Blog Archives

CDC Final Update: 5 Listeria Illnesses, Including 1 Death, Linked to Mexican-Style Cheese

Mexican-style dairy products manufactured by Oasis Brands Inc. of Miami, FL, which were recalled for Listeria contamination earlier this year, were linked to five cases of Listeriosis, including one death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that this outbreak is now over.

Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and four others who became ill in June through October 2014.

The five cases were reported in Georgia (1), New York (1), Tennessee (2), and Texas (1). Four of the five people were hospitalized, and one death was reported in Tennessee. Three illnesses were related to a pregnancy — one of these was diagnosed in a newborn.

All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. Two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.

Although limited information is available about the specific cheese products consumed by ill persons, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the cheese consumption history of the patients, suggests that these illnesses could have been related to products from Oasis Brands Inc.

In August 2014, Oasis Brands voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after the pathogen was isolated from the quesito casero they produced. In October 2014, the company recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility and later recalled various Lacteos Santa Martha and one HonduCrema brand cheese and dairy products.

At this time, Oasis Brands Inc. has ceased manufacturing of all products, including the recalled products.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any of the recalled cheese and dairy products and that restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve them.

Food Safety News

USDA Reports on FSIS Enforcement Actions for Final Quarter of Year

A federal sentencing in Arkansas, convictions in Florida and a guilty plea in Puerto Rico topped fourth quarter enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).   USDA’s final period of the year ended last Oct. 1 at the start of the current federal fiscal year. The three-month quarterly enforcement report includes FSIS administrative, civil and criminal actions.

Edward Martsolf, owner of the Petit Jean Farm in Morrilton, AR was sentenced for knowingly offering for sale, and selling and transporting meat as human food that was misbranded with counterfeit marks of federal inspection that he applied. He was sentenced to three years probation, fined $ 2,000 and required to pay $ 3,257 in restitution.

Martsolf earlier plead guilty to two counts of forging and applying counterfeit marks of federal inspection and selling and offering misbranded meat products for sale.  Also during the quarter, Jorge F. Ortega, owner of Jorge’s Farm near Citrus Park, FL was convicted of thee felony counts for selling adulterated and misbranded meat food products in commerce, selling un-inspected meat food products in commerce, and inhumane slaughter of swine.

He was sentenced to three years probation and 200 hours of community service entering an open plea for selling adulated and misbranded meat, selling uninspected meat, and violating humane slaughter standards.

The final criminal charges stemming from FSIS enforcement actions during the period came in Puerto Rico. Jose Suarez, owner of PR’s Joshua Enterprises, please guilty to one count of information for selling or offering for sale, 52,859 pounds of pork shoulders, that were at the time adulterated and unfit for human consumption.

His sentencing was scheduled for the new fiscal year.

Among the major civil enforcement actions by FSIS during the quarter include:

-Zhong Chen, Asian Chen, and Kimen Chen, owners of the Chicago’s Feida Bakery, were permanently enjoined from misbranding, selling or transporting meat and meat products.

-Richard Galligan, owner of Galligan Wholesale Meat Co. in Denver, signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. attorney for Colorado and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. For release from civil and administrative action, Galligan agreed to pay $ 80,000. At issue was possible breach of contract by mistake, unjust enrichment, and fraud.

–San Leandro, CA-based Galant Food Co. received an administrative complaint and consent decision, suspending federal meat inspection services for multiple regulatory violations and failures.

-John Stubblefield, owner of Hot Springs Packing Co. Inc. entered into a consent decision and order with FSIS allowing federal inspection services to resume when Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) controls are implemented.

-Paul and Kelly Rosberg, owners of Nebraska’s Finest Meats in Randolph, remain suspended from federal meat inspection services because of acts of intimidation and interference.

-Brasher Falls, NY-based Tri – Town Packing Corporation was subject to an FSIS complaint to withdraw federal meat inspectors for multiple violations.

Back in the meat and poultry plants were FSIS enforcement actions typically begin, meat inspectors issued 263 NRs ( non-compliance records). It raised the total number of NRs for the year to 1,087. Upon appeal, 302 were dismissed and 158 resulted in modified NRs. Appeals were upheld for 539 NRs for the year, which typically means what the decision of the FSIS meat inspector stands.

With those high retail beef prices continuing, the quarterly report shows beef production at just over 34 million for a second straight quarter. That’s down from 38.5 million and 35 million during the first two quarters of the year Poultry production, topping 2.3 billion carcasses for the final quarter, marked a high for the year.

