian retailer once again usurped Whole Foods Market for the Guinness World Records title. Whole Foods initially set the record in 2008 with close to 300 wheels cracked before Loblaw stole it in 2012 with 305 wheels. In 2013, Whole Foods regained the title by simultaneously cracking 426 wheels of cheese. Whole Foods also broke its own record in 2010 and 2011.

For the most recent attempt, 360 Loblaw banner stores participated.

“Today was a memorable day for Loblaw and our colleagues. It was an overwhelming experience to celebrate this achievement with our customers and store teams at more than 360 stores; we couldn’t have done it without them,” Metzi Liau, Loblaw senior category director, said in a press release. “Our colleagues were specially trained to crack the wheels in the traditional style upheld by Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium, and we are thrilled to have achieved this world record.”



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Loblaw takes cheese title from Whole Foods, again

Loblaw Cos. took back the record for most Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheels cracked simultaneously with 1,008 wheels cracked at banners across Canada on March 22.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


The Canadian retailer once again usurped Whole Foods Market for the Guinness World Records title. Whole Foods initially set the record in 2008 with close to 300 wheels cracked before Loblaw stole it in 2012 with 305 wheels. In 2013, Whole Foods regained the title by simultaneously cracking 426 wheels of cheese. Whole Foods also broke its own record in 2010 and 2011.

For the most recent attempt, 360 Loblaw banner stores participated.

“Today was a memorable day for Loblaw and our colleagues. It was an overwhelming experience to celebrate this achievement with our customers and store teams at more than 360 stores; we couldn’t have done it without them,” Metzi Liau, Loblaw senior category director, said in a press release. “Our colleagues were specially trained to crack the wheels in the traditional style upheld by Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium, and we are thrilled to have achieved this world record.”



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Loblaw takes cheese title from Whole Foods, again

Loblaw Cos. took back the record for most Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheels cracked simultaneously with 1,008 wheels cracked at banners across Canada on March 22.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


The Canadian retailer once again usurped Whole Foods Market for the Guinness World Records title. Whole Foods initially set the record in 2008 with close to 300 wheels cracked before Loblaw stole it in 2012 with 305 wheels. In 2013, Whole Foods regained the title by simultaneously cracking 426 wheels of cheese. Whole Foods also broke its own record in 2010 and 2011.

For the most recent attempt, 360 Loblaw banner stores participated.

“Today was a memorable day for Loblaw and our colleagues. It was an overwhelming experience to celebrate this achievement with our customers and store teams at more than 360 stores; we couldn’t have done it without them,” Metzi Liau, Loblaw senior category director, said in a press release. “Our colleagues were specially trained to crack the wheels in the traditional style upheld by Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium, and we are thrilled to have achieved this world record.”



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A Heston Blumenthal Restaurant Hit with Norovirus Again

The Guardian reports Sunday that Heston Blumenthal has temporarily closed his London restaurant Dinner after aoutbreak of the same winter vomiting virus that was linked to contamination at another of his restaurants, Fat Duck, five years ago.

The chef said he was erring on “the side of extreme caution” by shutting the establishment in the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Hyde Park after a number of guests and employees fell ill.

Dinner specializes in historic British dishes and has two Michelin stars. It has also been rated in the world’s top 10 restaurants.

Food safety officers have told staff to wash their hands more often.

Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, in Bray, Berkshire, was hit by an outbreak involving at least 240 people in 2009. It was later said to be the worst norovirus contamination at an English restaurant.

Food Safety News

A Heston Blumenthal Restaurant Hit with Norovirus Again

The Guardian reports Sunday that Heston Blumenthal has temporarily closed his London restaurant Dinner after aoutbreak of the same winter vomiting virus that was linked to contamination at another of his restaurants, Fat Duck, five years ago.

The chef said he was erring on “the side of extreme caution” by shutting the establishment in the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Hyde Park after a number of guests and employees fell ill.

Dinner specializes in historic British dishes and has two Michelin stars. It has also been rated in the world’s top 10 restaurants.

