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Australia: New CEO for AHEA

The Australian Horticultural Exporters Association (AHEA) expects its recently appointed CEO Dominic Jenkin will make a significant contribution to the organization and the country’s produce trade.

Having started in the role on July 1, Jenkin brings diverse experience to the group, ranging from farming and extension through to exports and consulting.

The new executive holds a Masters of Agricultural Science, Bachelor of Engineering and has a family background in citrus production and export.

“Dominic has a wealth of experience in the export sector working in the family export operations, as well as private enterprises and peak industry bodies,” said AHEA chairman David Minnis.

“I look forward to working with Dominic advancing the interests of traders in the third largest agricultural industry in Australia.

“The Association which is self funded from its members has just celebrated 30 years of operations and represents a body so often overlooked by Government and industry bodies but yet is so important if Australia’s exports in horticulture are to grow.”

Jenkin said he took on the role seeking to foster “greater collaboration across the value chain to support and strengthen Australia’s competitive advantage in trade of horticultural produce”.

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PCA team will divide up words before choosing them carefully

Criminal appeals in the United States are all about words. Appellants cannot change the trial court record. They can make arguments about legal issues raised by the trial court. But rarely is a defendant sprung from prison to hear a new witness or present new evidence.

Words, how many and how they are divided up, are now concerning the lawyers representing Stewart Parnell, atlantacourtofappeals_406x250Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson. They are the three defendants serving prison time while appealing both their convictions and sentences in the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) criminal case related to a deadly Salmonella outbreak.

Appellant briefs for all three defendants are due on Oct. 5. Under procedural rules for the 11th Circuit, each opening brief is limited to 12,000 words, for a total of 36,000 words for all three defendants.

What attorneys for the Parnells and Wilkerson want to do is to be able to allocate the 36,000 words among the three briefs in a way that they are “most efficient and beneficial to the court.” The appellate court has yet to give the lawyers any direction on the issue. However, the U.S. attorney has consented to the word allocation plan.

Stewart and Michael Parnell were both convicted of offenses in a 76-count indictment about peanut products made at PCA’s Blakely, GA, processing plant, which caused a multistate Salmonella outbreak. Stewart Parnell and Wilkerson were convicted of obstruction of justice.

In making the case for their word allocation plan, the appellants are pointing to a “massive” trial record, more than 600 docket entries, and numerous motions that were briefed and argued at the trial court level. In addition to the usual conviction and sentencing issues, they also point to alleged jury misconduct.

“Defendants-Appellants anticipate raising on appeal certain issues that were briefed jointly below, and believe that it would be efficient to argue many of those same issues in joint briefings to this court,” the attorneys wrote.

The word allocation request was presented to the court by attorneys Joseph R. Pope on behalf of Michael Parnell, Justin M. Lugar on behalf of Stewart Parnell, and Thomas G. Ledford on behalf of Wilkerson. They say the allocation plan will allow them to raise both common issues and issues concerning only one defendant in their opening appeal briefs.

They’ve pointed to a 2014 case where the 11th Circuit approved a similar plan.

Stewart Parnell, 62, is being held at a federal prison in Estill, SC. He has a scheduled release date of Feb. 5, 2040. Michael Parnell, 57, is being held at a federal prison in Milan, MI. His release date is Feb. 17, 2033. Mary Wilkerson, 43, is scheduled for release from the Marianna, FL, federal prison on March 10, 2020.

All three were sentenced in September 2015, a year after their 2014 convictions by an Albany, GA, jury. PCA was liquidated in bankruptcy proceedings during the year following the outbreak, which sickened thousands and resulted in nine deaths in 2008-09.

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U.S. distributor goes to court over banana no-show

Long Island-based fruit company Esposito Brothers has launched a lawsuit over an alleged failure to deliver a large shipment of bananas in mid-2013, the New York Post reported.

The publication reported 21,000 boxes of Ecuadorian-sourced Bonita bananas Esposito ordered from Fruit Importers Americas Inc. did not arrive in July that year.

The story reported the lawsuit was against “Ecuador’s biggest fruit conglomerate”, but Esposito declined to comment on the case or provide clarification as to the details.

The suit seeks at least US$ 27 million in damages, the story reported.

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Criminal charges pending against Ontario raw milk advocates

When provincial agricultural officials in Ontario raided raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt’s farm this past October, they were accompanied by local police. The raid turned into a standoff that ended only when a deal was reached that allowed some samples and computers to be removed, but dropped equipment seizures.

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Michael Schmidt

After going through raids and trials for 22 years, Schmidt brings more experience than most to such confrontations. The October raid, however, has resulted in Schmidt and four other Ontario being charged with one count each of obstructing a peace officer.

A warrant for the arrest of George Bothwell of Meaford remains outstanding and the West Grey police public plea for anyone who knows his whereabouts has not helped locate him. Schmidt, Robert Pinnell of Durham, John Schnurr of South Bruce Peninsula, and Enos Martin of Chesley are scheduled to appear in Ontario Court of Justice on Aug 17 for trial.

In addition to the criminal case, Schmidt is defending against civil proceedings in Ontario Superior Court in Newmarket that seek to shutdown both his raw milk distribution and his herd-share operation. Members would be prohibited from encouraging others to drink raw milk.