Food Safety News

Final Report Adds Details to E. Coli Outbreak from Trader Joe’s Salads

In October 2013, 33 people in four states were sickened by E. coli O157:H7 in an outbreak that was quickly traced back to pre-packaged salads sold at Trader Joe’s grocery locations.

On Monday, the California Department of Public Health released its final report on the outbreak with a wealth of new details on the investigation, including two previously unreported additional salad products associated with the outbreak.

Early in their investigation, health officials traced the outbreak to two salad products sold at Trader Joe’s: Trader Jose’s Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken and Trader Joe’s Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken. Both of those salads were produced by Atherstone Foods Inc., of Richmond, CA, operating under the name Glass Onion Catering.

As the investigation progressed, however, health officials identified another two salad products possibly causing illnesses. One of those was another salad product manufactured by Glass Onion and made for Walgreens, while the other was a salad produced by an unnamed company in Oakland, CA.

The one common ingredient between all four salads was romaine lettuce grown by Ratto Bros. of Modesto, CA.

Investigators retrieved seven salad samples from the Glass Onion, and all returned negative for E. coli contamination. Similarly, an inspection of the Glass Onion facilities didn’t find any food safety violations or potential instances of cross-contamination.

Investigators then went to Ratto Bros. farms to examine procedures and take environmental samples. Out of 44 samples, five taken from the premises tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, but those samples differed genetically from the outbreak strain.

Investigators concluded that E. coli contamination may have occurred at the farm from wind transferring pathogens from contaminated areas, or from farm equipment being driven on roads shared with neighboring cattle operations.

Ultimately, health investigators could not pinpoint exactly how the salads became contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Since the inspection, Ratto Bros. has enhanced their procedures in an attempt to avoid any future contaminations.

Seven people were hospitalized in the outbreak, including two who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections.

The case count by state ended as follows: Arizona (1 illness), California (28), Texas (1) and Washington (3).

Food safety law firm Marler Clark was retained to represent two patients in the outbreak. Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News.

Food Safety News

Groups Jockey for Position Ahead of Final WTO Decision on COOL

As the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) final decision regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) looms, industry is asking Congress to prepare for a judgment against the U.S.

“With little potential for quick Congressional action after a WTO final adjudication, we request that Congress authorize and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to suspend indefinitely the revised COOL rule for muscle cuts of meat upon a final adjudication of non-compliance with WTO obligations,” states the letter from dozens of companies and industry organizations to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the House Committee on Agriculture.

COOL requires that meat be labeled with the specific country where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered, and the governments of Canada and Mexico have argued that the rule is out of compliance with WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.

The meat industry is concerned that the rule is a source of added production costs, and that retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico would hurt a broad spectrum of industries.

According to POLITICO, WTO has issued a confidential interim decision that gives the sides time to comment before the final decision is made public in a few weeks.

“We have received the interim report, but detailed review is necessary before commenting further,” a USDA official reportedly told POLITICO Pro on Friday.

The National Farmers Union took a different view than the industry groups of what the agency should do.

“Urging Congress to repeal COOL laws before the WTO report is issued is just another desperate attempt to prevent consumers from having access to basic information about their food,” Roger Johnson, NFU president, said in a statement.

During a House budget hearing in April, Edward Avalos, the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that the agency is “confident” that changes to the rule which took effect last year will put the U.S. in compliance with WTO. When pushed on the issue, he said that the agency would address the decision when it’s made.

Food Safety News

FDA Releases Final Rule for Infant Formula

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has published its final rule regarding infant formula standards.

While breastfeeding is strongly recommended and many mothers hope to breastfeed their infants, most newborns in the U.S. rely on infant formula for some portion of their nutrition. The rule is meant to ensure that formulas for infants without unusual medical or dietary problems are safe and support healthy growth.

The final rule contains some modifications, clarifications and technical revisions that differ from the interim final rule issued on Feb. 10, 2014. Manufacturers must comply with the final rule by Sept. 8, 2014.

It establishes Current Good Manufacturing Practices specifically for infant formula, which include required testing for the pathogens Salmonella and Cronobacter. It also establishes quality control procedures, requirements about how and when manufacturers must notify FDA about new formulas, including major changes to formulas, and requirements concerning record keeping.

