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Publix offers benefits to same-sex couples

Publix Super Markets began extending health benefits to same-sex couples on Jan. 1, even in operating areas that ban gay marriage.

“As long as they’re married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage and they have a valid marriage certificate, they can live in a state that doesn’t recognize it since it’s part of our six-state operating area,” Maria Brous, spokeswoman for the Lakeland, Fla.-based chain with stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, told SN.

Employees must also work at least 1,500 hours a year to qualify, according to reports.

While Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee ban same-sex marriage, North Carolina and South Carolina began recognizing it late in 2014, and starting Tuesday, same-sex couples will be free to marry in Florida.


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“With two of our states (N.C. and S.C) already recognizing same-sex marriage and Florida discussing doing so, it was only right to offer benefits to all of our associates, regardless of their state,” Brous said.

Brous is unsure about how many additional associates will qualify for benefits under the rule, since Publix doesn’t track the sexual orientation of employees, but shared that feedback from associates has been “very positive.”

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Better benefits and less smell from slurry with new technologies

Usability and hygienic status of slurry can be considerably improved with new aeration based technologies, new study shows.

Research Scientist Anni Alitalo from Agrifood Research Finland has developed methods of improving the recycling of manure nutrients, the hygienic status as well as methods of reducing the odor of slurry. The studies are part of Alitalo’s thesis.

“A significant share of all manure consists of the slurry. In a global scale, however, only 20 to 40% of the nitrogen content of manure can be recycled. The recycling percentage of other nutrients is even lower,” Alitalo says.

Less than 50% of the manure nutrients recycled

Globally, livestock excretes about 100 megatons of nitrogen annually. Less than 50% is recovered and applied to crops. Therefore, the remainder is dissipated into the environment. Manure contains about 1.5 times more phosphorus and three times the amount of potassium compared with mineral fertilizers, but only a fraction of them can be recycled efficiently.

In Alitalo’s studies, the usability of slurry was improved by separating and recovering the primary nutrients, phosphorus and nitrogen.

“We were able to proof that phosphorus can be separated with the solids of the slurry. However, it is far more complicated to separate nitrogen from slurry, but that is possible too. In my studies, nitrogen was separated from the liquid fraction by ammonia stripping after biological treatment,” Alitalo describes her methods.

In her studies, Alitalo developed a pilot scale sequential treatment process, where manure was first treated with biological aeration in a reactor system especially planned for the process. After the biological treatment, ammonia was separated from the manure by ammonia stripping. During the biological treatment, the pH value of the slurry rose. Therefore, the partial separation of nitrogen without chemicals was facilitated.

“The study shows that the amount of chemicals used in the efficient stripping can be considerably reduced. Furthermore, ammonia stripping can be carried out without a strong base, such as sodium hydroxide,” Alitalo concludes.

Non-smelly slurry?

Biological treatment was aimed to reduce the odor of slurry and to improve its hygienic status. Slurry from pigs and cattle was treated in aerated tanks, which were filled with microbial seeding material. The dry matter content of the slurry was reduced to 1-2% before the treatment.

After four days, slurry was odorless, or only a slight odor could be detected. “The reactor system we developed in this study proofed to be stable and efficient,” Alitalo says.

The treatment managed to improve the hygienic status of slurry. The amount of fecal bacteria was reduced even more than 90%.

Basic research and technological development combined

The system described in Alitalo’s thesis cannot readily be applied on farms. The research tested basic mechanisms, which can be used in further development of processes suitable for the farm scale. To bring the technology to the farm scale has required remarkable R & D. The treatment for pig slurry is ready for farm use, but the marketing of the technology is depending on the decisions of the investment subsidies of the next EU programming period.

“When new innovations are developed in environmental technology, a profound understanding about the basic mechanisms is required, as well as the combination of excellence from different fields of research. In this study, the excellence of microbiology, chemistry, physical chemistry and technology were combined,” Alitalo says.

Alitalo has her scientific background in environmental soil chemistry. She has studied the utilization and reactions of nitrogen from both manure and mineral fertilizers as well as management of nitrogen use in farms. Her choice of thesis study was greatly influenced by professor Erkki Aura, the grand old man of agricultural sciences in Finland.

