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PCA Jury Hears About ‘Just Ship It’ Emails During Government’s Opening Statement

The long-awaited Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) trial got underway with opening statements Friday morning in Albany, GA, and it was not long before the jury learned about Stewart Parnell’s three most infamous words: “Just ship it.” That was allegedly his reply when employees wanted to know what to do when laboratory tests came back positive for Salmonella or results were delayed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher made opening statements for the prosecution Friday as the Peanut Corporation of American trial began in Albany, GA. (Artist’s sketch by Richard Millet.)

Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher, speaking for the prosecution team (which also includes Patrick H. Hearn and Mary Englehart), took the 12-member jury and six alternates selected a day earlier through some emails that appear to depict the former PCA president as lacking much concern about food safety.

While fresh to the jury, most of the emails became public more than five years ago during an investigation by Congress of the 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak traced back to PCA peanut butters and paste. That outbreak caused more than 700 illnesses throughout the nation and is blamed for nine deaths.

Dasher told the jury that actions by defendants Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson have affected lives across the United States. He pointed out the four locations from which PCA did business and told the jury the positions of the defendants within the PCA organization.

Dasher called Stewart Parnell, PCA owner as well as president, a “hands-on guy” who claimed that he traveled regularly to all of the locations, including the Blakely, GA, plant, which has been noted as the source of the Salmonella outbreak.

In February 2013, an indictment was unsealed charging former PCA executives with a total of 76 counts, all felonies, including allegations of fraud and conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and causing unbranded and adulterated peanut butter and paste to be placed in interstate commerce. One of those charged, Samuel Lightsey, the former PCA plant manager at Blakely, pleaded guilty before the case went to trial.

Dasher showed the jury an email from March 2007, more than a year before the deadly outbreak, in which a manager in the Blakely plant stated that microbiological test results were not going to be back before a shipment was ready to go out.

“Just ship it,” was Parnell’s response to the manager’s email, Dasher said.

The prosecutor told the jury about a process known as “pre-dipping,” which refers to taking multiple samples from the same product lot and then falsifying the lot numbers. PCA allegedly took four samples from lot 0828 and then claimed them to be lot 0830, 0832, 0836, etc.

Dasher also provided the jury with a copy of a contract of between Kellogg’s and PCA requiring that “all products produced at this facility are grown in the USA unless customers require peanuts that have been produced from a different origin.”

But the prosecutor said that evidence will show 69 percent of the peanut paste delivered to Kellogg’s by PCA was made from either Mexican paste or paste made from Argentine peanuts.

Dasher also introduced some additional emails he intends to use as evidence against the former PCA executives.

One email, from Grey Adams to David Voth (the company’s national sales manager), began with, “They [peanuts] need to be air hosed off because they’re covered in dust and rat crap.” Adams is Stewart Parnell’s daughter, who worked at PCA’s headquarters in Lynchburg, VA.

Dasher also presented an email in which Mary Wilkerson wrote, “We have a problem with Salmonella every other week if not every week.”

He finished up his opening statement by repeating the phrase used in multiple emails about contaminated PCA product: “Just ship it.”

Defense attorney Thomas J. Bondurant Jr., representing Stewart Parnell, began his opening statement by telling the jury about his client and the Parnell family’s long history in the peanut industry.

Bondurant addressed the “pre-dipping” issue but said there is neither a legal requirement for retesting for Salmonella nor any law against it.

Bondurant told the jury that the contract was not between Kellogg’s and PCA but was a contract of P.P. Sales and Kellogg’s. The defense attorney ended his opening statement by asking the jury to keep an open mind throughout the trial.

Edward Tolley, defense attorney for Michael Parnell, and Thomas Ledford, defense attorney for Mary Wilkerson, both chose to hold their opening statements until they present their cases.

The government’s first expert witness also took the stand on Friday. To explain to the jury how microbiological testing is conducted for Salmonella and other pathogens, the prosecution called Dr. Darlene Cowart, director of food safety and quality at Birdsong Peanuts.

The University of Georgia-trained biologist previously headed up a privately owned laboratory with multiple locations and now works for Birdsong, one of the state’s best-known peanut shelling companies.

Cowart’s testimony will continue at 8 a.m. on Monday at the C.B. King U.S. Courthouse in Albany.

Food Safety News

Dole doubling the love during 2014 tour

Building on the success of last year’s Peel the Love tour, when 107,703 recipe samples made from Dole bananas were handed out at 147 tour stops at supermarkets, special events and other local venues, Dole is doubling its efforts this summer with two tours.