When Schmidt went to court for that one in March, he had about 300 supporters with him. The court on that day only did some scheduling and set aside some technical issues.

Schmidt was charged in 2006 with multiple counts of both selling and distributing unpasteurized milk and cheese from an unlicensed milk plant and for not following a 1994 order from a public health inspector.

Those charges were eventually dismissed in 2010, but government prosecutors appealed. Schmidt was convicted in 2011 for 13 violations of the Health Promotion Act. He was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $ 9,150.

An Ontario high court judge found cow-share distribution of raw milk does not equate to ownership, which Schmidt claimed satisfied legal requirements. He changed to a farm-share arrangement for shareholders to obtain raw milk.

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Food Safety News

Mann Packing to debut Tenderbite Beans, two Romaine hybrids

Mann Packing will launch three new items at the PMA Foodservice Expo in Monterey, CA, on July 31: Mann’s Tenderbite Beans and two new Romaine lettuce hybrids.mann

Mann’s Tenderbite Beans are a long, plank-shaped green bean variety not seen on the mass market in the United States since the 1970s. Also known as runner or Romano beans and popular in Europe, Tenderbite Beans are highly versatile due to their long length and heartiness. Previously found only in home gardens and occasional farmers markets, Mann’s is producing the variety for year-round availability.

“Tenderbite Beans really caught our eye when we saw them in Europe a year ago,” Rick Russo, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Mann’s, said in a press release. “They’re great on the grill, slow roasted, or wrapped on a skewer — you can do so much more with these than your average green bean. So far, our customers have been really excited to see these coming back into the market.”

Mann’s is also introducing two new Romaine lettuce hybrids: RomaCrunch and RomaLeaf.  RomaCrunch, a cross between Romaine and Iceberg, has a small head and crunchy-sweet flavor. Its whole leaves are boat-shaped, making them an ideal vessel for protein salads, grains, or even desserts. It also stands up well to heat.

RomaLeaf is a true hybrid that blends the most appealing features of Romaine and green leaf lettuces. With more green leaves than Romaine and a texture crunchier than green leaf, it has excellent yield and impressive lift when used in salad bars, catering trays and sandwich building.

“With vegetables taking center stage on menus across the country, we’re doing what we’ve always done: create innovative products that give our customers better alternatives to what’s already out there,” Russo said in the release.

Chef Tony Baker of Montrio Bistro in Monterey will be serving samples of recipes he has created using Tenderbite Beans and RomaCrunch, and all items will be on display in booth No. 110.

 

 

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

Port of Savannah’s role strengthened by new PortFresh Logistics facility

The opening of PortFresh Logistics during the early fourth quarter of 2016 will strengthen the role the Port of Savannah in Georgia will play as an entry point for fresh produce originating in South America.

PortFresh Logistics is constructing a 100,000-square-foot cold-treatment facility dedicated to perishable cargoes.

“Our services will include cold storage, drayage, inspection — both USDA and in-house — full repacking and regarding capability, pre-cooling, import and export cross dock, on-site U.S. customs stations, third-party food certification, organic handling certification, grower services including sales, inspection and logistics, regional LTL services, fumigation services in partnership with Royal Fumigation, CTPAT and more,” Todd Huber, the company’s vice president of operations, told The Produce News.

PortFreshLogisticsPortFresh Logistics plans to open its new facility in the early third quarter of the year. The 100,000-square-foot cold-treatment facility will provide customers with a variety of services for perishable cargoes. Working with the Port of Savannah in Georgia, the facility is expected to create an additional entry point for fresh produce originating in South America. Photo courtesy of PortFresh Logistics.“Perishable foods are an important growth sector for the Georgia Ports Authority,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Port Authority.

PortFresh Logistics will create 40 new jobs upon its opening. That number is expected to increase to 75 full-time jobs by the fourth year of operation. The company will be led by Chief Executive Officer Brian Kastick and President Rebecca George.

Kastick provided some analysis of the role PortFresh Logistics will play to facilitate the distribution of perishables in the Southeast Corridor. “Currently, more than 90 percent of imported fruits and vegetables entering the U.S. East Coast arrive via Northeast ports,” he said. “That means cargo headed to the Southeast must be trucked down, adding time and expense to the logistics supply chain.

“Using the Port of Savannah offers significant time and money savings per container for areas throughout the Southeast region,” Kastick continued. “We believe the growing population of the U.S. Southeast, government policy changes and perishable industry consolidation will break open significant pent-up demand for the new perishable supply chain gateway built around the Port of Savannah.”

The PortFresh’s state-of-the-art facility will be situated on 20 acres of a 182-acre site specifically designed to allow multiple climate zones. Both import and export cargo will be handled. The facility is located on I-16 on Old River Road, seven miles from I-95 and 15 miles from the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal.

“Savannah is the fourth largest port in the U.S., with the Garden City Terminal being the largest single-terminal container operation,” Huber said. “The proximity of both PortFresh and Garden City to I-95 and I-16 allows for fast terminal truck turnaround. Combining that with lower fees and drayage costs will make this an ideal marriage for importing perishable cargo into the Port of Savannah. On the outbound side, Savannah has an ideal distribution footprint. The proximity to South and Midwest hubs that supply over 40 percent of U.S. consumers is reached better through the Port of Savannah than any major port along the East Coast.”