“Aura’s enthusiasm as well as his wide expertise in science and his way of searching concrete solutions for problems were probably the reasons that brought me to study solutions for the use of slurry, defender of the new thesis,” Anni Alitalo recalls.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

HAB invests millions of dollars to promote health benefits of Hass avocados

The conversation about healthy food choices is “pervasive among most Americans” who generally recognize that “fruits and vegetables are building blocks for a healthy diet,” said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA. Yet “despite what we all know,” studies show that most Americans are still not yet consuming as many fruits and vegetables as suggested by dietary guidelines and continue over-consuming sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

“Unfortunately, today in the United States, one-third of adults in our society are categorized as obese and another one-third as overweight,” Escobedo told The Produce News.05-MexAvos-HAB-Emiliano-EscEmiliano Escobedo “That is a serious issue because obesity is related to conditions like stroke and heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.”

Because of the exceptional health benefits of Hass avocados, “we see this as an opportunity,” he said.

There is “clearly a need to educate Americans on the link between diet and disease,” he said. “There is room for growth in the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” including avocados, and “we think that avocados have nutritional properties that can help Americans live a better life, so we want to leverage that.”

Avocado consumption in the United States has been rising dramatically in the last few years, but there is still much room for growth.

HAB studies have shown that consumers buy avocados for two principal reasons: they like the taste and they recognize the health benefits. “Those are the two main drivers,” Escobedo said.

HAB focuses most of its efforts and most of its funding on  additional scientific research into the health benefits of avocados and on promotional programs to increase consumer awareness of those benefits.

“We have invested nearly $ 5 million in nutrition research in the areas of heart health, weight management, diabetes and healthy living” and developed a promotional program called Love One Today, backed by a multi-million dollar budget, to promote the research findings and increase consumer awareness of the benefits of including Hass avocados in the diet on a regular basis can bring.

Recently published clinical trials by University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University found that adding avocados to a meal helps reduce inflation markers and that adding avocados to lunch “reduces hunger for a longer period of time,” leading to less snacking and, therefore, reduced total calorie intake, he said.

The most recently published study, by Ohio State University, “found that avocados boost the absorption of nutrients and antioxidants that are found in products that are consumed with avocados.” Eating avocados with tomatoes, for example, boosts the body’s consumption of the antioxidants in tomatoes by a factor of 10. “So avocados are definitely a nutrient booster,” Escobedo said.

Current studies, one at Penn State and one at Tufts University, are looking at such things as the potential of avocados in the diet to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body and to improve cognitive function among older population, he said.

The research “is generating a lot of media attention,” both consumer media and publications targeted to dieticians and other health professionals. Through the efforts of HAB, “we have obtained hundreds of millions of impressions” in various health and fitness publications in the United States as well as on radio and television, Escobedo said, emphasizing that this is editorial coverage, not paid advertisement. Studies to track the influence of those impressions on consumer attitudes demonstrates that “they are becoming more aware of the benefits of avocados, and as a result, we are seeing demand increase.”

It is not HAB alone that is leveraging the health message for Hass avocados, he said. Other stakeholders are doing so as well, including Avocados from Mexico and other industry organizations representing all other major sources of Hass avocados marketed in the United States.

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

HAB spends millions of dollars to promote health benefits of Hass avocados

The conversation about healthy food choices is “pervasive among most Americans” who generally recognize that “fruits and vegetables are building blocks for a healthy diet,” said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA. Yet “despite what we all know,” studies show that most Americans are still not yet consuming as many fruits and vegetables as suggested by dietary guidelines and continue over-consuming sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

“Unfortunately, today in the United States, one-third of adults in our society are categorized as obese and another one-third as overweight,” Escobedo told The Produce News.05-MexAvos-HAB-Emiliano-EscEmiliano Escobedo “That is a serious issue because obesity is related to conditions like stroke and heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.”

Because of the exceptional health benefits of Hass avocados, “we see this as an opportunity,” he said.

There is “clearly a need to educate Americans on the link between diet and disease,” he said. “There is room for growth in the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” including avocados, and “we think that avocados have nutritional properties that can help Americans live a better life, so we want to leverage that.”

Avocado consumption in the United States has been rising dramatically in the last few years, but there is still much room for growth.

HAB studies have shown that consumers buy avocados for two principal reasons: they like the taste and they recognize the health benefits. “Those are the two main drivers,” Escobedo said.

HAB focuses most of its efforts and most of its funding on  additional scientific research into the health benefits of avocados and on promotional programs to increase consumer awareness of those benefits.

“We have invested nearly $ 5 million in nutrition research in the areas of heart health, weight management, diabetes and healthy living” and developed a promotional program called Love One Today, backed by a multi-million dollar budget, to promote the research findings and increase consumer awareness of the benefits of including Hass avocados in the diet on a regular basis can bring.

Recently published clinical trials by University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University found that adding avocados to a meal helps reduce inflation markers and that adding avocados to lunch “reduces hunger for a longer period of time,” leading to less snacking and, therefore, reduced total calorie intake, he said.

