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Processing Aids for Fresh Produce: Safety Buffers Between Farm and Table

Nutrition labels on items in the produce section tend to be short, if not absent altogether. While cereals, soups and sauces come with long lists of ingredients on their packaging, an apple doesn’t need an ingredient list for consumers to know what they’re buying (although it arrived at the grocery store in a labeled package), and the ingredients for bagged salad are only as varied as the different lettuces in the bag.

However, more often than not, other substances are at some point applied to the fruits and vegetables available on store shelves in order to kill pathogens or preserve freshness. But unless these substances change the character of the food or are still present in significant amounts by the time they reach the consumer, they are considered a “processing aid,” and do not have to be listed as an ingredient by law.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, processing aids are substances that are added to a food during processing but are either “removed in some manner from the food before it is packaged in its finished form” or “converted into constituents normally present in the food,” or are “present in the finished food at insignificant levels and do not have any technical or functional effect in that food.”

For more information about how processing aids are classified, see Food Safety News’ article Processing Aids: What’s Not on the Label, and Why? 

What processing aids were used on the produce I’m buying? 

Processing aids used on produce are wide-ranging, from chlorine washes to ozone to organic acids to oils derived from plants such as cinnamon or pine trees.

“It’s not always across the board for all commodities and they don’t always use [one processing aid] consistently even throughout the season,” says Trevor Suslow, extension research specialist at the University of California Davis.

The challenge for a processor is to find the substance that safely delivers the desired effect (pathogen reduction or freshness preservation) without changing the quality or taste of the food.

Items marketed as ready-to-eat, such as bagged lettuce or sliced apples, have almost certainly been treated with at least one processing aid, says Suslow.

Indeed FDA recommends the use of antimicrobial agents in its guidance for industry on minimizing microbial hazards for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

“An initial wash treatment may be used to remove the bulk of field soil from produce followed by an additional wash or washes containing an antimicrobial chemical,” writes the agency.

One such ready-to-eat product, bagged lettuce, usually goes through two and often three washing phases, says Suslow. The first wash water commonly contains chlorine or chlorine dioxide, while the second might include an antimicrobial agent such as peracetic acid or acidified sodium chlorite – a combination of sodium chlorite and citric acid.

Finding the right balance has been a process for the leafy greens industry, says Suslow, as too much chlorine can leave a lingering odor or flavor on greens, and too little won’t be effective at killing pathogens.

“As that industry has grown and matured and gotten some strong negative feedback earlier on about chlorine residual taste or smell, which some of the product certainly had, they’ve really worked at minimizing any carry over,” Suslow explains.

Peracetic acid is also applied by apple processors, who may use it on apples in a dunk tank or as a spray.

A 2007 study from Washington State University found that peracetic acid could also be used on cherries without changing the quality of the fruit when used at low and medium concentrations. The leading method of cherry sanitization is also a chlorine wash, according to the study.

Chlorine washes are common across the produce industry, says Suslow. Table grapes are another example of a type of produce often treated with chlorine.

“It can vary, but at least the operations that I’ve had the opportunity to visit, it’s pretty much the same,” he says. “They tend to be rinsed in chlorinated water or ozone and then they take the individual grapes off the stem after that.”

Stone fruits, such as peaches and nectarines, which are in season right now, often benefit from a chlorine wash as well, says Suslow.

FDA has set specified concentrations for processing aids used in washes so that they are present at safe levels. For example, the concentration of sodium chlorite in acid solutions used on raw agricultural commodities and processed fruits and vegetables must remain between 500 and 1,200 parts per million.

Other processing aids may be used to keep produce from spoiling. For example, grapes are often packed with pads containing sulfur dioxide to prevent decaying and the growth of mold.

On the flip side, processing aids can also be applied to induce ripening. Ethylene gas, for example, is often applied to bananas to speed up the ripening process before they are distributed to retailers, since bananas are commonly harvested in an unripened state.

Processing aids for produce: looking forward

One sector that’s recently been looking at different processing aid options is the cantaloupe industry. After two deadly foodborne illness outbreaks linked to these melons – a Listeria outbreak that killed 33 people in 2011 and a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 261 people and killed 3 in 2012 – shook consumer confidence and hurt the industry, processors have been looking for a way to ensure consumers of the safety of their product.

Processing aids are among the solutions that are being closely examined by the cantaloupe industry, along with brushing, pasteurization and other sanitizing techniques, according to Suslow.