Huber added that domestic shippers will be able to realize advantages by utilizing the company’s storage and repacking services. “Also, CSX and Norfolk Southern both offer rail service to Garden City Terminal allowing our western U.S. shippers to come East at very competitive rates,” he said.

Huber said PortFresh Logistics will raise the bar on customer service. “Our hours of operation will revolve around customer satisfaction,” he said. “Our customers drive our business. They entrust their product to us. We will do everything possible to satisfy their needs and continually grow that trust.”

Negotiations to bring the project to fruition occurred over a three-year period. A grant from OneGeorgia Equity helped PortFresh defray infrastructure costs for water and sewer lines to the site.

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

Opal builds presence and promise in Europe, South Africa

With new Opal apple marketers and growers popping up around Europe and trials underway by South African produce giant DuToit, expectations are high that the Czech-origin variety – known scientifically as UEB 32642 -could reinvigorate the yellow category. As the second part of a series on Opal, at www.freshfruitportal.com we speak with key proponents of this apple which has been met with rave reviews around the world.

“Even people who usually don’t buy Golden Delicious apples would buy an Opal-branded apple if they knew how it eats,” according to Michael Weber of Germany-based Fruit Select, which holds the European marketing rights.

Following the success of UEB 32642 grown by Broetje Orchards in the U.S. Northwest, 64 trial plantings were established in Europe in 2007.

The initial focus had been on the British, German and Austrian markets, with exclusive deals though Univeg UK and SanLucar, but Weber said Opal was now moving toward the traditional yellow apple countries of Spain, Italy and France.

“We’re taking a step-by step approach. Univeg has been selling commercial volumes for four years and SanLucar for two years, so that is phase one,” he said.

“In these countries there is a relatively low appreciation for yellow apples, and so it was there we started the Opal project to revitalize the category.

“We recently had meetings in Spain where the market was evaluated, and we now have two new partners there – Orchard Fruit and Nufri. This year we are on our way to sign agreements to get Italian companies involved.”

While the Mediterranean countries have generally been oriented toward yellow varieties, Weber has noticed a trend of marketers struggling with sales and looking to new bicolored apples like Envy, Jazz and Kanzi.

One reason for this could be yellow varieties’ tendency to lose their crunch in the heat, and Weber therefore hoped Opal’s characteristics could help to turn the tables.

“Our trial plots in Catalonia, Spain, and the Italian provinces of Piedmont, Trentino and South Tyrol show very promising results,” he said.

“One of the biggest innovations is that it holds the crunch even under the heat. From the Czech Republic you don’t know if an apple can stand the heat they have in places like Washington State, South Africa or Spain, but it’s so important.”

Weber added the variety’s high Brix levels of around 15-16 were counterbalanced with acidity, creating a ‘universal’ flavor.

“The U.K. and German consumers like it, but so do the Italians and the Spanish. So we’re relatively confident that it matches consumer expectations in different markets and cultures,” he said.

With production set to grow rapidly from the current 3,000 metric tons (MT), Weber believes the variety could one day take a chunk of the European Golden Delicious market.

“I personally believe that a share of 2-3% of the market is achievable,” he said, adding 1% of the Golden Delicious market stood for around 22,000MT.

“When will this be the case? We don’t know. Possibly between 2026 and 2030.”

Brand recognition growing in the U.K.

In the U.K., where the number of planted trees has shot up from 2000 seven years ago to 136,000 today, Univeg UK is working hard to boost consumer loyalty and extend the marketing window.

Hannah Surtees, head of category marketing and insight, highlighted that plantings had been established in various different counties, which is important in a country where consumers have a strong preference for local produce.

“It’s great that Opal can grow well in the U.K. with sustainable returns for growers to make it viable in the future,” she said.

“For me it’s a brand and a product that’s fantastically exciting. Over the last few years while I’ve been involved with it we have done very consumer-focused marketing activities and the customers are absolutely wowed by it.”

Surtees said it had been a challenge launching a new apple variety in the U.K. market, which nowadays offers huge choice but is dominated by a select few.

“The market’s become increasingly busy with a huge range for shoppers, which brings both positives and negatives,” she said.

“The positives are it’s really exciting for consumers if they can see that range of choice and that there’s definitely an apple out there for everybody, but then on the reverse of that there’s a continued challenge for space.

“Around 70% of sales still go through five core varieties – Royal Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious – and then you have a large tail of new products, which are very exciting and offer consumers great choice.”

She added while consumer insight groups had pointed out many shoppers have preconceived negative ideas about yellow apples, when given Opal to try this ‘completely switched’.

“It’s a consumer paradox, yes it’s yellow on the outside, but it’s everything you want and more on the inside,” she said.

Univeg UK has brought Opal to various food festivals around the country over the years, including the BBC Good Food Show, and has been ramping up its social media presence to build brand awareness and loyalty.

Surtees is now hoping to extend the marketing season as much as possible, both through controlled atmosphere storage and greater availability.

“For the next few years it’s about building better recognition for what a great eating apple it is and that outstanding flavor, which drives repeat purchases back to the product to continue growing sales,” she said.