The most recently published study, by Ohio State University, “found that avocados boost the absorption of nutrients and antioxidants that are found in products that are consumed with avocados.” Eating avocados with tomatoes, for example, boosts the body’s consumption of the antioxidants in tomatoes by a factor of 10. “So avocados are definitely a nutrient booster,” Escobedo said.

Current studies, one at Penn State and one at Tufts University, are looking at such things as the potential of avocados in the diet to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body and to improve cognitive function among older population, he said.

The research “is generating a lot of media attention,” both consumer media and publications targeted to dieticians and other health professionals. Through the efforts of HAB, “we have obtained hundreds of millions of impressions” in various health and fitness publications in the United States as well as on radio and television, Escobedo said, emphasizing that this is editorial coverage, not paid advertisement. Studies to track the influence of those impressions on consumer attitudes demonstrates that “they are becoming more aware of the benefits of avocados, and as a result, we are seeing demand increase.”

It is not HAB alone that is leveraging the health message for Hass avocados, he said. Other stakeholders are doing so as well, including Avocados from Mexico and other industry organizations representing all other major sources of Hass avocados marketed in the United States.

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

HAB spends millions of dollars to promote health benefits of Hass avocados

The conversation about healthy food choices is “pervasive among most Americans” who generally recognize that “fruits and vegetables are building blocks for a healthy diet,” said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA. Yet “despite what we all know,” studies show that most Americans are still not yet consuming as many fruits and vegetables as suggested by dietary guidelines and continue over-consuming sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

“Unfortunately, today in the United States, one-third of adults in our society are categorized as obese and another one-third as overweight,” Escobedo told The Produce News.05-MexAvos-HAB-Emiliano-EscEmiliano Escobedo “That is a serious issue because obesity is related to conditions like stroke and heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.”

Because of the exceptional health benefits of Hass avocados, “we see this as an opportunity,” he said.

There is “clearly a need to educate Americans on the link between diet and disease,” he said. “There is room for growth in the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” including avocados, and “we think that avocados have nutritional properties that can help Americans live a better life, so we want to leverage that.”

Avocado consumption in the United States has been rising dramatically in the last few years, but there is still much room for growth.

HAB studies have shown that consumers buy avocados for two principal reasons: they like the taste and they recognize the health benefits. “Those are the two main drivers,” Escobedo said.

HAB focuses most of its efforts and most of its funding on  additional scientific research into the health benefits of avocados and on promotional programs to increase consumer awareness of those benefits.

“We have invested nearly $ 5 million in nutrition research in the areas of heart health, weight management, diabetes and healthy living” and developed a promotional program called Love One Today, backed by a multi-million dollar budget, to promote the research findings and increase consumer awareness of the benefits of including Hass avocados in the diet on a regular basis can bring.

Recently published clinical trials by University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University found that adding avocados to a meal helps reduce inflation markers and that adding avocados to lunch “reduces hunger for a longer period of time,” leading to less snacking and, therefore, reduced total calorie intake, he said.

The most recently published study, by Ohio State University, “found that avocados boost the absorption of nutrients and antioxidants that are found in products that are consumed with avocados.” Eating avocados with tomatoes, for example, boosts the body’s consumption of the antioxidants in tomatoes by a factor of 10. “So avocados are definitely a nutrient booster,” Escobedo said.

Current studies, one at Penn State and one at Tufts University, are looking at such things as the potential of avocados in the diet to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body and to improve cognitive function among older population, he said.

The research “is generating a lot of media attention,” both consumer media and publications targeted to dieticians and other health professionals. Through the efforts of HAB, “we have obtained hundreds of millions of impressions” in various health and fitness publications in the United States as well as on radio and television, Escobedo said, emphasizing that this is editorial coverage, not paid advertisement. Studies to track the influence of those impressions on consumer attitudes demonstrates that “they are becoming more aware of the benefits of avocados, and as a result, we are seeing demand increase.”

It is not HAB alone that is leveraging the health message for Hass avocados, he said. Other stakeholders are doing so as well, including Avocados from Mexico and other industry organizations representing all other major sources of Hass avocados marketed in the United States.

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

HAB spends millions of dollars to promote health benefits of Hass avocados

The conversation about healthy food choices is “pervasive among most Americans” who generally recognize that “fruits and vegetables are building blocks for a healthy diet,” said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA. Yet “despite what we all know,” studies show that most Americans are still not yet consuming as many fruits and vegetables as suggested by dietary guidelines and continue over-consuming sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

“Unfortunately, today in the United States, one-third of adults in our society are categorized as obese and another one-third as overweight,” Escobedo told The Produce News.05-MexAvos-HAB-Emiliano-EscEmiliano Escobedo “That is a serious issue because obesity is related to conditions like stroke and heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.”