An ongoing research project at the Center for Produce Safety is looking at the effectiveness of essential oils — such as those derived from cinnamon bark and pine needles — as antimicrobial agents.

“We’re getting promising results,” says Suslow of this research, “and we still have a ways to go.”

The trick with these oils, he notes, is to make sure they don’t affect the flavor of the produce to which they’re applied.

Another benefit of using essential oils is that they are also organic, a feature that appeals to a growing number of consumers.

Will such oils become common as processing aids in the produce industry?

That remains to be seen. Suslow says cost is a primary concern, and right now chlorine remains one of the cheapest sanitizing options for produce.

Other organic processing aids include lactic acid as an antimicrobial or ascorbic acid (derived from vitamin C) as an anti-browning agent.

For an in-depth explanation of organic versus non-organic processing aids, see Food Safety News’ article How Does the Organic Industry Regulate Processing Aids?

Another processing aid gaining popularity in the produce industry is electrolyzed oxidized water, which can be generated on-site and is sodium-free.

Fresh berries: another approach 

Of course not all produce items have been treated with processing aids. Such items may be fragile or susceptible to taste alteration, or companies might have found that other food safety precautions adequately minimize pathogens on their products. Kyle Register, a representative for Driscoll’s, which sells fresh berries, says each berry is handled only once, and goes straight from the farm where it’s picked into a clamshell and then to the grocery store. No processing aids are used on these items. Instead, the safety of the berries is controlled through stringent adherence to the company’s Global Food Safety Program, which is modeled on FDA’s good agricultural practices (GAPs) standards and verified by independent audits.

This fruit packaged without a processing aid illustrates what Suslow says is the main take-home point when it comes to processing aids for fruits and vegetables: one size does not fit all. In fact, there’s a different size for pretty much every processor, and even the same processor is likely to be exploring new methods.

“There are a variety of different processes and it’s hard to track because they often change from visit to visit,” says Suslow.

Food Safety News

Study: Antibiotics May Help Spread Salmonella Between Animals

An estimated 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to livestock, which raises concerns among some scientists about the fostering of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. But a study on antibiotics just published by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine might introduce a whole new concern to the equation.

Mice given antibiotics to treat Salmonella infections have been found to grow even sicker and start shedding more pathogens afterward. In fact, they begin to shed the same levels of bacteria as so-called “superspreaders,” the small minority of infected mice in the population who exhibit no signs of illness but spread large amounts of bacteria.

“We’ve shown that the immune state of an infected mouse given antibiotics can dictate how sick that mouse gets and also carries implications for disease transmission,” said Denise Monack, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and the study’s senior author. “If this holds true for livestock as well — and I think it will — it would have obvious public health implications. We need to think about the possibility that we’re not only selecting for antibiotic-resistant microbes, but also impairing the health of our livestock and increasing the spread of contagious pathogens among them and us.”

It’s not entirely clear why some animals — and humans — are superspreaders while others are not. Approximately 10-30 percent of mice are superspreaders who will shed large amounts of Salmonella while exhibiting no signs of illness, while the remaining 70-90 percent shed only small amounts and sometimes develop symptoms.

In the Stanford study, mice given antibiotics went from shedding small amounts to much higher levels of Salmonella. Within days, they also became very ill and several died. But, when given the same antibiotics, the superspreaders continued shedding large amounts of bacteria without any ill effects.

The researchers found that, compared to the normal mice, the superspreaders had dampened immune responses, which explained why they didn’t get sick. Instead of fighting off the infection, their immune systems tolerated it.

“Their immune cells have been rewired and aren’t responding to the inflammatory signals in the intestines the same way,” said Smita Gopinath, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

And with the mice who do experience symptoms of illness, the antibiotics do exactly the opposite of what they’re intended to do.

These same conditions have not been observed in humans, but it’s an area worth studying, the researchers said.

Food Safety News

Business as usual between Europe and Russia

Business as usual between Europe and Russia

The emotion in Russia is tense after the plane crash in Ukraine. “This tragic event has been a shock,” says Gabriel Berard, owner of Bretonskiy Koupets, a representative agent in Russia for European exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables, who lives in Moscow since 2004. “Russian buyers of fresh fruits and vegetables have nothing to do with politics; they are also shocked after the disaster in Ukraine, and many have expressed their sympathy.” When it comes to the fruit and vegetable trade, Gabriel sees no impact from the political situation at the moment.  “The fruit and vegetables business community in Russia wants to continue doing business with Europe. I have been getting orders to load in Europe this week as usual – including orders to load in Holland.”