Food safety officers have told staff to wash their hands more often.

Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, in Bray, Berkshire, was hit by an outbreak involving at least 240 people in 2009. It was later said to be the worst norovirus contamination at an English restaurant.

Food Safety News

A Heston Blumenthal Restaurant Hit with Norovirus Again

The Guardian reports Sunday that Heston Blumenthal has temporarily closed his London restaurant Dinner after aoutbreak of the same winter vomiting virus that was linked to contamination at another of his restaurants, Fat Duck, five years ago.

The chef said he was erring on “the side of extreme caution” by shutting the establishment in the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Hyde Park after a number of guests and employees fell ill.

Dinner specializes in historic British dishes and has two Michelin stars. It has also been rated in the world’s top 10 restaurants.

Food safety officers have told staff to wash their hands more often.

Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, in Bray, Berkshire, was hit by an outbreak involving at least 240 people in 2009. It was later said to be the worst norovirus contamination at an English restaurant.

Food Safety News

A Heston Blumenthal Restaurant Hit with Norovirus Again

The Guardian reports Sunday that Heston Blumenthal has temporarily closed his London restaurant Dinner after aoutbreak of the same winter vomiting virus that was linked to contamination at another of his restaurants, Fat Duck, five years ago.

The chef said he was erring on “the side of extreme caution” by shutting the establishment in the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Hyde Park after a number of guests and employees fell ill.

Dinner specializes in historic British dishes and has two Michelin stars. It has also been rated in the world’s top 10 restaurants.

Food safety officers have told staff to wash their hands more often.

Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, in Bray, Berkshire, was hit by an outbreak involving at least 240 people in 2009. It was later said to be the worst norovirus contamination at an English restaurant.

Food Safety News

Strikes break out once again in San Antonio

Strikes break out once again in San Antonio

Chilean port companies and workers reached an agreement at the to end a 22-day strike — but strikes broke-out once more at San Antonio.

Fresh stoppages late Monday night have threatened an agreement reached between port companies and workers which sought to end three weeks of strikes that hit exporters with multimillion dollar losses. Workers hailed the agreement — which came after 14-hours of government-mediated discussions — as a significant victory. Under the deal, more than 6,500 port workers may be eligible to receive remuneration.

“Finally, we’ve reached an agreement, just as we said we would, now we will raise the movement,” Sergio Vargas, president of the Port Workers’ Front (FTP) told Puertos de Chile. Exporters received the news with enthusiasm, however lamented the losses and delays caused by the extended protest.

Fruit exporters were particularly hard hit — the strikes came at the height of fruit production and much of their produce was spoiled or sold at lower prices in the domestic market. “Considering labour and transportation, lost and devalued fruit, we’ve seen losses across the chain close to US$ 200 million,” Ronald Bown, president of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (Asoex), told The Santiago Times. “And to all of this one must add the damage to our image, credibility and confidence among our clients, which will encourage them to seek other suppliers.”

Port companies committed themselves to awarding US$ 2,730 to all workers who met the requirements of at least six months of activity and a minimum of 18 shifts per month, according to Mundo Maritimo. The retroactive payment is intended to remunerate half-an-hour lunch breaks dating between 2005 to 2013.

“This amount will be paid during February,” the port companies stated in their official announcement published in 24 Horas on Saturday.

The dispute over lunch hours lingers, however, in San Antonio — the country’s major fruit shipping port — and Mejillones — a key copper port — and tensions arose due to the alleged firing of workers in the two ports. “A few problems remain. While we are still working all shifts, union leaders are meeting with port company officials,” Jorge Bustos, leader of United Port Workers (TPU), told The Santiago Times, adding that his organization was “looking into” claims workers had been fired for their participation in the strikes. Port workers in San Antonio held a meeting until late Monday on whether they will strike once more, with local media reporting that at least two terminals decided to resume strikes.