Dutoit prepares for first commercial volumes

One of the major counterseasonal suppliers to the U.K. in the future is likely to be South Africa, where produce company Dutoit is one of several that has been trialling production for a few years.

The leading fruit packer and exporter has various Opal orchards in four areas around the Western Cape, and was able to evaluate the first fruit in 2013.

“A semi-commercial trial of 1150 trees was made in the Koue Bokkeveld in 2012. This was a calculated risk based on information gathered first hand from visits to Broetje in the USA and various growers in France and Germany,” produce development manager Tanith Freeman said.

“The past two seasons we have been able to harvest a good sample for packing and storage trials.”

Freeman said the variety seemed to grow well in a wide range of micro-climates in the Western and Eastern Cape.  Sites to avoid are ones where Golden Delicious generally does not do well and where there is a historic high incidence of russet

The first small commercial volumes are expected next year, and while Dutoit is free to export to whichever company it chooses, Freeman said Univeg UK and SanLucar would be the natural choices to begin with.

“Considering the amount of marketing done in the UK by Univeg and SanLucar in Germany, I do believe these two companies would our first port of call,” she said.

“This year branded samples were sent to selected African markets. Their acceptance remains to be seen as Africa prefers a green Golden.

“It will be a huge challenge to position Opal as a different tasting experience against a perception of overripe Goldens.”

Representatives of TopFruit, which manages UEB 32642 in South Africa, emphasized the variety was in its very early stages in the country, but they believed it had strong potential.

“There are 33,500 trees currently in the ground, of which the bulk is planted with Dutoit, however not all trees are bearing as most were only planted in 2014 and 2015,” Pome fruit operations manager Corné Grundlingh said.

“Therefore we had small volumes this season, of which a few trial cartons were sent to Africa to test the consumers’ response, and some were introduced into the South African domestic market.”

While Europe is a key market for South African apple exports, research and trials will be carried out in a range of markets around the world in due course.

There are currently six South African companies trialing Opal orchards, but Top Fruits is looking to grow this number.

“We’d love to expand, we think it’s a great variety,” said pome fruit manager Peter Allderman.

He highlighted that feedback for the variety so far had been ‘extremely positive’, adding it was a relatively easy variety to grow.

“It has many grower-friendly characteristics. Most importantly it’s scab resistant and it’s also fairly resistant to powdery mildew, but also it’s very productive,” he said.

As for the prospects of Opal in South Africa, Allderman was hopeful for a bright future.

“At a time when we are facing declining per-capita consumption of apples, this is the kind of apple that could reverse that trend,” he said.

“We’d like to see it do very well. It’s a new category. Pink Lady was fantastic in that it introduced the pink category, and the Opal is not just a yellow apple – we’d like to see it start the gold category.

“It’s very early days, but hopefully consumers will like it and that taste and flavor is what will bring them back to it.”

Related stories: “Geometric growth” ahead for Opal apples

“Varieties are created by nature,” said Opal apple breeder

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Dole Chopped Salad Kits selected for Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Award

Nielsen has honored Dole Fresh Vegetables for transformational innovation and for continually bringing improvements to essential day-to-day experiences and rituals.

The produce company and its line of Dole Chopped Salad Kits, launched in 2013, received a 2016 U.S. Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Award,  selected for distinctiveness, relevance and endurance from close to 3,500 consumer products introduced to the market that year. It is the first time a produce brand has won the award in the eight-year history of the competition.DOLE Chopped SunflowerCrunch FRONT

2016 Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Award winners satisfied three requirements: a distinctive consumer product that delivered a new value proposition to the market in 2014; a minimum of $ 50 million in first-year U.S. sales; and a demonstrated ability to endure the market by achieving 90 percent of first-year sales during its second year.   

“Dole is beyond honored that the Dole Chopped Salad Kit line is one of only 92 U.S. products to receive this award since its inception in 2008 — and the first-ever winner in the produce industry,” CarrieAnn Arias, vice president of marketing for Dole Fresh Vegetables, said in a press release. “Dole Chopped Salad Kits were launched in 2013 as the next wave in salad innovation: a taste-first chopped salad experience featuring layers of flavor, texture, color and crunch in every bite. The success of the initial line led to the introduction of two additional Chopped Salad varieties in 2015 to meet consumer demand.

“The fact that Nielsen reviewed 20,000 U.S. product launches over eight years and found Dole and Dole Chopped Salad Kits as demonstrating breakout innovation and success and improving America’s daily routines of eating is extremely fulfilling for everyone at Dole,” she said

The seven Dole Chopped Salad Kits — with varieties that include Bacon and Bleu, BBQ Ranch, Chipotle & Cheddar, Pomegranate, Poppy Seed, Sesame Asian and Sunflower Crunch — are part of a larger line of packaged salad blends and kits, including conventional and family-size, sold under the Dole brand.

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

TX Distributor Recalls Australian Lamb for Lack of Import Inspection

Houston, TX-based AMD Imports Inc. is recalling approximately 35,275 pounds of Australian lamb products because the meat imports were not presented at the U.S. point of entry for inspection, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Without the benefit of full inspection, FSIS says a possibility of adverse health consequences exists. The recall involves a high health risk.