Sanctions on fruits and vegetables would not be of benefit to anyone. “In 2013, according to Russian customs statistics, 26. 4% of the fresh fruits and vegetables imported to Russia were from EU origin, explains Gabriel. Should our governments try to limit the fruit and vegetable trade for political reasons, it would not benefit anyone,” explains Gabriel. “I do not think that Europe as a whole would decide to stop exporting fruits and vegetables to Russia. Right now, of course, everyone is deeply affected by the plane crash, but I expect the Netherlands and Europe will tackle the issue in another way. On the economic level, maintaining a good cooperation between European and Russian trading companies is important to restore stability and trust between countries.”

 
 

Publication date: 7/25/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Confrontation between Italy and Spain concerning foreign trade

Confrontation between Italy and Spain concerning foreign trade

CSO-Centro Servizi Ortofrutticoli in Ferrara updated 2013 data concerning Italian foreign trade. Exports reached 3.6 million tons (-8% with respect to 2012) for a total of €3.8 billion (+4%).

In the same year, Spanish produce exports increased by 11% in terms of volumes, reaching 11.8 million tons and €11.7 billion (+7%).


Fresh fruit
Italian fresh fruit exports dropped by 10%, however, the average annual price reached €1.01/kg (the highest of the past few years), so the total value was more or less that of 2012 (€2.5 million).


It seems that everything that Italy lost was gained by Spain, as its exports increased by 4.5% in terms of volume (7.1 million tons) and 11% in terms of value (€6.35 billion).

The main destination for Italian fresh fruit is Germany, however quantities have dropped from 42% in 2002 to 28% to 2012. France (10%), Spain (7%) and Poland (6%) follow. Exports to Russia and Switzerland (3%) remained stable and there was a slight increase in North Africa (Libya 3% and Algeria 2%).

Table grapes were the most exported fruit, with a 4% increase with respect to 2012, while there was a decrease in exports of pears (-40% due to the productive deficit), kiwis (-3%) and strawberries (-14%). Plums (+28%) and apricots (+34%) did well. 

If we consider Spain in particular, Italy exported mainly apples (+11%), kiwis (+5%) and table grapes (+15%) whereas there was a 23% drop in peach/nectarine exports.

The balance is positive, though it is slightly lower than in 2012. Exports reached 1.1 million tons and €1.3 billion.


Citrus fruit
Citrus fruit exports reflect fresh fruit exports: volumes (235,000 tons) dropped by 9% but prices reached €0.77/kg (the highest price of the last few years) so the value reached over €180 billion (+11%).


Despite this, Italy imported more than it exported, from Spain in particular. Over 60% of the produce bought by Italy in 2012-13 comes from Spain.

Fresh vegetables
Italian vegetable exports dropped by 1% reaching 930,000 tons. In this case too though, the average price was rather high at €1.23% (+11%).


Spain increased its vegetable exports by 10%, reaching 4.6 million tons for a total value of €4.33 billion (+11%).

While Italian fresh fruit imports come mainly from countries in the Southern hemisphere (counterseasonal and exotic fruit and bananas), Italy imports its vegetables mainly from France (34% of the total) and Spain (18%) followed by Germany (17%) and the Netherlands (11-12%).

From Spain, Italy imported mainly salad (+29%) and garlic (+23%), whereas the imports of peppers and tomatoes dropped by 7%.

In general, the situation is rather mixed: in terms of volume, the situation looks worse than in 2012, as Italy imported over 299,000 tons of vegetables more than it exported, however, the balance is positive in terms of value with exports totalling €372 billion more than imports.

Click here to access the full report.

Publication date: 5/16/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Link between insecticides and collapse of honey bee colonies strengthened

Two widely used neonicotinoids — a class of insecticide — appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die. The new study also found that low doses of a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the same negative effect.

Further, although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.

The study appears online May 9, 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bees from CCD. Pinpointing the cause is crucial to mitigating this problem since bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide. Experts have considered a number of possible causes, including pathogen infestation, beekeeping practices, and pesticide exposure. Recent findings, including a 2012 study by Lu and colleagues, suggest that CCD is related specifically to neonicotinoids, which may impair bees’ neurological functions. Imidacloprid and clothianidin both belong to this group.