At the request of retailers and consumers nationwide, Dole and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze are launching two simultaneous Peel the Love Banana Cabana Tours in 2014. The tour will reacquaint Americans with the fun, whimsy and versatility of bananas and offer compelling new ways to add fresh produce to summer meals, snacking, parties and entertaining plans.

Peel-the-Love Thanks to separate tours launching Memorial Day weekend covering the Eastern and Western portions of the United States, Dole will be able to visit banana fans in 26 cities by Labor Day.

“Last year, our Peel the Love Tour took the eating-healthy-can-be-fun message to banana lovers in 10 cities across the country,” Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., based in Westlake Village, CA, said in a press release. “But almost from the start, consumers and retailers wanted more. So, we’re doubling the love in 2014 to help meet untapped demand for recipes, serving suggestions and other tangible ways to put the ‘fun’ back in summer produce.”

Organized by Dole Bananas and co-sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk, the two caravans will depart New York City and Dallas simultaneously on May 26 to deliver the message of tasty nutrition to local supermarkets, public events and venues in 26 cities in 21 states over 104 days. The colorfully wrapped tour vehicles and Banana Cabanas will offer banana recipes, recipe booklets, product samples, banana-themed kid’s activity sheets and other free giveaways. A full tour schedule will be available at

For the first time, visitors at each Peel the Love Banana Cabana Tour stop can present a grocery receipt showing a Dole Bananas qualifying purchase to receive a complimentary gift, such as a commemorative Dole hat, T-shirt or other branded item.

Also new for 2014 is a focus on other tropical fruits including Dole pineapples. Visitors at select tour stops can learn how to peel and cut a pineapple from a live demonstration and enjoy fresh-cut Dole pineapple samples.

The Eastern tour will depart from New York City and visit New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Virginia, Raleigh, NC, Columbia, SC, Jacksonville, FL, Alabama, Mississippi, St. Louis, MO, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis.

The Western tour will leave Dallas and visit Houston, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Reno, NV; Portland, OR, and Seattle.

“We’re delighted to partner again with Dole in 2014,” Suzanne Hagener, group marketing manager of Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, said in the press release. “Peel the Love is the perfect fit for Blue Diamond since we’re also committed to showing consumers that summer eating can be nutritious, delicious and fun. Through the tour recipes that feature Almond Breeze, we hope to prove that almond milk is a convenient and nutritious alternative to traditional milk options, and it tastes great. The tour will feature Almond Breeze in several recipes that are not only delicious, but also fit with a healthy lifestyle, which we will believe is important.”

The dual Peel the Love Banana Cabana Tours are part of DOLE(r) Bananas Peel the Love, a multiyear initiative to remind Americans about the fun and nutritional significance of the world’s most popular fruit, and encourage greater consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables overall.

In addition to showcasing new recipes and serving suggestions, Dole will engage with the more than 1 million Dole Banana and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze social media fans.

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

Lots of innovation during Rijk Zwaan Open Field Days

Lots of innovation during Rijk Zwaan Open Field Days

From the 10-14th of February, 2014, Rijk Zwaan Iberica organised the International Open Field Days in Cartagena, Spain. More than 700 visitors made the most of this opportunity to see the winter crops on display at the ‘La Marina’ research station.

In total, 360 different varieties of (amongst others); spinach, lettuce, endive, brassica, corn salad and fennel, were presented in the trial field. Agronomists, producers and dealers, mainly coming from Spain and other European countries, were able to discuss the various novelties. The large number of innovations in spinach and lettuce drew the most attention. Thanks to QR-code technology, visitors were able to receive  real-time information about the varieties out in the field.

Retail inspiration
Rijk Zwaan demonstrated an outdoor hydroponic system in combination with specific Rijk Zwaan varieties suitable for this way of cultivation.To inspire the visitors, also several retail packages were presented.  Pre-packed salads and other fresh-cut products were on display to show visitors examples of the latest concepts for fresh and prepared produce.

For more information:
Ton van Leeuwen
Rijk Zwaan
Tel: +31 (0) 174 532 487

Publication date: 2/18/2014

Silver Grape award Citta’ di Rutigliano awarded to FreshPlaza during Fruit Logistica 2014

Silver Grape award Citta’ di Rutigliano awarded to FreshPlaza during Fruit Logistica 2014

The international prize “Silver Grape – City of Rutigliano”, an annual award established by the town of Rutigliano (Bari-Italy) reached its sixteenth edition in 2014. The prize, officially sponsored by the agricultural firm Orchidea Frutta, is intended for those who are distinguished in the development of the table grapes sector.