Manufacturers must demonstrated that their infant formulas support normal physical growth and test them for nutrient content in the final product stage, before entering the market, and at the end of the products’ shelf life.

FDA says that companies currently manufacturing infant formula in the U.S. already voluntarily conduct many of the Current Good Manufacturing Practices and quality control procedures included in the rule.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Final Report: No Source Identified in 2013 NYC Hepatitis A Outbreak

A final report on last summer’s Hepatitis A outbreak at New Hawaii Sea restaurant in the Bronx, NY, reveals that there were a total of nine cases (eight patrons and one employee).

No definite source of the infection was ever found, according to the report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Health officials stated that they first became aware on Sept. 17, 2013, that a host working at the restaurant had tested positive for Hep A. The department subsequently warned customers who had eaten at New Hawaii Sea or through their catering service between Sept. 7-19, 2013, to get a vaccination.

Inspectors then found “critical violations” at the restaurant on two different visits and instructed the restaurant operator to thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment and, before reopening, discard any food that had been in contact with bare hands. In addition, the restaurant was temporarily closed until all staff and employees were tested and vaccinated for Hep A.

The department’s report stated that no additional Hep A cases associated with food from the New Hawaii Sea restaurant were reported after Sept. 22, 2013.

“The lack of secondary cases among the food handlers suggests that the outbreak was over by the time it was identified by the health department,” the report states.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Food Safety News

Vermont Senate Approves GMO Labeling Bill, Sends It Back to House for Final Vote

Members of the Vermont Senate voted 28-2 on Wednesday for a bill that, if the Vermont House of Representatives concurs with the Senate’s changes, would make it the first state in the country to require labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The bill, H. 112, passed the Vermont House last year but needs to go back there for final approval of changes made in the Senate. Then, if House members give their final approval and Gov. Peter Shumlin signs it, which he has said he is likely to do, H. 112 would become effective on July 1, 2016.

Vermont’s legislation has no trigger clause like Maine and Connecticut, which have passed GMO-labeling laws but made them contingent on neighboring states taking similar action.

“We are really excited that Vermont is going to be leading on this,” said Falko Schilling of the the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, one of the organizations supporting the legislation.

“Today’s victory in Vermont has been 20 years in the making,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “Ever since genetically modified crops and foods entered the U.S. food supply in the early 1990s, without adequate independent pre-market safety testing and without labels, U.S. consumers have fought to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs.”

H. 112 would require the labeling of processed foods sold at Vermont retail outlets and containing genetically modified corn, soybeans, or any other GMO ingredients. It would also forbid describing any food products with GMO ingredients as “natural” or “all natural.” Exempted are animal feeds and some food-processing aids such as enzymes for making yogurt.

GMO labeling of milk and milk products are not included in the version of H. 112 passed Wednesday; however, the bill requires a report by Jan. 15, 2015, from the state’s attorney general, in consultation with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, on whether they should be and the legal basis for the recommendation.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill in Congress last week which would bar any state from taking the action Vermont appears poised to do. His “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” would prohibit mandatory labeling of GMO foods and also prohibit voters from proposing initiatives to do so at the state level.

Industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have banded together into the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, which has been fighting similar GMO-labeling legislation and voter initiatives in several states in recent years. They reportedly spent about $ 60 million against labeling initiatives in California in 2012 and Washington state in 2013, and both proposals were narrowly defeated.

Pro-labeling groups in Vermont say they expect industry groups to go to court to stop mandatory labeling legislation enacted by the states. As preparation, the Senate version of H. 112 includes $ 1.5 million to help pay legal defense costs, and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition has already started a fund to cover such expenses, which some estimates put as high as $ 8 million should the state lose.

“It’s not just Vermont. This affects everyone who eats,” said Andrea Stander, a coalition spokeswoman. “Consumers all across the country have woken up to the fact that we’ve become an unregulated feeding experiment by the biotech industry. People want to know if their foods are made with these ingredients. This gives people the choice.”

Some scientists who have studied GMOs say there are no additional health or safety issues involved in consuming them than there are in consuming non-GMO foods.

“This debate isn’t about food safety,” said Karen Batra of the Biotechnoloy Industry Organization. “Our science experts … point to more than 1,700 credible peer-reviewed studies that find no legitimate concern.”

She said that all mandatory GMO labeling does is make farming and food manufacturing more expensive and complicated. More than 60 countries, including the European Union, now require such labeling.