Lu and his co-authors from the Worcester County Beekeepers Association studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 through April 2013. At each location, the researchers separated six colonies into three groups — one treated with imidacloprid, one with clothianidin, and one untreated.

There was a steady decline in the size of all the bee colonies through the beginning of winter — typical among hives during the colder months in New England. Beginning in January 2013, bee populations in the control colonies began to increase as expected, but populations in the neonicotinoid-treated hives continued to decline. By April 2013, 6 out of 12 of the neonicotinoid-treated colonies were lost, with abandoned hives that are typical of CCD. Only one of the control colonies was lost — thousands of dead bees were found inside the hive — with what appeared to be symptoms of a common intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae.

While the 12 pesticide-treated hives in the current study experienced a 50% CCD mortality rate, the authors noted that, in their 2012 study, bees in pesticide-treated hives had a much higher CCD mortality rate — 94%. That earlier bee die-off occurred during the particularly cold and prolonged winter of 2010-2011 in central Massachusetts, leading the authors to speculate that colder temperatures, in combination with neonicotinoids, may play a role in the severity of CCD.

“Although we have demonstrated the validity of the association between neonicotinoids and CCD in this study, future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD,” said Lu. “Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honey bee loss.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Link between insecticides and collapse of honey bee colonies strengthened

Two widely used neonicotinoids — a class of insecticide — appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die. The new study also found that low doses of a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the same negative effect.

Further, although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.

The study appears online May 9, 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bees from CCD. Pinpointing the cause is crucial to mitigating this problem since bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide. Experts have considered a number of possible causes, including pathogen infestation, beekeeping practices, and pesticide exposure. Recent findings, including a 2012 study by Lu and colleagues, suggest that CCD is related specifically to neonicotinoids, which may impair bees’ neurological functions. Imidacloprid and clothianidin both belong to this group.

Lu and his co-authors from the Worcester County Beekeepers Association studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 through April 2013. At each location, the researchers separated six colonies into three groups — one treated with imidacloprid, one with clothianidin, and one untreated.

There was a steady decline in the size of all the bee colonies through the beginning of winter — typical among hives during the colder months in New England. Beginning in January 2013, bee populations in the control colonies began to increase as expected, but populations in the neonicotinoid-treated hives continued to decline. By April 2013, 6 out of 12 of the neonicotinoid-treated colonies were lost, with abandoned hives that are typical of CCD. Only one of the control colonies was lost — thousands of dead bees were found inside the hive — with what appeared to be symptoms of a common intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae.

While the 12 pesticide-treated hives in the current study experienced a 50% CCD mortality rate, the authors noted that, in their 2012 study, bees in pesticide-treated hives had a much higher CCD mortality rate — 94%. That earlier bee die-off occurred during the particularly cold and prolonged winter of 2010-2011 in central Massachusetts, leading the authors to speculate that colder temperatures, in combination with neonicotinoids, may play a role in the severity of CCD.

“Although we have demonstrated the validity of the association between neonicotinoids and CCD in this study, future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD,” said Lu. “Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honey bee loss.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Link between insecticides and collapse of honey bee colonies strengthened

Two widely used neonicotinoids — a class of insecticide — appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die. The new study also found that low doses of a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the same negative effect.

Further, although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.

The study appears online May 9, 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bees from CCD. Pinpointing the cause is crucial to mitigating this problem since bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide. Experts have considered a number of possible causes, including pathogen infestation, beekeeping practices, and pesticide exposure. Recent findings, including a 2012 study by Lu and colleagues, suggest that CCD is related specifically to neonicotinoids, which may impair bees’ neurological functions. Imidacloprid and clothianidin both belong to this group.

Lu and his co-authors from the Worcester County Beekeepers Association studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 through April 2013. At each location, the researchers separated six colonies into three groups — one treated with imidacloprid, one with clothianidin, and one untreated.

There was a steady decline in the size of all the bee colonies through the beginning of winter — typical among hives during the colder months in New England. Beginning in January 2013, bee populations in the control colonies began to increase as expected, but populations in the neonicotinoid-treated hives continued to decline. By April 2013, 6 out of 12 of the neonicotinoid-treated colonies were lost, with abandoned hives that are typical of CCD. Only one of the control colonies was lost — thousands of dead bees were found inside the hive — with what appeared to be symptoms of a common intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae.