The following product are subject to recall:

  • Lot A, 17,500 lbs.: 416 containers of Australian Bone-In Lamb Shoulder weighing from 36 to 51 lbs. each with package code “730030.” The product was packaged by Wagstaff Canbourne on dates ranging from Sept. 8, 2014, to Oct. 10, 2014.
  • Lot B, 17,775 lbs.: 416 containers of Australian Bone-In Lamb Shoulder weighing from 36 to 51 lbs. each with package code “730030.” The product was packaged by Wagstaff Canbourne on dates ranging from Sept. 8, 2014, to Oct. 10, 2014.

The recalled lamb bears the Australian mark of inspection with establishment number “2773.” The product was shipped to AMD Imports Inc., a meat distributor in Houston, which was also the point of entry and further distributed to other distributors and retail locations.

The problem was discovered using the Public Health Information System (PHIS) when FSIS import staff reviewed records and discovered that the independent third-party carrier did not present the products for USDA inspection at the U.S. point of entry.

FSIS and the company have received no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider. FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

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Bakeries shun centralization

Despite the efficiencies that a centralized bakery operation can produce for a supermarket chain, many food retailers say the benefits of having in-store scratch bakeries still outweigh the potential cost savings.

“We are set up to be a full line, in-store production bakery,” said Chris Arnold, assistant vice president of bakery operations at Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa. “This is where our roots are at, and we believe by committing to ongoing training, we have a competitive advantage. It allows us to be agile and react to ever changing market expectations.”

Keli Lessing, fresh bakery sales director at Harmons Grocery, Salt Lake City, said having in-store bakeries in all locations provides a selling point for customers.

“Our current process has the benefit of having a pastry chef at each location to communicate with customers, and to educate them,” she said.

Lessing and others contacted by SN said they have considered some degree of centralization, however, because of the efficiencies involved. Among the biggest challenges to operating in-store scratch bakeries are recruiting and training qualified personnel.

“Eventually, we would like to move some items to more centralized/shared bakery operations,” Lessing said. “The challenge of our [current] approach is training — making sure that each pastry chef knows how to make each item correctly all the time provides an opportunity.

“There is also the challenge of efficiencies. Having one location produce one item saves labor and reduces waste.”

Likewise, Arnold of Hy-Vee said centralized baking of some items “could be part of our future.”

“But our present focus is on the continual development of our entry level, mid-level and highly skilled personnel through ongoing training,” he said. “This approach allows for daily skill levels to grow and develop. Personnel remain engaged and excited about their jobs, which allows for creativity and higher productivity, as well as creating an environment that supports outstanding customer service.”

John Chickery, bakery program director at Riesbeck’s Food Markets, St. Clairsville, Ohio, which has in-store bakeries at most of its locations, said his company has considered a centralized production model.

“We’ve thought about it many times, and we’re just not ready to do that yet,” he said. “It’s a huge investment in equipment and the facility.

“The one thing that might make us do that is the labor factor. The labor force is shrinking, and it’s harder to find people. But we will train people, and tech them to be bakers.”

Increasing appeal

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which operates a format built around the efficiencies of centralized production for much of its product, a few years ago made the move to in-store baking to increase its appeal to customers.

“We reinvigorated all of our fresh foods with a particular focus on in-store bakery, because it really is an ideal place to showcase delicious, high-quality, fresh food,” said Brendan Wonnacott, a spokesman for the El Segundo, Calif.-based chain.

He said that the company, which installed ovens and added personnel in stores to finish par-baked product, has been focusing on finding unique items to showcase. These include a pretzel-croissant hybrid called a “Cretzel” and an imported Belgian waffle that has been used to create a chicken-and-waffle sandwich and a strawberries-and-crème waffle sandwich.


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“A lot of the focus has been on innovation and unique products, more so than rolling out traditional items,” Wonnacott said. “We are really mindful that customers are looking for a new option — something a little bit different, so that’s really been where the focus has been for us.”

Having an in-store bakery has also allowed the chain to focus on breakfast offerings, including croissants and bagels, to build traffic during that daypart as the chain has expanded its operating hours.

Wonnacott said Fresh & Easy has no current plans to implement scratch baking, however.

“We’ll see down the line some day,” he said. “It’s a constant evolution at Fresh & Easy.”

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Calif. temperatures stay above danger zone but freeze watch continues

California citrus growers dodged a bullet during the first night of freezing temperatures during the early-morning hours Dec. 31 in the San Joaquin Valley, but the freeze watch continues and the next two days will be critical.

“Our stations clearly indicate that very few locations dipped below 32 degrees for any period of time,” California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said in a statement. “Throughout the night and early morning a few locations experienced short durations of cold temperatures requiring some form of frost protection.”

Typically temperatures need to fall below 32 degrees for a period of at least four hours for damage to occur. Of course, the lower the temperature and the longer the duration the more damage occurs. Overnight temperatures did drop below freezing for short periods of time in several locations, but a cloud cover helped moderate the temperatures and kept the mercury in the high 20s in even the coldest citrus-growing areas.

A year ago, eight straight days of sub-freezing weather in early December caused significant damage and cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

In the San Joaquin Valley, more than 200,000 acres of citrus are farmed with the primary varieties being Navel and Mandarin oranges. Lemons and other varieties constitute approximately 15 percent of the valley’s citrus crop. Mandarin and lemon varieties are the most vulnerable because of thinner skin.