Food Safety News

Final tally shows record California grape crop for 2013

TGF-FruitImageCalifornia shipped a record volume of fresh grapes during the 2013 season, surpassing 100 million boxes for the second time in history, the California Table Grape Commission announced in a March 20 press release.

The final tally for the 2013 harvest showed a total of 117.4 million boxes of fresh California grapes (116.2 19-pound equivalents) shipped, with a total crop value of $ 1.7 billion, according to the release. The season started with shipments in early May and continued into February 2014.

California produces 99 percent of the fresh grapes grown and marketed commercially in the United States.

“Over the past 10 years, the volume has significantly increased,” Kathleen Nave, president of the commission, said in the release. “In 2003, the crop was under 80 million boxes. In 2012, the 100 million-box mark was crossed for the first time in history.”

Export volume totals for the 2013 season also set a new record at 48.6 million boxes exported, a 17 percent increase over the previous year, according to the release. Exports represented 41 percent of total crop volume. The top export markets in volume included Canada at 11.9 million boxes, followed by China/Hong Kong at 7.9 million boxes and Mexico at 6.6 million boxes.

“The fact that California table grape volume continues to grow is a direct reflection of the fact that consumers, both domestically and globally, really do want grapes from California,” Nave told The Produce News March 20.

Globally, California ships grapes to more than 60 countries. In the United States, grapes are considered a staple and are the No. 3 fruit item purchased by consumers, behind apples and bananas, “which are pretty much tied in our consumer research,” with oranges coming in fourth, behind grapes, she said. “There is a lot of demand for grapes from California, and that demand is really around the world. Our exports keep growing, as do our domestic sales.”

The commission expects continued growth for the industry in years to come, but that does not necessarily mean another record year next year.

“Very definitely we expect long-term continued growth,” Nave said.

A look back at production statistics over the past 20 years shows that typically the industry would have a record harvest one year, then “pull back for a couple of years, and then climb back up to a new record,” she said. “That is what I am expecting [for 2014]” following two successive record harvests, but “as we look ahead, we see an industry that is continuing to grow.”

For the 2014 season, “we don’t yet have an estimate,” Nave said. “We will have an estimate the end of April.”

The 2014 season does appear to be a little earlier than normal, with the harvest expected to begin in early May, she said.

Replacement plantings are among the reasons that the 2014 harvest might be slightly less than 2013, she said.

“We have a number of old vineyards that have been removed” and replaced with new plantings, Nave said. Also, “quite a bit of grafting has been going on” as an established vineyard is grafted over to a new variety. “When you have that kind of activity, that is going to impact volume” possibly for two or three years.

As the 2014 harvest approaches,” the commission is gearing up for its global marketing campaign for Grapes from California, which includes retail, consumer and foodservice programs,” the release stated.

Elaborating on that campaign, which is still in its formative stages, Nave told The Produce News, “In the United States, we will be doing consumer advertising with the Food Network. There will be brand new television commercials airing for the first time in 2014 — two of them. There will be a series of magazine advertisements in the Food Network magazine, which is the top culinary magazine in the country.” Those ads will run every month from June through December.

The theme of the campaign is that grapes from California are “healthy an great tasting” and are “an easy addition to any meal or any dish,” Nave said. The health message “really resonates with consumers.”

The campaign “will incorporate lots of different ideas for ways consumers can easily make grapes from California a part of their everyday eating experience,” she added.

“We will be working, of course, with retailers,” she said. “We will be working with the top 70 retailers in the U.S. and Canada, providing them with information and promotional incentives to make sure that there are plenty of grapes on display in stores. Then of course we have a foodservice program, so we will be working with foodservice operators.”

In international markets, the campaign will include many of the same activities as in the domestic campaign, Nave said.

“We will be doing a combination of consumer advertising, consumer public relations and a lot of work at retail,” she said.

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

Final tally shows record California grape crop for 2013

TGF-FruitImageCalifornia shipped a record volume of fresh grapes during the 2013 season, surpassing 100 million boxes for the second time in history, the California Table Grape Commission announced in a March 20 press release.

The final tally for the 2013 harvest showed a total of 117.4 million boxes of fresh California grapes (116.2 19-pound equivalents) shipped, with a total crop value of $ 1.7 billion, according to the release. The season started with shipments in early May and continued into February 2014.

California produces 99 percent of the fresh grapes grown and marketed commercially in the United States.