The jury, appointed by the department of agriculture of Rutigliano, unanimously awarded recognition to our online magazine “FreshPlaza”, after having reviewed several proposals.

The motivation for the award is as follows:

“It has contributed as an independent source of information for the companies operating in the fruit and vegetable sector, to the promotion and affirmation of table grapes from Apulia, making them known and appreciated all over the world and promoting economic development in the origin areas.”

The award was given on February 6th at 11 am in the stand “Italy” within Fruit Logistica.

Above: the announcement of the award, at the presence of the regional agricultural authority Fabrizio Nardoni (first on the left), the Mayor of Rutigliano Roberto Romagno (second from left) and Rutigliano’s agricultural authority Pasquale Redavid (second on the left). Photo below: Sander Bruins Slot (FreshPlaza.COM Editor), Pieter Boekhout (FreshPlaza owner), Paolo Bruni (CSO President), Rossella Gigli (FreshPlaza.IT Editor), Roberto Romagno (Mayor of Rutigliano).

The ceremony was attended by the main regional and national authorities in the Italian horticultural sector.

Above: the consignment of the prize in the hands of Pieter Boekhout and Rossella Gigli. Below: the speech of Sander Bruins Slot. On the left, a part of the journalistic staff of the Italian edition Maria Luigia Brusco, Renata Cantamessa and Raffaella Quadretti. Behind the photocamera, Giancarlo Fabbri.

Below: Nicola Giuliano (Orchidea Frutta owner) and Roberto Romagno together with Rossella Gigli.

FreshPlaza is as an independent source of information for the companies operating in the fruit and vegetable sector.

After significant success with this concept in the Dutch market through the website, it was decided to venture into the international market by the creation of FreshPlaza. Ever since the start up in March 2005, the interest in the FreshPlaza website and news mail has grown steadily. In April 2007, the Italian edition followed. And five months later in September 2007, the Spanish edition was founded. In 2013 FreshPlaza reached 30,000 subscribers and as a group we now send more than 100,000 newsletters worldwide every day.

The FreshPlaza team comprises of a growing team of writers, editors, and account managers for our commercial representation. Our editors source their news on a global basis and from many different languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, French, Dutch and Portuguese.

FreshPlaza, by nature, is an interactive concept, which relies greatly on the participation of its readers. This is expressed through many press releases, photo material, responsive messages, and information requests our readers send to us.

FreshPlaza has the attention of the global Fresh Produce industry. It’s up to our readers to use this fact to their advantage.

Publication date: 2/10/2014
Author: Rossella Gigli

Big Y to reveal code during Super Bowl

Big Y will run a television commercial during the Super Bowl revealing of a code it has asked shoppers to decipher.

Shoppers are asked to guess what ”I-M-B-Y” means. They can post their guesses on the Big Y Facebook wall with the hash tag #BigYSurprise or Tweet @BigYFoods, along with the hash tag #BigYSurprise.

Among the guesses:

“It’s My Big Y.”
“In My Big Y.”

Prizes will be awarded to winners.

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Americans to consume more than 104 million pounds of avocados during the Super Bowl

As sports fans around the country gather to watch the first cold-weather Super Bowl played outdoors at MetLife Stadium, they will more than likely enjoy a big game food spread that includes avocados.

This year, Americans are predicted to consume nearly 32 percent more avocados than they did last year, which equates to nearly 104 million pounds or approximately 208 million avocados consumed during the game. In other words, the amount of avocados consumed during the big game would be enough to fill a football field end zone to end zone reaching over the top of the goal post — or more than 230 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

“Avocados and the big game go hand in hand,” Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, said in a press release. “This year, the Big Apple will meet the Big Avocado, as once again, more and more Americans will enjoy avocados during the game. “

Last year, football fans across the country consumed an estimated 79 million pounds, or 158 million Hass avocados, during big game gatherings. The top eight regions by percentage for avocados sold during the big game in the United States are California, at  23 percent; the West region, at 19 percent; the South Central region, at 17 percent; the Northeast, at 10 percent; the Great Lakes region, at 9 percent; the Southeast, at 9 percent; the Mid-South region, at 8 percent; and the Plains region, at 5 percent.

The big game is not the only event that brings out the nation’s passion for avocados. Last year, Americans ate a whopping nearly 1.7 billion pounds, or about 3 billion Hass avocados. Ninety-eight percent of the avocados sold in the U.S. are the Hass variety and contain naturally good fats and are cholesterol free.