While the 12 pesticide-treated hives in the current study experienced a 50% CCD mortality rate, the authors noted that, in their 2012 study, bees in pesticide-treated hives had a much higher CCD mortality rate — 94%. That earlier bee die-off occurred during the particularly cold and prolonged winter of 2010-2011 in central Massachusetts, leading the authors to speculate that colder temperatures, in combination with neonicotinoids, may play a role in the severity of CCD.

“Although we have demonstrated the validity of the association between neonicotinoids and CCD in this study, future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD,” said Lu. “Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honey bee loss.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Link between insecticides and collapse of honey bee colonies strengthened

Two widely used neonicotinoids — a class of insecticide — appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die. The new study also found that low doses of a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the same negative effect.

Further, although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.

The study appears online May 9, 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bees from CCD. Pinpointing the cause is crucial to mitigating this problem since bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide. Experts have considered a number of possible causes, including pathogen infestation, beekeeping practices, and pesticide exposure. Recent findings, including a 2012 study by Lu and colleagues, suggest that CCD is related specifically to neonicotinoids, which may impair bees’ neurological functions. Imidacloprid and clothianidin both belong to this group.

Lu and his co-authors from the Worcester County Beekeepers Association studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 through April 2013. At each location, the researchers separated six colonies into three groups — one treated with imidacloprid, one with clothianidin, and one untreated.

There was a steady decline in the size of all the bee colonies through the beginning of winter — typical among hives during the colder months in New England. Beginning in January 2013, bee populations in the control colonies began to increase as expected, but populations in the neonicotinoid-treated hives continued to decline. By April 2013, 6 out of 12 of the neonicotinoid-treated colonies were lost, with abandoned hives that are typical of CCD. Only one of the control colonies was lost — thousands of dead bees were found inside the hive — with what appeared to be symptoms of a common intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae.

While the 12 pesticide-treated hives in the current study experienced a 50% CCD mortality rate, the authors noted that, in their 2012 study, bees in pesticide-treated hives had a much higher CCD mortality rate — 94%. That earlier bee die-off occurred during the particularly cold and prolonged winter of 2010-2011 in central Massachusetts, leading the authors to speculate that colder temperatures, in combination with neonicotinoids, may play a role in the severity of CCD.

“Although we have demonstrated the validity of the association between neonicotinoids and CCD in this study, future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD,” said Lu. “Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honey bee loss.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Gap between kiwi seasons bodes well for European suppliers

Ready-to-eat kiwifruit is a niche market
Gap between kiwi seasons bodes well for European suppliers

With lower than expected New Zealand kiwi exports and a Chile export season that will likely be delayed, Europe’s kiwi shippers are hoping to take advantage of the period between when New Zealand season ends and the Chilean season begins. “We have been selling okay because it’s been a short supply season,” said Marc Peyres of Blue Whale in France. “New Zealand finished early everywhere and Chile won’t start early, so there’s more space for European fruit.”


 
While there’s good demand and movement has been going along at a good pace because of a gap in the market, Peyres noted that there are still a few months left in the season, so they have to keep on their toes. “I believe it’s been one of the best seasons in the last 10 years as far as prices for growers,” said Peyres. “But we have to be careful until the end, because if we don’t move enough volume until the end, then it’s not very good.” He stressed the importance of the local market and the need to move lots of fruit domestically in order to finish strong.

Ready-to-eat kiwifruit
With regards to ready-to-eat kiwifruit, Marc notes that there is a niche market of top end retail, who is asking for that. However the main consumers just buy the kiwifruit in the supermarket and let it ripen in the fruit bowl. ”The disadvantage of ready-to-eat is that the consumer is forced to eat it within 1 or 2 days and may end up with throwing the fruit away.”
 
PSA
Also a concern was the growing presence of PSA worldwide. While new techniques have made it easier to deal with the disease, it’s just one of the concerns growers today have to deal with. “It’s still a battle, but we have to work at it, and if done properly, we can continue in spite of PSA,” said Peyres. “We feel better about the situation than we did a few years ago, but we still have to consider what comes next.”
 
He feels that future solutions lie in new varieties, both because those new varieties could be disease-resistant and because they could offer new marketing opportunities. For that reason, he has good feelings about the new Sun Gold variety coming out of New Zealand. “I have a feeling green kiwi consumption has stabilized,” said Peyres. “So further developing kiwi consumption will bring something new.”
 