Because of the exceptional health benefits of Hass avocados, “we see this as an opportunity,” he said.

There is “clearly a need to educate Americans on the link between diet and disease,” he said. “There is room for growth in the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” including avocados, and “we think that avocados have nutritional properties that can help Americans live a better life, so we want to leverage that.”

Avocado consumption in the United States has been rising dramatically in the last few years, but there is still much room for growth.

HAB studies have shown that consumers buy avocados for two principal reasons: they like the taste and they recognize the health benefits. “Those are the two main drivers,” Escobedo said.

HAB focuses most of its efforts and most of its funding on  additional scientific research into the health benefits of avocados and on promotional programs to increase consumer awareness of those benefits.

“We have invested nearly $ 5 million in nutrition research in the areas of heart health, weight management, diabetes and healthy living” and developed a promotional program called Love One Today, backed by a multi-million dollar budget, to promote the research findings and increase consumer awareness of the benefits of including Hass avocados in the diet on a regular basis can bring.

Recently published clinical trials by University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University found that adding avocados to a meal helps reduce inflation markers and that adding avocados to lunch “reduces hunger for a longer period of time,” leading to less snacking and, therefore, reduced total calorie intake, he said.

The most recently published study, by Ohio State University, “found that avocados boost the absorption of nutrients and antioxidants that are found in products that are consumed with avocados.” Eating avocados with tomatoes, for example, boosts the body’s consumption of the antioxidants in tomatoes by a factor of 10. “So avocados are definitely a nutrient booster,” Escobedo said.

Current studies, one at Penn State and one at Tufts University, are looking at such things as the potential of avocados in the diet to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body and to improve cognitive function among older population, he said.

The research “is generating a lot of media attention,” both consumer media and publications targeted to dieticians and other health professionals. Through the efforts of HAB, “we have obtained hundreds of millions of impressions” in various health and fitness publications in the United States as well as on radio and television, Escobedo said, emphasizing that this is editorial coverage, not paid advertisement. Studies to track the influence of those impressions on consumer attitudes demonstrates that “they are becoming more aware of the benefits of avocados, and as a result, we are seeing demand increase.”

It is not HAB alone that is leveraging the health message for Hass avocados, he said. Other stakeholders are doing so as well, including Avocados from Mexico and other industry organizations representing all other major sources of Hass avocados marketed in the United States.

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

Chiquita-Fyffes revised agreement benefits Chiquita shareholders

Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes plc have approved a revised agreement for the proposed combination of the companies. Under the terms of the amended agreement, Chiquita shareholders are expected to own approximately 59.6 percent of ChiquitaFyffes, an increase from 50.7 percent under the previous agreement.

The companies have also increased the termination fee payable to Fyffes from 1 percent to a more customary 3.5 percent of the total value of the issued share capital of Chiquita. In addition, under the revised agreement, Fyffes will also have the right to terminate the transaction if Chiquita shareholder approval is not obtained on or prior to Oct. 24, 2014. In such event, Fyffes may be entitled to a termination fee if Chiquita enters into another transaction within nine months.

“We are pleased with the increased value that these enhanced terms for Chiquita bring to our shareholders,” Ed Lonergan, Chiquita’s chief executive officer, said in a press release. “The Fyffes transaction is a natural strategic partnership that brings together two complementary companies to create a combined company that is better positioned to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, while driving strong performance and value for shareholders as well as immediate benefits for customers and consumers worldwide.”

“The combination of Chiquita and Fyffes is strategic and compelling, creating the No. 1 banana company globally, with synergies that can only be achieved by these companies coming together,” David McCann, Fyffes executive chairman, said in the release. “This revised binding agreement, along with the additional synergies recently announced, reinforces our conviction that the Combination is the value-maximizing opportunity for both companies’ shareholders.”

Chiquita’s board has reaffirmed its recommendation that Chiquita shareholders vote for the Fyffes transaction; however, on Sept. 8 Fyffes granted Chiquita a waiver that permits it to engage in discussions with the Cutrale Group and the Safra Group, which had previously offered Chiquita a $ 611 million buyout offer.

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

HAB promotes health benefits of Hass avocados as category continues to grow

The Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA, which represents growers and importers of Hass avocados in the U.S. market, continues, as it has for about the past two and a half years, to focus primarily on nutrition research and nutrition marketing “in a way that supports the category as a whole,” according to Emiliano Escobedo, executive director.