During earlier strikes, violent clashes between workers and Carabineros — Chile’s uniformed police — occurred in both Mejillones and San Antonio, among other ports. Injuries were sustained on both sides. According to the Soy San Antonio website, seven San Antonio strikers were detained by Carabineros and held in custody for six hours on Friday.

The port strikes have not only impacted the national economy, but also caused losses in neighbouring Bolivia. The landlocked nation relies heavily on Chilean ports for its exports and is currently challenging Chile in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to regain access to the ocean it lost in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883).

The Bolivian government stated Monday the country has lost an estimated US$ 30 million with hundreds of Bolivian truckers unable to unload cargo due to the strike. “The mistreatment that Bolivia suffered in the port of Iquique because of Chile is indignant and unacceptable,” Bolivian Productive Development Minister Teresa Morales told Los Tiempos.

In the wake of the agreement Chilean Fruit Growers Federation (Fedefruta) President Cristián Allendes said that exporters still faced significant challenges as a result of the dispute between workers and port owners. “For us this is not over, now we will have to explain why, for reasons beyond our control,

Publication date: 1/29/2014


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Foster Farms Again Halts Operations at Troubled CA Plant

Foster Farms is voluntarily halting operations at its troubled plant in Livingston, CA, according to a news release from the company.

Operations at the plant were originally shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 8 for a cockroach infestation. Before that, the plant was one of three tied to an ongoing Salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 416 people in 23 states.

The company says it is temporarily closing the plant down again to further expand its “manufacturing procedures and monitoring systems.”

The plant currently has no date set to re-open but is planned to be closed for several days.

The company says that no products, packaging or lines were affected by the reasoning for the closure.

No Foster Farms chicken has been recalled despite the Salmonella outbreak and pest infestation.

Food Safety News

South African grapes again hit by the weather

South African grapes again hit by the weather

The export of South African grapes has been further reduced as a disappointing season for the growers continues. Exports to the UK are down 2 million boxes according to the latest SATGI figures. But a representative from SATGI said the drop in volumes to the UK was the consequence of high winds at the port which stopped the vessels from sailing, and things should even out this week.

Exports to other destinations are almost on par with last year, with South East Asia seeming to win volumes from the Middle East.

Before Christmas the Orange River Region was hit by hail and floods and the already reduced crop estimates have again been dropped 10-15%. Intake is down around 1.6 million cartons compared to last year.

Rain showers have been affecting harvest in the other regions this week with heavy showers reported in the Hex River Valley which led to packing being stopped. In Olifants River and Berg River the quality is reported as being good.

Publication date: 1/9/2014
Author: Nichola Watson
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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Beltran receives blue grapes from South Africa once again

Eric Dierick: “The same clients as previous years”
Beltran receives blue grapes from South Africa once again

Beltran (Group Achiel de Witte), established by the CE in Brussels, received the first blue grapes by air from South Africa, on Monday, the 16th of December. Eric Dierick mentions, that just as in previous years, they offer the variety Black Gem. “As we have to sell these grapes at a high price because of the airfreight, we only offer them in Extra Large.”

One of our shippers, with whom we have arranged our air and sea freight grapes or many years, is SAFPRO. Apart from grapes we also do apples, pears and citrus with SAFPRO, both packed under our own brands CIBEL and CEBON and under their own SAFPRO hallmark.”

Good demand
According to Eric the demand for grapes may be called good. “The clients buying these grapes from Beltran are the same as in previous years. There is not an enormous shortage in Italian blue grapes like in the last years, but nevertheless many clients have already changed to new origins.” Eric mentions that this weekend another shipment from South Africa will be flown in. “And after that it will be over for this year again.”
 
For more information:
Eric Dierick
Group Achiel De Witte
Beltran NV
112/154, Werkhuizenkaai
Magazijn 35/36
1000 Brussels – Belgium
Tel : + 32 (0)2 216 45 39
Cell:+ 32 (0)476 96 97 45
Fax :+ 32 (0)2 245 70 43

Publication date: 12/20/2013


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