Approximately 75 percent of the fall-winter citrus crop still remains on the trees. More than 16,000 wind machines are employed to protect the $ 1.6 billion citrus crop.

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

CDC Update: 32 Listeria Illnesses in 11 States, 2 in Canada Linked to Caramel Apples

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again updated information regarding the multi-state Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to caramel apples. As of Dec. 30, there were 32 illnesses reported in 11 states, including 31 hospitalizations and six deaths.

According to CDC, Listeriosis contributed to three of the deaths reported to date, but it is not clear whether it contributed to another two. The sixth death was unrelated to Listeriosis, CDC stated.

The new cases were reported from CA (one more, for a total of two), NM (one more, for a total of six), and one in NV (which previously had not had any cases reported). The rest are in Arizona (4), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC reports that the dates when the Listeria strains were isolated range from Oct. 17, 2014, to Dec. 11, 2014. Ten illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (the illness occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). One fetal loss has been reported.

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 32 percent were female, CDC reported.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years. Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths, and it is unclear whether it contributed to an additional two deaths. The sixth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

Illnesses that started after Dec. 14, 2014, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Outlets selling the apples included Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods in MN, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, and Safeway, Walmart and Sam’s Club in a number of states.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of Listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak. PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses. CDC and and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working with Canadian health authorities to determine whether these illnesses are related to the U.S. outbreak.

The information CDC reported at this time continues to indicate that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. In interviews, ill people answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures in the month before becoming ill.

To date, 23 (88 percent) of the 26 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. Caramel apple brands named in interviews have included Happy Apple, Carnival, and Merb’s Candies. However, the investigation is ongoing, and other brands may be identified. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged, or to caramel candy.

So far, three firms that produce caramel apples have issued voluntary recalls after receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, a CA apple supplier, that there may be a connection between Bidart Brothers apples and this Listeriosis outbreak. On Dec. 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, MO, voluntarily recalled Happy Apple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 25 and Nov. 23, 2014.

On Dec. 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm’l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28, 2014. On Dec. 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, MO, issued a voluntary recall of Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available between Sept. 8 and Nov. 25, 2014.

In addition, Pacific Coast Fruit of Portland, OR, announced that it was recalling all Happy Apple brand apples it sold after Sept. 22, 2014, because they came from Bidart Brothers. The company noted in an online statement that it was contacting its customers as part of the recall.

Meanwhile, CDC and other state and federal investigators are continuing to work to identify if any other brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Although voluntary recalls have been issued for three brands of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, CDC’s Advice to Consumers remains the same. CDC continues to recommend that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 32 Listeria Illnesses in 11 States, 2 in Canada Linked to Caramel Apples

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again updated information regarding the multi-state Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to caramel apples. As of Dec. 30, there were 32 illnesses reported in 11 states, including 31 hospitalizations and six deaths.

According to CDC, Listeriosis contributed to three of the deaths reported to date, but it is not clear whether it contributed to another two. The sixth death was unrelated to Listeriosis, CDC stated.

The new cases were reported from CA (one more, for a total of two), NM (one more, for a total of six), and one in NV (which previously had not had any cases reported). The rest are in Arizona (4), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC reports that the dates when the Listeria strains were isolated range from Oct. 17, 2014, to Dec. 11, 2014. Ten illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (the illness occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). One fetal loss has been reported.

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 32 percent were female, CDC reported.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years. Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths, and it is unclear whether it contributed to an additional two deaths. The sixth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

Illnesses that started after Dec. 14, 2014, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Outlets selling the apples included Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods in MN, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, and Safeway, Walmart and Sam’s Club in a number of states.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of Listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak. PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses. CDC and and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working with Canadian health authorities to determine whether these illnesses are related to the U.S. outbreak.

The information CDC reported at this time continues to indicate that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. In interviews, ill people answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures in the month before becoming ill.

To date, 23 (88 percent) of the 26 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. Caramel apple brands named in interviews have included Happy Apple, Carnival, and Merb’s Candies. However, the investigation is ongoing, and other brands may be identified. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged, or to caramel candy.

So far, three firms that produce caramel apples have issued voluntary recalls after receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, a CA apple supplier, that there may be a connection between Bidart Brothers apples and this Listeriosis outbreak. On Dec. 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, MO, voluntarily recalled Happy Apple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 25 and Nov. 23, 2014.

On Dec. 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm’l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28, 2014. On Dec. 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, MO, issued a voluntary recall of Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available between Sept. 8 and Nov. 25, 2014.

In addition, Pacific Coast Fruit of Portland, OR, announced that it was recalling all Happy Apple brand apples it sold after Sept. 22, 2014, because they came from Bidart Brothers. The company noted in an online statement that it was contacting its customers as part of the recall.

Meanwhile, CDC and other state and federal investigators are continuing to work to identify if any other brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Although voluntary recalls have been issued for three brands of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, CDC’s Advice to Consumers remains the same. CDC continues to recommend that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

Caramel Apple-Linked Listeria Outbreak and Recalls: What You Need to Know

On Dec. 19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially produced and prepackaged caramel apples that has sickened — and hospitalized — at least 29 people in 10 states.

Until further notice, CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are advising consumers not to purchase or eat any commercially produced caramel apples whatsoever. That includes any caramel apples covered in nuts, candy or other toppings.