This year alone, “we are budgeting close to half a million dollars in new research,” Escobedo told The Produce News. New findings are expected to continue the wave of “not only good news” about avocados “but good news based on facts,” which allows the board and the industry as a whole “to engage in evidence-based marketing.”

For the past 10 years or so, the board has engaged in consumer tracking studies that have shown there are three key reasons consumers buy avocados. “They care about taste. They care about the variety of uses,” he said. But they also care about “the nutrition message.” People are “very interested in the nutritional benefits and nutritional properties of avocados.”

Recent studies have revealed avocados to be nutrient boosters. When eaten with other foods such as tomatoes or carrots, for example, the avocados enhance the body’s absorption of essential nutrients such as vitamin A.

“The Buzz keeps getting louder” in social media and in traditional media about the health and nutritional benefits of avocados, and that is believed to be a major factor in the continuing dramatic growth of avocado consumption in the U.S. market, according to Escobedo.

During the first six months of 2014, “the industry shipped slightly over 950 million pounds” of Hass avocados, a 22 percent increase from two years prior. “Definitely, this will be a record-breaking year,” he said. The original estimate was 1.7 billion pounds, similar to the prior year. But “right now, the way it is looking, we are going to be closer to 1.8 billion pounds, so it is a very good year in terms of volume.”

The majority of that volume comes from Mexico, which will account for roughly two-thirds of the market this year.

The other major players are California, which had a lighter crop this year than last year; Peru, the newest player in the U.S. avocado market, which will double its volume this year over 2013; and Chile.

Mexico exports year-round, with lighter volumes during the summer. Chile  comes in primarily during the fall and  winter months. The length of the California season is largely determined by the size of the crop but typically is spring and summer and can continue well into fall on a large crop year. This year, the California crop will wane in the latter part of August and be mostly finished by September. Peru’s season is similar to that of California.

Shipping much smaller volumes to the United States are New Zealand and Dominican Republic.

Because the United States is “a very large market that is also growing very rapidly, it is attractive” to other producing countries as well, who are hoping to gain access. Columbia and South Africa are currently working their way through that process with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although that is likely to take some time, Escobedo said. “Those certifications don’t happen overnight.”

A HAB tracking study of 4,400 grocery shoppers over the age of 25, over a period of 10 years or so, shows that two-thirds of U.S. consumers “have purchased avocados for home use,” Escobedo said. “Heavy and super-heavy avocado users represent 60 percent of all avocado users” but they consume about 92 percent of the avocados, “so these users are critical to driving the business. They are familiar with the product and know how to use it,” but they also “want to know more about how to use it and the variety of uses to which avocados can be put.”

HAB is continuing with its “Love One Today” marketing nutrition program designed both to raise consumption of avocados in the United States and to serve as “a uniform platform” for the organizations representing various points of origin that are promoting avocados in the U.S. market.

“We try to emphasize the points that are most relevant to consumers so the message is clear and consistent” across all marketing campaigns, regardless of origin, Escobedo said.

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

Denmark Sees Costs, Benefits of Trying to Eradicate Salmonella

(Editor’s note: This is Part Three of a recent four-part series by Lynne Terry on how Salmonella in poultry is handled in Denmark and the U.S. The series is being republished by permission from The Oregonian. Part One is here, Part Two is here, and Part Four will run tomorrow.)

When Denmark adopted its National Salmonella Control Program in 1996, the government largely funded reimbursements to farmers who had to destroy flocks.

In 2002, government funding stopped and industry took over.

Though farmers received payment for condemned birds, they had to pay for sanitation measures and testing. Positive tests crimped earnings. If Salmonella turned up, processors paid them less.

“We started to pay according to quality,” said Jacob Roland Pedersen, lead veterinarian and senior manager of Danpo, Denmark’s largest poultry processor. “Money talks.”

Hatcheries, which had to produce Salmonella-free birds, were squeezed. In the mid-1990s, Denmark had four or five hatcheries, Roland Pedersen said. Today, there is only one: DanHatch.

The crackdown on Salmonella came with higher prices in the stores.

“In the 1980s, it was very cheap to eat chicken,” said Karin Froidt, food safety manager of Co-op Denmark, the country’s largest grocer.

Today, Danish consumers pay about $ 6 per pound for chicken meat, about double the average price in the United States.

But with the costs came benefits. Officials in the National Food Institute estimate that the crackdown prevented 150,000 illnesses between 1997 and 2004 alone, saving about $ 63 million in medical care and workdays.