For more information:
Marc Peyres
Blue Whale
Tel +33 5.63.21.56.56
[email protected]
www.blue-whale.com

Publication date: 2/27/2014
Author: Carlos Nunez
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Women need to find balance between work and personal life, panelists say

Women in the grocery business have to figure out how to balance work and family more so than men do, a panel of women acknowledged during a workshop session Tuesday at the annual convention of the National Grocers Association in Las Vegas. “It’s hard for a woman to advance in the grocery business and take an opening or closing shift when she’s trying to raise a child as a single parent, and that often can hold women back from promotions,” Lauren Johnson, COO for Newport …

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Supermarket News

Blueberry industry expected to benefit from FTA between Canada & Europe

Blueberry industry expected to benefit from FTA between Canada & Europe

The Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Europe could be a blessing for the region’s blueberry industry.  

At least that is what Rémy Lambert, Professor at Laval University, believes, ”It will open up the markets and stimulate the demand because the price will be lower. And, as natural products are on the rise in Europe, it will be a benefit for Quebec’s wild blueberry”.  According to Lambert, the demand for organic produce has risen from 5 to 10% annually in Europe.   

It is an important opportunity for the Quebecois blueberry as the United States has yet to sign such an agreement with the European Union.  

By reducing the export prices, the demand for imported products will be boosted. This advantage will mainly be noticed in processed products, such as dried blueberries and blueberry concentrate which are taxed at 17.6% and purée at 18.4% according to a study by the firm Forest Lavoie.  

It is excellent news for the region’s producers, of which 80% of production is sold abroad. An exportation value of 85 M $ in 2012, of which 34.2 M $ was to Europe. 

The price of blueberries
Whilst at the end of 2013 the price of cultivated blueberries had gone down 26 cents, the price of wild blueberries has gone up 7 cents to 1.92$ per pound.

”The demand for wild blueberries is a constant, because the clients want natural fruits, that are not watered with pesticides, like cultivated blueberries are” says Lambert. It is important to note that this rise in price is also due to a catastrophic harvest this year, which has made the blueberry rarer.  

This had a direct effect on exports. They dropped 30% in August and September compared to the same period in 2012, this represents a drop of 850,000 pounds in volume. Sales in Europe dropped 50% whilst the American market remained stable and the Japanese market erupted by 506%. The exported quantity in this country is much weaker, 144.00 kg compared to 918.000 kg.  

Source: lapresse.ca

 
 

Publication date: 1/14/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Delhaize IT Cuts Split Between N.C., Maine

SALISBURY, N.C. — As part of an agreement to outsource some technology functions, 58 Delhaize employees — half here and half in Scarborough, Maine, will leave the company to work for IBM, a spokeswoman for Delhaize told SN.

According to an internal memo distributed last week, Delhaize is outsourcing its data center operations to IBM, beginning over the next several weeks, and is also planning to outsource its network services, help desk and desktop support functions by year-end. It said it had not yet finalized those latter plans. About 80 workers in total will be affected.


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“We believe outsourcing these functions to trusted partners will enable us to utilize the technology industry’s best providers of these services and further deliver innovation for our customers and associates,” Delhaize told SN in a statement. “While these decisions are never easy, we have taken great care to ensure that all associates affected by this decision are treated with respect throughout the entire transition process.”

Delhaize said all employees who are affected will be offered employment with the outside technology firm for six months, and will have an opportunity to apply for permanent positions at the new organization, or receive severance.

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Fruit science: Switching between repulsion and attraction

Oct. 7, 2013 — A team of researchers based at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has shown how temporal control of a single gene solves two problems during fruit ripening in strawberry.

Not only human consumers find the rich red color of ripe strawberries attractive. In wild strawberries, it also serves to lure the animals which the plant exploits to spread its seeds. When birds and small mammals feed on the fruit, they subsequently excrete the indigestible seeds elsewhere, thus ensuring the dispersal of the species. However, as long as the fruit is in the growth phase and not yet mature, drawing attention to itself would be counterproductive. Moreover, the developing fruit also has to contend with the attentions of pathogens and pests.

Dr. Thilo Fischer, Privatdozent at the Chair of Plant Biochemistry and Physiology at LMU, and Professor Wilfried Schwab of the Center for Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan at the Technische Universität München (TUM), have now taken a closer look at how the shift between repulsion and attraction is accomplished. Their findings, which are reported in the journal New Phytologist, elucidate the role played by the enzyme anthocyanidin reductase (ANR) in the switching process.