This outbreak has not been connected to any non-caramel apples. There are no current advisories or warnings against conventional apples.

While the CDC’s initial outbreak announcement did not include a comprehensive list of caramel apple brands implicated in the outbreak, a number of companies and brands have announced recalls or have been tied to the outbreak in the days following the first announcement.

One of the recalled brands, Happy Apple Company, said that one of its apple suppliers, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA, may have supplied apples connected to the outbreak.

Brands that have issued recalls:

In addition, CDC cited two more brands as being associated with the outbreak, but the companies have not issued recalls:

  • Carnival
  • Kitchen Cravings

Illnesses have occurred in the following states:

Arizona (4 illnesses), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3)

A California man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against grocery retailer Safeway, claiming that a contaminated caramel apple sold at a local Safeway store sickened his wife and lead to her death. That man has been retained by foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, which underwrites Food Safety News.

A number of retailers, including Safeway, have reported removing caramel apple products from store shelves.

Known illnesses began occurring in mid-October and were still appearing in late November. CDC has not declared an end to this outbreak, and it’s possible that more illnesses will be counted in the coming weeks.

The following are CDC graphics showing the geographical and temporal distributions of the outbreak:

Food Safety News

S.C. peach crop finishes strong, close to 2013 production totals

COLUMBIA, SC — Despite an early freeze that killed an estimated 20 percent of the 2014 peach crop, production finished strong and managed to pull within shouting distance of last year’s harvest. Matt Cornwell, marketing specialist for peaches at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture here, said final totals, as reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mid-September, were 2,290 truckloads, compared to 2,320 in 2013.

“One thing we can’t control is the weather,” Cornwell said. “But the strong finish to the season meant that growers were able to fill orders and retailers were able to get high-quality product.SC-PEACHES11214This Harris Teeter store in downtown Charleston, SC, featured ‘fresh off the farm’ locally grown peaches in August. That bodes well for next year.” South Carolina peach growers, who usually rank second in the nation in peach production, behind California, have proven over the past few years that they can meet volume demands of supermarkets and other mass-market retailers, he added.  

Peach growers over the years have diversified, noted Martin Eubanks, assistant commissioner for agricultural services, so they are not dependent on a single crop of peaches. Many peach growers have now turned to harvesting greens, he said. Also, he added, when weather conditions are not off-the-scale, growers can save peach crops in near-freezing weather with blowers, smoke pots and even helicopters. “We had several bad spells of weather in 2014; another degree or two colder, our entire crop could have been lost,” he added.

Fir 2015, peach promotions will include a South Carolina Peach Council-sponsored Peach Day at the State Farmers’ Market in Columbia, Cornwell said, along with a fund-raising auction for the council in late March or early April in the Myrtle Beach, SC, area. Other materials and activities for retailers and consumers are on the drawing board, he noted.

“Right now, peach growers are doing their game planning for the year,” Cornwell observed. He said he had spoken with Lynne Chappell of Chappell Farms, a fifth-generation family peach grower in Kline, SC,  Dec. 19 and she recounted that they are “currently pruning, getting ready to fertilize in January, and as her father Pat Chappell said, ‘enjoying good peach weather in December.’”

Value-added processing makes South Carolina peaches a year-round item, with some growers providing peach puree to craft brewers making peach beer and brandy, others packing sliced frozen peaches in puree, as well as peaches for ice cream sold to dairies, and peach menu items for restaurants and foodservice operations. Value-added products have steadily increased, Cornwell said, along with growers adding organic peaches to their offerings.  

For 2015, Cornwell said, “Demand for South Carolina peaches is growing, and the state has a natural advantage in that the soil and climate are ideal for peaches. Because of our location, we are one of the first states to have peaches on the market, and we can reach the major population centers of the East Coast and Midwest. The outlook for 2015, weather permitting, is good.”

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

Mexican citrus affected by weather

Mexican citrus affected by weather

Hurricanes hitting different parts of Mexico’s citrus-producing regions could lead to lighter crops for the 2014-2015 season.

Orange production in Mexico, most of which is centred in the state of Veracruz, is forecast at 4.3 million metric tons, according to a report from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Production for the previous season is estimated at 4.3 MMT, and the report points to cold weather and drought conditions as factors in the slight decline. In fact, dry conditions, as well as rising production costs and volatile returns, have caused many growers to abandon their orange groves this year. Yields are expected to reach 13.3 metric tons per hectare for the 2014-2015 season, while the previous season’s yields reached 13.6 metric tons per hectare.

The lime crop for 2014-2015 is expected to be about the same as the one from the previous season. Both crops are estimated at 2.2 MMT. Grapefruit production is expected to reach 420,000 MT for the 2014-2015 season, a slight drop from the previous season’s production. Yields are also expected to take a dip, with 2014-2015 grapefruit yields forecast at 24.2 metric tons per hectare, while the previous season’s yields are estimated at 24.7 metric tons per hectare.

Publication date: 12/24/2014
Author: Carlos Nunez / Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Next newsletter 5 January
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Another year of ups and downs in the fruit and veg trade is behind us. This year there has been more unpredictable and even extreme weather, as well as difficult trading conditions at times. But on a brighter note there have been breakthroughs in technology and numerous varieties of better and tastier fruit and vegetables.