Other European countries

Denmark is not the only country in Europe that has tried to eradicate Salmonella in poultry. Sweden was the first to adopt controls in the 1960s. Finland and Britain have enacted their own programs, and the European Union set deadlines for all member states. They had to cut rates for Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Enteritidis, two strains common in poultry, to 2 percent for hens by Dec. 31, 2010, and 1 percent for broilers by Dec. 31, 2011.

The EU has not completely eliminated Salmonella in poultry, nor has Denmark. But the country has reduced contamination to almost nothing. Now Denmark is focusing on another bacteria, Campylobacter, also associated with poultry.

U.S. health officials say processors in this country could learn a lot from the Danes and other Europeans.

“What we learn from the Danes and others who’ve had some success in controlling Salmonella is that important reductions are possible,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a foodborne illness expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Good public health surveillance and working with industry to find control measures that could be implemented – that is a model.”

The key, according to the Danes, is cooperation. Everyone – industry, government, researchers, retailers and consumers – has to be on board.

“You cannot do it by yourself,” said Roland Pedersen.

Food Safety News

Local foods offer tangible economic benefits in some regions

Despite their typically small size and sparse distribution, farms that sell their products locally may boost economic growth in their communities in some regions of the U.S., according to a team of economists.

“There has been a lot of hope, but little evidence, that local food systems can be an engine of economic growth in communities,” said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “Our findings show that, at least in certain regions of the country, community-focused agriculture has had a measurable effect on economic growth.”

The team’s findings, which appear in the February 2014 issue of Economic Development Quarterly, shed new light on the role that local food sales play in economies, and may help inform policymakers about supporting community-focused agriculture programs. The researchers defined community-focused agriculture as farm enterprises that sell products directly to consumers or that generate farm income from agritourism activities or both. Agritourism offers harvest festivals, pick-your-own activities and other recreational opportunities to attract visitors to farms. According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture — the most recently available data at the time of this study — only 6.2 percent of all farms engage in direct sales, and even fewer engage in agritourism activities. Goetz and his colleagues measured the impact of community-focused agriculture on local economic growth by examining its impact on agricultural sales overall.

“Rather than look at the direct effect of community-focused agriculture on economic growth, we looked at the effect of these operations on total agricultural sales, and then at how total agricultural sales affected economic growth,” said Goetz. The study is the first to measure the impacts of local food sales, and agricultural sales more broadly, in this way.

Using county-level data from the 2002 and 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, the team analyzed the link between direct farm sales — sales made directly from farmer to consumer — and total farm sales. When they examined the data on a national basis, they found a positive but not statistically significant relationship between the two.

Goetz said that a different picture emerged when they looked at the data by region, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In some regions, direct sales seemed to complement total farm sales. For example, in New England, a $ 1 increase from the 2002 level of direct farm sales was associated with a $ 5 increase in total farm sales. That same $ 1 increase was associated with a $ 9 increase in overall farm sales in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Yet, in other regions, local food sales appear to compete with total farm sales. In Southeastern U.S. counties, for example, direct sales were associated with a reduction in total farm sales. Next, to measure the impact of all agricultural sales on economic growth, the researchers used a statistical model to analyze how changes in farm sales per capita influenced changes in real personal income per capita — an indicator of economic growth. Again, the team performed this analysis using county-level data from 2002 to 2007.

“We found that for every $ 1 increase in agricultural sales, personal income rose by 22 cents over the course of five years,” said Goetz. “Considering the relatively small size of just the farming sector within the national economy, with less than 2 percent of the workforce engaged in farming, it’s impressive that these sales actually move income growth in this way.”

Goetz said that by establishing that direct sales have a positive effect on total agricultural sales, which in turn have an effect on income growth, this study demonstrates that direct sales do indeed expand local economies at least in the Northeast U.S. He added that these results came as a bit of a surprise.

“When we set out to measure the economic impact of local food sales, we frankly didn’t expect to find one,” said Goetz. He explained that economists are generally skeptical that local sales can have impacts because such sales tend to recirculate money within a community rather than inject new money. “Injection of new money — money from outside of the community — is what many economic development practitioners think of as the fuel for economic growth. But to me, these findings provide quite robust evidence that even direct sales do have an effect on growth, in the Northeast U.S.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Sunkist promotes weight-loss Benefits of citrus with ‘The Biggest Loser’

Sunkist is joining forces with NBC’s hit series, “The Biggest Loser,” through a promotional licensing agreement with NBC Universal Television Consumer Products to inspire consumers to make healthier choices, like incorporating fresh citrus into their diet. “The Biggest Loser,” now in its 15th season, is a motivational weight-loss competition in which overweight contestants compete to reach a healthier weight through the adoption of a healthier lifestyle. Season 15 of “The Biggest Loser” premiered Oct. 15 and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

“Obesity is one of the most serious health issues facing our nation today,” Sunkist Director of Retail Marketing Julie DeWolf, said in a company press release. “To help curb the obesity epidemic, Sunkist is proud to be joining forces with ‘The Biggest Loser’ to encourage consumers to make healthier choices. Fresh citrus offers many health and weight-loss benefits, making this relationship a natural fit for Sunkist.”