Dual-use metabolites Botanically speaking, strawberries are neither berries nor fruits. The fleshy part of the fruit we eat is actually a modification of the shoot tip from which the flowers developed. The yellow “achenes” embedded in its surface are the true fruits, each consisting of a single seed and a hard outer coat. During the growth phase of the fruit, the enzyme anthocyanidin reductase contributes to the synthesis of metabolites called proanthocyanidins in the green fruits. These compounds help to protect the developing fruit against predators, pathogens and abiotic stresses. When the seeds are ripe, the Anr gene is turned off. This makes precursors of proanthocyanidins available for use in the production of anthocyanins, the red pigments that give the mature fruit its alluring color.

In their new study, Thilo Fischer and Wilfried Schwab, in cooperation with the Julius Kühn Institute in Pillnitz near Dresden, specifically inactivated the ANR function in growing fruits. This intervention led to the appearance of red stigmas in the flowers, and the production of anthocyanins in immature fruits. “This finding indicates that the ANR function and the synthesis of protective compounds are also important in the stigmas of the flower,” says Thilo Fischer.

“With the aid of this model, it will be possible to carry out more detailed analyses of the functions of proanthocyanidins,” says Wilfried Schwab. This is also of interest to strawberry breeders, because the timing of the switch between warding off pests and the initiation of pigmentation not only controls the quality of the fruit, it also determines the level of pesticide use.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Relationship between landscape simplification and insecticide use explored

Sep. 5, 2013 — A new UCSB study that analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture data spanning two decades (1987-2007) shows that the statistical magnitude, existence, and direction of the relationship between landscape simplification — a term used for the conversion of natural habitat to cropland — and insecticide use varies enormously year to year.

While there was a positive relationship in 2007 — more simplified landscapes received more insecticides — it is absent or reversed in all previous years. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

The author, Ashley E. Larsen, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, built on an earlier study published in PNAS by extending the temporal dimension of that analysis. That study found a strong positive relationship between landscape simplification and insecticide use when examining 2007 data for seven midwestern states. Larsen’s results also showed 2007 was positive, with increased land area in cropland leading to increased cropland treated with insecticides. But in 2002 and 1997, there was no statistically significant relationship; 1992 was negative (increased cropland but decreased insecticides); and 1987 was generally negative, but sometimes null depending on the model specification used.

According to Larsen, the increase in agricultural production over the past four to five decades has corresponded to massive changes in land use often resulting in large scale monocultures separated by small fragments of natural land. Ecological theory suggests that these simplified landscapes should have more insect pest problems due to the lack of natural enemies and the increased size and connectivity of crop-food resources.

“There is a debate currently in ecology about what the most efficient land use policy for agricultural production is,” said Larsen. “Some think that complex landscapes are better, that they have minimal effect on the environment, in which case we’d need to grow over a larger area. Others think that we should grow in a concentrated area and preserve what isn’t in agricultural production. This land sparing-land sharing debate is getting a lot of attention. My study results don’t support either land sharing or land sparing. They just show that we don’t really understand how either of those policies will affect insecticide use.”

Larsen used USDA county-level data for 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2007 as well as from the National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer for 2007 for the same seven Midwestern states as the earlier PNAS analysis — covering more than 600 counties in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. She performed a single-year cross-sectional analysis for each year followed by a fixed effects analysis for all years together. She then compared fixed effects models with year, county, and year- and county-fixed effects. County-fixed effects control for unobserved effects, such as the soil quality unique to each county, and year effects control for year shocks, such as droughts shared by all counties in the study region.

With just county-fixed effects, the analysis showed a strong negative relationship between landscape simplification and insecticide use. When year-fixed effects were included, that relationship dropped to null. Including both year- and county-fixed effects, the relationship remained null and similar to the year-only model, indicating that year effects are very important.

“It would be very difficult to inform policy questions, such as land sparing or land sharing in terms of insecticide use, if the relationship between landscape simplification and insecticide use flip flops year to year,” concluded Larsen. “These varied results make it hard to say a complex landscape is better or a simplified landscape is better. My next step would be to try to unlock what’s behind that variation.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

IAFP 2013: Bridging the Gap Between Food Science and Public Perception

With controversial issues such as genetically engineered foods, nanotechnology and Pink Slime occupying headlines that leave consumers concerned and food company executives wringing their hands, a panel of food safety experts convened on the second full day of the 2013 IAFP conference to answer a pressing question: How can the food industry bridge the gap between the hard science of food safety and the public’s perception?