For additional big game avocado statistics, downloadable recipes and photographs, additional fun facts and tips, visit

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

White House Says FDA Inspections Were ‘Sharply Curtailed’ During Shutdown

Routine inspections of domestic and international food facilities by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were “sharply curtailed” during the 16-day government shutdown in October, according to a report released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Thursday afternoon.

Although the agency continued inspections where there was imminent threat to health or life, the report states, furloughing 45 percent of FDA employees delayed nearly 500 food and feed domestic inspections and kept approximately 355 state inspectors under contract from the FDA from conducting food safety inspections.

The FDA also cut back examination, sampling, and laboratory analysis of imported products during the shutdown, but the OMB report did not estimate by how much.

The report also neglected to address how the shutdown impacted the team working on foodborne illnesses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it did note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was unable to inspect about 1,200 hazardous waste facilities, chemical facilities and drinking water systems.

Across the government, OMB estimates that the shutdown will cost the economy between $ 2 billion and $ 6 billion.

“I think it’s a good thing to have these estimates of the damage that’s been done, but it doesn’t cover the risk to the public from the lost safety inspections,” said David Plunkett, a food safety attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We’ve got people who claim to be fiscal conservatives in Congress and they flushed millions of dollars down the toilet during this shutdown and risked the lives and safety of Americans.

“Public health was put on the backburner.”

Food Safety News

Retail Traffic Down 7% During Shutdown: Report

CHICAGO — Total retail store shopper traffic during the first week of the partial government shutdown decreased 7.5% compared with a year ago, according to a report released Friday.

During the second week — from Oct. 6-12 — foot traffic decreased 7.1%, according to the report, which was conducted by ShopperTrak, based here. The Washington, D.C., area saw an even greater decrease, with an 11.4% decline in year-over-year shopper traffic the week of Oct. 6-12.


Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.

“The furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers caused an inevitable decline in consumer visits to retail stores in the first half of October,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “We expect that it will take some time and revised strategies for retailers to recover from the impact the government shutdown had on sales and store traffic.”

Traffic had started to decline before the shutdown, the report said, with a decline of 4.7% and 5% in the third and fourth weeks of September, respectively, compared with 2012.

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Trihalometanes generation (THMs) during washing fresh-cut baby spinach

Trihalometanes generation (THMs) during washing fresh-cut baby spinach

The potential generation of trihalometanes (THMs) during produce washing, as a consequence of the use of chlorine-based sanitizers, is one of the main current concerns for researchers, industry, and regulatory agencies.

However, there is poor information about the real THM formation during washing of fresh-cut produce in wash water and in the final product to prove the health and environmental risks related to THMs.

The THM formation is due to the reaction of chlorine with organic matter. This reaction can occur between chlorine and vegetable tissue, and between chlorine and washing water, which contains soil and organic matter (debris and exudates) released by vegetables. In addition, the vegetable can absorb THMs from washing water.

The scientists of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Murcia (Spain) have investigated the THM formation in washing water after washing baby spinach with chlorine-based sanitizer such as sodium hypochlorite and electrolyzed oxidizing water (EOW) with or without salt addition (EOW+NaCl or EOW, respectively). Moreover, the effects of these chlorine-based sanitizers on the microbial, sensorial, and nutritional quality of baby spinach was compared with peroxyacetic acid, which is a non-chlorine based sanitizer.

The total levels of THM in washing water treated with sodium hypochlorite and EOW+NaCl resulted over the limits fixed by EU legislation and USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), according to which the THM limits for drinking water are 100 and 80 µg/L, respectively. The THM levels after EOW treatment did not exceed the established limits.

In regard to the fresh-cut baby spinach, the levels of THM in leaves resulted low in sodium hypochlorite and EOW washed samples because the rinsing operation reduced THM levels below the detection limit.

Click here to enlarge the table.

From comparison between chlorine-based sanitizers and peroxyacetic acid, no treatment affected the quality and the shelf-life of the product.

During washing and storage in MAP conditions, headspace gas concentration, microbial and sensorial quality, leaf texture, color, and leakage were measured for all treatments. Results showed that, under the experimental conditions used in this study, the chlorine-based sanitizers do not represent a risk for THM formation during baby spinach minimally processing.

The scientists conclude that this study will help to demystify the current and common idea on the risks of chlorine-based sanitizers use when baby spinach processing occurs in conditions similar to those of the present study.