Sunkist will channel viewers’ motivation to live healthier by bringing “The Biggest Loser” brand to grocery stores nationwide, inspiring them to make better, more nutritious choices while shopping. Starting as early as December, specially marked packaging for “Sunkist” citrus will feature on-pack stickers that incorporate “The Biggest Loser” logo and information about the health and weight loss benefits of citrus. Sunkist will also offer a valuable consumer promotion that inspires entrants to achieve their weight-loss goals.

The promotion will place a particular emphasis on Sunkist lemons and grapefruit, as both of these citrus varieties are known for their weight-loss benefits.

Squeezing fresh lemon into your water adds flavor and vitamin C, helping you stay hydrated and healthy. By replacing high-calorie drinks with lemon water, the number of calories consumed can be cut, which can aid weight loss. Sunkist has branded lemon water “The Ultimate Diet Drink.” For more about using fresh lemons in water, visit www.sunkist.com/healthy/ultimate-diet-drink.aspx.

Grapefruit is a nutrient-packed super food, providing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that promote heart health, healthy skin and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Studies have shown that this super fruit also plays a supporting role in healthy weight loss. For more about the health and weight-loss benefits of grapefruit, Sunkist’s online brochure is at www.sunkist.com/pdfs/sunkist_grapefruit_brochure.pdf.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

The immune system benefits from life in the countryside

Sep. 30, 2013 — Adults who move to farming areas where they experience a wider range of environmental exposures than in cities may reduce the symptoms of their hypersensitivities and allergies considerably. This is the result of new research from Aarhus University.

This pioneering result was recently published online in the periodical, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in an article entitled Become a farmer and avoid new allergic sensitization: Adult farming exposures protect against new-onset atopic sensitization.”

The immune systems of people who work in farming are frequently exposed to a wide range of bacteria, fungi, pollen and other irritants which may trigger a response that protects them against hypersensitivity. Working in a farming environment may therefore serve to prevent or dampen hypersensitivity to the most widespread plant allergens: grass and birch pollen.

Positive effect on children and adults

Surprisingly, the positive effect on the immune system is seen both in people who have lived in urban environments and in adults who were born and raised in farming areas. But the real surprise is that the effect is not only seen in children:

“Previously, the assumption was that only persons who had lived in farming areas while growing up would benefit from the environment’s protective effect on the immune system. But now we can demonstrate that it’s not too late simply because you are an adult,” says postdoc Grethe Elholm.

It is, in other words, possible to affect the immune system and thereby the hypersensitivity which may cause allergy and allergic asthma, and what is more, this can be done at a much later point in life than previously assumed.

Closer to preventing allergies

This knowledge is now bringing researchers closer to discovering how to prevent allergies. The assumption is that the absence of environmental exposure does not protect against hypersensitivity. In fact, living in an environment with a much higher level of environmental exposure than you are used to can actually be good for your health. In general, exposure to the farming environment dampens the entire immune response to the environment because it stimulates the immune system.

“We cannot, however, simply recommend that people who suffer from allergies and hypersensitivities move to farms. Because they may also suffer from lung diseases such as asthma and would therefore become more ill due to the high concentrations of dust and particles found in stables and in agriculture in general,” stresses Grethe Elholm.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

China’s clean-water program benefits people and the environment

Sep. 5, 2013 — Rice farming near Beijing has contaminated and tapped the city’s drinking water supply. For the past four years, China has been paying farmers to grow corn instead of rice, an effort that Stanford research shows is paying off for people and the environment.

Rice farming is more lucrative than corn for Chinese farmers, but flooded paddies contribute to decreased water quality and quantity.

The brown, smog-filled skies that engulf Beijing have earned China a poor reputation for environmental stewardship. But despite China’s dirty skies, a study led by Stanford environmental scientists has found that a government-run clean water program is providing substantial benefit to millions of people in the nation’s capital.