“Over the past 10 years, the volume has significantly increased,” Kathleen Nave, president of the commission, said in the release. “In 2003, the crop was under 80 million boxes. In 2012, the 100 million-box mark was crossed for the first time in history.”

Export volume totals for the 2013 season also set a new record at 48.6 million boxes exported, a 17 percent increase over the previous year, according to the release. Exports represented 41 percent of total crop volume. The top export markets in volume included Canada at 11.9 million boxes, followed by China/Hong Kong at 7.9 million boxes and Mexico at 6.6 million boxes.

“The fact that California table grape volume continues to grow is a direct reflection of the fact that consumers, both domestically and globally, really do want grapes from California,” Nave told The Produce News March 20.

Globally, California ships grapes to more than 60 countries. In the United States, grapes are considered a staple and are the No. 3 fruit item purchased by consumers, behind apples and bananas, “which are pretty much tied in our consumer research,” with oranges coming in fourth, behind grapes, she said. “There is a lot of demand for grapes from California, and that demand is really around the world. Our exports keep growing, as do our domestic sales.”

The commission expects continued growth for the industry in years to come, but that does not necessarily mean another record year next year.

“Very definitely we expect long-term continued growth,” Nave said.

A look back at production statistics over the past 20 years shows that typically the industry would have a record harvest one year, then “pull back for a couple of years, and then climb back up to a new record,” she said. “That is what I am expecting [for 2014]” following two successive record harvests, but “as we look ahead, we see an industry that is continuing to grow.”

For the 2014 season, “we don’t yet have an estimate,” Nave said. “We will have an estimate the end of April.”

The 2014 season does appear to be a little earlier than normal, with the harvest expected to begin in early May, she said.

Replacement plantings are among the reasons that the 2014 harvest might be slightly less than 2013, she said.

“We have a number of old vineyards that have been removed” and replaced with new plantings, Nave said. Also, “quite a bit of grafting has been going on” as an established vineyard is grafted over to a new variety. “When you have that kind of activity, that is going to impact volume” possibly for two or three years.

As the 2014 harvest approaches,” the commission is gearing up for its global marketing campaign for Grapes from California, which includes retail, consumer and foodservice programs,” the release stated.

Elaborating on that campaign, which is still in its formative stages, Nave told The Produce News, “In the United States, we will be doing consumer advertising with the Food Network. There will be brand new television commercials airing for the first time in 2014 — two of them. There will be a series of magazine advertisements in the Food Network magazine, which is the top culinary magazine in the country.” Those ads will run every month from June through December.

The theme of the campaign is that grapes from California are “healthy an great tasting” and are “an easy addition to any meal or any dish,” Nave said. The health message “really resonates with consumers.”

The campaign “will incorporate lots of different ideas for ways consumers can easily make grapes from California a part of their everyday eating experience,” she added.

“We will be working, of course, with retailers,” she said. “We will be working with the top 70 retailers in the U.S. and Canada, providing them with information and promotional incentives to make sure that there are plenty of grapes on display in stores. Then of course we have a foodservice program, so we will be working with foodservice operators.”

In international markets, the campaign will include many of the same activities as in the domestic campaign, Nave said.

“We will be doing a combination of consumer advertising, consumer public relations and a lot of work at retail,” she said.

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

Final tally shows record California grape crop for 2013

TGF-FruitImageCalifornia shipped a record volume of fresh grapes during the 2013 season, surpassing 100 million boxes for the second time in history, the California Table Grape Commission announced in a March 20 press release.

The final tally for the 2013 harvest showed a total of 117.4 million boxes of fresh California grapes (116.2 19-pound equivalents) shipped, with a total crop value of $ 1.7 billion, according to the release. The season started with shipments in early May and continued into February 2014.

California produces 99 percent of the fresh grapes grown and marketed commercially in the United States.

“Over the past 10 years, the volume has significantly increased,” Kathleen Nave, president of the commission, said in the release. “In 2003, the crop was under 80 million boxes. In 2012, the 100 million-box mark was crossed for the first time in history.”

Export volume totals for the 2013 season also set a new record at 48.6 million boxes exported, a 17 percent increase over the previous year, according to the release. Exports represented 41 percent of total crop volume. The top export markets in volume included Canada at 11.9 million boxes, followed by China/Hong Kong at 7.9 million boxes and Mexico at 6.6 million boxes.