Furthermore, from the economic point of view, chlorine-based sanitizers are the cheapest options among the current sanitation systems. Thus, this study could suggest the Countries, where sanitizers are not used because of legislation restrictions on chlorine use and the high costs of alternative sanitizers, to adopt water chlorination as standard sanitation practice to improve safety of their products.

Source: Gómez-López V.M., Marín A., Medina Martínez M.S., Gil M.I., Allende A., “Generation of trihalomethanes with chlorine-based sanitizers and impact on microbial, nutritional and sensory quality of baby spinach“, Postharvest Biology and Technology, 2013, Vol. 85, pagg. 210-217. Further info:

Publication date: 10/7/2013
Author: Emanuela Fontana

Proposed House Bill Would Fund FDA During Shutdown

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote today on a bill that would fund the Food and Drug Administration during the government shutdown.

The so-called Food and Drug Safety Act was introduced last Thursday by House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.

The bill is the latest in a series of stopgap funding measures proposed in the House. Several attempts to fund individual agencies have cleared the House in recent days, but the White House and Senate leadership have opposed such bills, arguing that the entire government should be reopened.

The FDA, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, has furloughed 45 percent of its staff during the shutdown. As a result, FDA inspectors are not available to perform routine food inspections and FDA personnel are not available to investigate outbreaks and perform tracebacks through the supply chain on foods suspected of sickening people.

In a statement Friday, Caroline Smith DeWaal, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Food Safety Director, said that the shutdown “means some outbreaks will never be investigated and solved while others might be solved days or weeks later than they otherwise would. And each day of delay means that more consumers could be sickened from the undiscovered contaminated food.”

Food Safety News

Food safety the focus for annual mango industry reception during PMA Fresh Summit

The National Mango Board will host its annual Mango Industry Reception Saturday, Oct. 19 from 5:30-7:30 at PMA’s Fresh Summit in New Orleans, with a strong focus on food safety for the mango industry.

This outreach event brings members of all levels of the mango supply chain from across the world to connect and network. The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas is also a host of the event.

Reception attendees will learn about the areas of opportunity for the mango industry. Food safety expert Sergio Nieto-Montenegro of Food Safety Consulting & Training Solutions LLC will give an update on his findings from his industrywide assessment as well as his recommendations for mango growing farms and packinghouses in the top six importing countries, and mango warehouses and distribution centers in the U.S.

The goal of the assessment is to recognize and engage industry members to build upon existing food-safety efforts and improve best practices. A question-and-answer session will follow.

The event will be held at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel in New Orleans.

The NMB will also announce its Mango Retailer of the Year, a retail program in its second year that honors retailers who are strong, supportive partners to the NMB, and deliver outstanding mango promotion results.

The NMB selected one retailer in each region as finalists and will announce the winner during the reception. The following are the finalists for the 2013 Mango Retailer of the Year:

  • Keith Durham of Brookshire’s
  • Tom Eynon of Giant Eagle
  • Dick McKellogg of Lowes Foods
  • Michael Schutt of Raley’s

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

United Extends Military Discounts During Shutdown

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — In light of the government shutdown and closure of military commissaries, United Supermarkets will extend its Military Discount Wednesdays program to seven days a week.

The program will offer a 10% discount on grocery purchases for all active, retired and civilian military who present valid military ID at all eight United Supermarkets and Market Street locations in Abilene, Burkburnett and Wichita Falls, Texas. The stores were chosen because of their proximity to active U.S. Air Force bases.

Fuel, gift cards and pharmacy purchases are not eligible for the discount.

Read more: Shutdown Halts Inexpensive Groceries for Military Personnel

“These communities have seen several hundred military families furloughed due to the shutdown of the federal government this week,” said Mark Yowell, regional vice president for United Supermarkets, LLC, in a statement. “Coupled with the resulting closure of the base commissaries, it has become difficult for these families to meet their grocery needs.”

Military Discount Wednesdays was originally scheduled to run through Veterans Day, but the discount will now be available daily until further notice.

Supermarket News

Sprouts Shares Double During IPO

PHOENIX — Riding a compelling growth story in a hot industry, Sprouts Farmers Market literally and figuratively rang the bell of the NASDAQ stock market during its first day of trading Aug. 1. The natural food retailer raised $ 333 million by selling 18.5 million shares at $ 18 during the initial offering — shares that were initially expected to sell between $ 14 and $ 16 per share, according to a prospectus. On the public market, shares opened at $ 35 and closed at $ 40.23 — …

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