The Miyun reservoir, 100 miles north of Beijing, is the main water source for the city’s more than 20 million inhabitants. Greater agricultural demands and a decline in precipitation, among other factors, have cut the reservoir’s output by two-thirds since the 1960s. The water has also become increasingly polluted by fertilizer and sediment run-off, and poses a significant health risk.

Similar conditions shut down Beijing’s second largest reservoir in 1997; shortly after, officials began implementing a plan to prevent the same from happening to the Miyun reservoir.

The system follows the successful model established by New York City, in which the government and wealthier downstream consumers provide payouts to upstream farmers, who in turn modify their agricultural practices to improve water conditions.

In the case of China’s Paddy Land-to-Dry Land (PLDL) program, farmers are paid to convert their croplands from rice to corn, a solution that reduces both water consumption and pollution. Rice paddies are constantly flooded and are often situated on steep slopes, leading to significant fertilizer and sediment runoff. Corn, meanwhile, requires much less water, and fertilizer is more likely to stay in the soil.

Improving rural life

The program is indicative of China’s recent efforts to improve living conditions for its rural citizens.

“At the top, China sees environmental protection and poverty alleviation as vital to national security,” said Gretchen Daily, a biology professor at Stanford and senior co-author on the study. “The challenge is in implementing change. It’s amazing that in four short years, the government got everyone growing rice in this area to switch to corn, which greatly improved both water quality and the quantity that reaches city residents downstream.”

Farmers earn almost six times more money growing rice than corn, so the government compensated farmers with funds that more than made up the difference. Door-to-door surveys revealed that the compensation program had mostly improved peoples’ livelihoods. Farmers were making more money and, because corn is a less time-intensive crop to grow, they had more time to pursue other activities.

Water quality tests showed that fertilizer runoff declined sharply while the quantity available to downstream users in Beijing and surrounding areas increased.

Even with overpaying for corn, the program provides a significant net benefit. The program cost about $ 1,330 per hectare of farmland to implement, but produced $ 2,020 per hectare of benefits, calculated as the value of increased water yield and improved water quality. (A hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.)

The researchers calculated that people on both ends of the deal were receiving similar returns: upstream landowners were experiencing a 1.2 benefit-cost ratio and downstream consumers were experiencing a 1.3 benefit-cost ratio. Altogether, the program has generated a 1.5 benefit-cost ratio.

Bigger gains possible

Daily thinks the returns could be better still.

“The work here shows there has been a win-win,” said Daily, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “But we hope to refine the process to get bigger win-wins, where we improve the monetary investment for people upstream and downstream, and also improve the natural capital underpinning rural livelihoods and services to urban areas.”

For instance, there are some areas along the river that contribute too much fertilizer runoff. An unexpected consequence of the payouts was that some farmers, flush with cash, over-fertilized their fields to boost crop yields. The program is now using RIOS, software developed at Stanford by the Natural Capital Project, to pinpoint high-risk areas. In these spots, Daily said, it might make sense to provide farmers additional compensation funds to make even more drastic changes, if doing so would significantly improve the overall water quality picture.

The PLDL could serve as a model for similar programs already underway throughout Latin America and Africa. One of the key drivers of the PLDL’s success, Daily said, was the government’s willingness to adapt the program on the fly to meet the needs of the farmers. For example, while other compensation schemes have set hard long-term payout limits, when conditions in Miyun changed and farmers said they weren’t being fairly compensated, China upped the payments.

Although such projects are typically instituted based on the cold calculus that land remediation is a better long-term solution and less expensive than filtration plants — indeed, such considerations drove the PLDL — Daily said that an added benefit is the opportunity to restore the natural landscape and other benefits that come from it.

Still, despite the many clear positives coming out of the PLDL so far, implementing these programs requires sensitive considerations.

“When is it right to tell people that they’ve got to change their way of life for the benefit of society?” Daily said. “These are tough political and ethical issues, and it doesn’t always make sense for everyone. Yet resource pressures are intensifying everywhere. We’ve got to find ways of compensating people that are fair, and of opening new opportunities. In most cases, there will be no simple, ideal solution, as we can see with the controversy over New York City’s approach. These efforts underway in China today are important experiments with lessons for cities everywhere.”

The study was published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The report was co-authored by Hua Zheng and Zhi-Yun Ouyang of The Chinese Academy of Sciences; Brian Robinson of McGill University; Yi-Cheng Liang and Mary Ruckelshaus of the Natural Capital Project; Stephen Polasky of the University of Minnesota and the Natural Capital Project; and Dong-Chun Ma and Feng-Chun Wang of the Beijing Water Science and Technology Institute.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News