Panel organizer Benjamin Chapman, assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, started the discussion off by asking Texas A&M’s Gary Acuff about the controversy surrounding lean finely textured beef (LFTB), more commonly known as “pink slime.”

Acuff said that the public’s perception of LFTB was incredibly off-base in terms of food safety. From a microbiological standpoint, LFTB is likely the safest ground beef product available, Acuff said, but its ammonia treatment process — designed to eliminate pathogens — led a large section of the general public to view the product as poisonous.

While he said he didn’t think ABC News or Jamie Oliver or the documentary Food, Inc. ever questioned the actual safety of LFTB, “consumers perceived it that way.”

Acuff then consented the outrage over LFTB was also largely a matter of aesthetics and “yuck” factor.

“[But] where in any manufacturing process does the product actually look complete?” he asked. “We focus on the finished product and what['s] going to market. In the process of making the finished product, things never look exactly like we expect them to. Sometimes they don’t look very appetizing.”

Barfblog publisher and former Kansas State University food safety professor Douglas Powell pointed out that the public relations for the LFTB manufacturers was outdated — “straight out of the 1970s” — and out of touch. They ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. They brought together several Midwestern governors for a press conference and LFTB-chow-down session. They made T-shirts that said, “Dude, it’s beef!”

Meanwhile, consumers continued to slam them with disgust and outrage all over the internet.

“Outdated” and “out-of-touch” seemed to describe the public relations efforts of a lot of the industry when it came to food safety, and that was the problem the panel came together to address.

So, what were the solutions? A savvy background in 21st century marketing: social media presence, easy-to-understand video messages, “mommy bloggers” — anything that connects foodmakers directly to consumers and speaks to them in a language with which they can relate.

“The time to be finding that out is now, not when you’re in the middle of a crap-storm,” said Donald Schaffner, professor of food science at Rutgers University.

From one of the audience microphones, attorney Sarah Klein from the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that during the Pink Slime controversy, she was speaking to news outlets daily and coined the soundbite “unsavory but not unsafe.” In other words, she related with consumers over the fact that the product was “yucky,” but she reinforced the science behind its safety.

Assuming the next controversy over a food product was not concerning its legitimate safety, Klein said consumer groups could likely be an ally with industry again.

“I think my advice to you all in the industry is that when something goes wrong, reach out to the consumer organizations,” Klein said. “You may be surprised to find support.”

Some discussion hinged on how to educate and inform consumers, an end-goal Powell dismissed as unrealistic. When it comes to media coverage of food controversies, everything is in the eye of the beholder, and so the message from industry needs to be clear and simple.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, if [it seems real] to that shopper, it’s real and you better pay attention to it,” Powell said. “As far as informing and educating, people don’t want that. They want to go shopping. Otherwise they’d go to university.”

Getting the science right is only half the battle, Powell added. The other part is telling an accessible story, because no one really cares about the science.

“Make safe food, have the data to back it up, and then go tell your story,” he said. “That’s it.”

David Gombas, senior vice president of safety and technology at United Fresh, brought up an example of a time the industry was able to engage media and change one of those stories: When the produce industry challenged the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the most pesticide-heavy fruits and vegetables.

Despite scientific evidence showing that the products on the Dirty Dozen list were safe for consumption, the industry stood back and said nothing year after year while sales took a hit from media coverage.

This past year, Gombas said, a small food industry communications group decided to take on the Dirty Dozen list. They engaged with USA Today and “doused the flames” of the eventual new Dirty Dozen list, instead making sure the media was informed of the science behind the safety of even the “dirtiest” product on the list.

The group got the USDA and FDA to back up what it was saying and to supply data to media about the safety of U.S. fruits and vegetables. When it was finally time for the annual Dirty Dozen list, Gombas said, most media outlets passed on publicizing it.

The next frontiers of consumer perception the panel discussed were genetically engineered foods and nanotechnology.

Another speaker from the audience summarized the problem succinctly: Scientists need to speak up in order to win. She paraphrased keynote speaker David Acheson, who said that when it comes to consumer perception, “Science doesn’t always win.”

“It’s true,” she said. “Science doesn’t always win. And when scientists are silent or don’t know how to communicate, you can ensure science does not win.”

Food Safety News