“The fact that California table grape volume continues to grow is a direct reflection of the fact that consumers, both domestically and globally, really do want grapes from California,” Nave told The Produce News March 20.

Globally, California ships grapes to more than 60 countries. In the United States, grapes are considered a staple and are the No. 3 fruit item purchased by consumers, behind apples and bananas, “which are pretty much tied in our consumer research,” with oranges coming in fourth, behind grapes, she said. “There is a lot of demand for grapes from California, and that demand is really around the world. Our exports keep growing, as do our domestic sales.”

The commission expects continued growth for the industry in years to come, but that does not necessarily mean another record year next year.

“Very definitely we expect long-term continued growth,” Nave said.

A look back at production statistics over the past 20 years shows that typically the industry would have a record harvest one year, then “pull back for a couple of years, and then climb back up to a new record,” she said. “That is what I am expecting [for 2014]” following two successive record harvests, but “as we look ahead, we see an industry that is continuing to grow.”

For the 2014 season, “we don’t yet have an estimate,” Nave said. “We will have an estimate the end of April.”

The 2014 season does appear to be a little earlier than normal, with the harvest expected to begin in early May, she said.

Replacement plantings are among the reasons that the 2014 harvest might be slightly less than 2013, she said.

“We have a number of old vineyards that have been removed” and replaced with new plantings, Nave said. Also, “quite a bit of grafting has been going on” as an established vineyard is grafted over to a new variety. “When you have that kind of activity, that is going to impact volume” possibly for two or three years.

As the 2014 harvest approaches,” the commission is gearing up for its global marketing campaign for Grapes from California, which includes retail, consumer and foodservice programs,” the release stated.

Elaborating on that campaign, which is still in its formative stages, Nave told The Produce News, “In the United States, we will be doing consumer advertising with the Food Network. There will be brand new television commercials airing for the first time in 2014 — two of them. There will be a series of magazine advertisements in the Food Network magazine, which is the top culinary magazine in the country.” Those ads will run every month from June through December.

The theme of the campaign is that grapes from California are “healthy an great tasting” and are “an easy addition to any meal or any dish,” Nave said. The health message “really resonates with consumers.”

The campaign “will incorporate lots of different ideas for ways consumers can easily make grapes from California a part of their everyday eating experience,” she added.

“We will be working, of course, with retailers,” she said. “We will be working with the top 70 retailers in the U.S. and Canada, providing them with information and promotional incentives to make sure that there are plenty of grapes on display in stores. Then of course we have a foodservice program, so we will be working with foodservice operators.”

In international markets, the campaign will include many of the same activities as in the domestic campaign, Nave said.

“We will be doing a combination of consumer advertising, consumer public relations and a lot of work at retail,” she said.

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

Smart & Final hires Hong as CMO

Smart & Final, Los Angeles, said it has hired Eleanor Hong as senior vice president and chief marketing officer, a new position, to develop and oversee strategic marketing programs to enhance the brand and build sales in new and existing markets.Smart & Final CMO Eleanor Hong

Hong was formerly senior vice president, marketing, at Kohl’s Department Stores, Menomonee Falls, Wis.

According to Dave Hirz, president and chief executive officer, “By year-end 2014 our larger Smart & Final Extra! format will account for nearly half of our stores. Clearly the growth vehicle for the future, Smart & Final Extra! combines the high quality fresh produce of a farmer’s market, the low prices of a discount grocer and the large club-size products of a club store. And we have everything small businesses, clubs and organizations need on a daily basis. 


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“The question is, how do we drive initial trial and build customer loyalty? Eleanor is going to lead that process.”

Smart & Final operates 188 non-membership warehouse stores and 52 Cash & Carry stores in California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, accounting for sales estimated at $ 2.4 billion. The majority interest in company was acquired in late 2012 by Los Angeles-based Ares Management LLC.

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Chilean blueberry season in final harvest phase

Chilean blueberry season in final harvest phase

Chile’s blueberry season is now coming to a close. Markets are adapting to decreasing volumes of fruit as Chile enters its final harvest phase.

Harvests are now concentrated in the last two regions located in the southern and south central zone. These harvests have been complicated by rainfall in recent weeks, with significant volumes not suitable for export because of the wet weather.

The rainfall, in combination with early maturation of the blueberries, means that Chile’s blueberry season will end earlier than it has in previous years, about one or two weeks earlier. This means that most producers will be ending their harvests by the middle of March.

Publication date: 2/21/2014


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