FreshPlaza will be back in 2015 with all the news from the fresh produce industry. Our office will be closed from 25th December until 5th of January.

The FreshPlaza team would like to wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Publication date: 12/24/2014


FreshPlaza.com

WSJ story relevance questioned by Organic Trade Association

In its Dec. 9 edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is having difficulty monitoring the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock because of the tripling in the size of that sector over the past decade.

WSJ noted that there are currently 81 accredited agents or groups that can certify food as organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. But the newspaper reported that “of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report.”

WSJ added that the USDA report found that the 23 firms “didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for certifications….”

In a separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records, WSJ found that since 2005 “38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, headquartered in Washington, DC, didn’t dispute the findings of the audits, but does not believe they are cause for concern.

She told The Produce News that by their very nature, third-party audits are designed to find inconsistencies and correct them. With regard to the NOP audits, Batcha said one major goal is to make sure all certifying agents are performing their duties in a consistent manner and members of the organic community are being judged by the same standards no matter where the certification is taking place.

Batcha has reviewed the information that the WSJ story was based on and said in some cases it was data more than five years old. And in many instances the failures were administrative in nature.

She believes that no time in the history of the National Organic Program has the USDA been in a better position to provide oversight of the certifying agents. The organic industry, she said, has successfully lobbied for increased funding to both certify and audit the certifiers as the industry has grown.

Of more concern, Batcha said, would be a third-party audit that found no areas that need correcting. She said there have been significant changes to the NOP over the years and it is understandable that many certifiers would have deficient areas discovered during an audit.

Batcha said trust in the USDA’s stamp of organic certification is essential and she does not believe that trust has been compromised or misplaced. She indicated that, by and large, the certifying agents are doing a great job and applying the standards uniformly across the country.

She called the WSJ story and the information that it was based on a “snapshot in time” that in some cases reflected information that was five years old, and reiterated that she has no doubt that product being sold across the country with the USDA organic certification meets the standards of the National Organic Program.

The WSJ story did quote the USDA as making the same points as the OTA executive. The story stated that the “USDA said it requires certifiers to comply with numerous requirements, and the problems found by the Journal and the agency’s internal report reflected ‘a very rigorous accreditation process that requires full compliance and correction of identified issues.’ Those that fall out of compliance, like the 23 cited this year, get the opportunity to correct the problem, but are at risk of being removed from the certification program if the problem isn’t fixed.”

WSJ noted that the USDA said its certifiers were in compliance with 97 percent of its regulations.

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

Campylobacter Outbreak in WI Blamed on Raw Milk

A state and local investigation into last September’s Campylobacter jejuni outbreak in Wisconsin ended where it began — at the Durand High School football team dinner, where raw milk from a local farm was served.

After a three-month epidemiological, laboratory and environmental investigation by the Pepin County Health Department and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, blame for the outbreak was placed on a local farm that supplied milk for the football dinner.

The laboratory and epidemiological investigations by the state and local agencies “determined that consumption of Farm A unpasteurized milk during the Thursday team dinner was associated with the occurrence of Campylobacter jejuni infections among team-affiliated individuals,” states the final, official report on the outbreak.

The report does not identify the farm, but officials were earlier forced to provide it under Wisconsin open records laws to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper has reported that Farm A is owned by Roland and Diana Reed of the nearby town of Arkansas, just across the Chippewa River about nine miles west of Durand.

The 38 people sickened in association with the outbreak all reported drinking the raw milk, and 71 percent of those only consumed the Reed’s unpasteurized milk, according to the report.

Milk from the Reed’s bulk tank was tested 10 days after the event, and at that time it was negative for Campylobacter and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, but the report stated that those Sept. 24 samples were “not representative of milk that was served during the team dinner.”

The investigation said bovine manure samples were a better method of detecting bacteria that were present in the milk at the time of the outbreak. From the nine manure samples taken, the outbreak-associated PFGE pattern was identified.

Campylobacter infections commonly occur from eating and drinking contaminated food and water, including unpasteurized milk from infected cows, according to the report. It affects the intestinal tract and is often a cause of bacterial diarrheal illness. Common signs and symptoms of Campylobacter infection include diarrhea (often bloody), cramping, abdominal pain and fever, and, in rare instances, the infections are severe and the bacteria can be isolated from the bloodstream.

The investigation also found that some illnesses among a small number of female volleyball team members, reported from Sept. 18-28, were not related to those who attended the football dinner. The illnesses the girl’s volleyball team experienced at about the same time as the football potluck did not involve diarrheal symptoms.

During the same period, health officials also had to chase down a Pepin County “presumptively positive” case of Bacillus, also known as anthrax. However, it turned out to be another case of Campylobacter.

About 50 people attended the Sept. 18 football dinner, which was held off-campus. It was a potluck-style event, which, in addition to raw milk, is said to have offered a variety of other drinks, including Kool-Aid.

Those who were sickened by Campylobacter ranged in age from 14 to 49 and included 33 students and five coaches. Sixteen of the 38 went to doctors, and 10 were hospitalized. Temperatures as high as 105 degrees F, diarrhea, chills and sweats were the most commonly reported symptoms.

Food Safety News