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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Alumni Dinner in Michigan

There have been eight laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella linked to a Hillsdale County, MI festival that lasted July 31 to August 3. There were 33 probable cases.

The outbreak was linked to the Reading Summer Festival Days alumni reunion dinner on August 2 for all graduates of the city’s schools. Many of the individuals who had been seen by a doctor or were hospitalized were in their 70s, reports the Hillsdale Daily News.

Health officials at the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Counties Community Health Agency have narrowed the source down to two possibilities, but are unable to identify it outright.

Every year, Salmonella is estimated to cause one million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths. Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

Salmonellosis, the illness caused by the bacteria, usually lasts four to seven days. Although, most persons recover without treatment, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.

Food Safety News

Baloian Farms partners with Michigan growers for locally grown squash product

Capitalizing on the growing popularity of the locally grown trend, Baloian Farms, based in Fresno, CA, announced a partnership with Michigan growers to offer retailers their sauté kits with locally grown squash. This value-added product features yellow and green squash with a seasoning packet included.

BaloianSquashMockups webUnderstanding the importance of offering locally grown products during peak season was a natural decision for Baloian Farms.

Launched in the fall of 2013, the new squash sauté kits have been well received with continued success at retail and was recently voted as the “People’s Choice Best New Product” at the Fresno Food Show in July.

“It made sense to create this seasonal partnership and provide retailers with another strong selling point to further increase their sales,” Jeremy Lane, sales manager of Baloian Farms, said in a press release. “The kits will be both grown and packed locally in Michigan.”

Utilizing this grower partnership also made sense financially by drastically reducing the amount of food miles involved in delivering the value-added product to retailers.

“Consumers will enjoy the benefit of locally grown fresh squash, along with great flavor options, that are convenient and easy to prepare. We are constantly striving to find innovative opportunities like this partnership to provide premium products to our customers,” Lane added in the press release.

Baloian Farms squash sauté kits with seasonings are available in with two flavor options, Parmesan with Herbs and Roasted Red Pepper. The kits contain three pieces of fresh squash and a premeasured season packet. Prep and cook time is about five minutes making this product an easy-to-prepare side dish solution.

 

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

DOJ Files Injunction Against Michigan Cheese Company to Stop Distribution

The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) filed a civil complaint in Michigan federal court on Friday against S. Serra Cheese Co. of Clinton Township, MI, and owners Stefano and Fina Serra, to prevent the distribution of allegedly adulterated cheese products. The complaint was filed by request from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The DOJ claims that the company’s Italian cheeses, including ricotta, provolone, mozzarella and primo sale, are manufactured in “insanity conditions” and that the firm’s procedures “are inadequate to ensure the safety of its products.”

“The presence of potentially harmful pathogens in food and processing facilities poses a serious risk to the public health,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery of the DOJ’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to bring enforcement actions against food manufacturers who do not follow the necessary procedures to comply with food safety laws.”

Such a complaint sets out the government’s allegations, and, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government would need to prove them by a preponderance of the evidence.

Two FDA inspections in 2013 found that the company “repeatedly failed to reduce the risk of contamination from two potentially dangerous types of bacteria: Escherichia coli and Listeria innocua,” according to the complaint.

“Although the strains of E. coli found in cheese samples collected from the company’s facility were non-pathogenic, their presence indicates that the facility is insanitary and contaminated with filth,” the complaint states. “In addition, the presence of L. innocua indicates insanitary conditions and a work environment that could support the growth of L. monocytogenes, an organism that poses a life-threatening health hazard because it is the causal agent for the disease listeriosis, a serious encephalitic disease.”

Results of FDA inspections of the facility in January 2013 were detailed in a June 6, 2013, warning letter addressed to Fina Serra as the co-owner and manager of the company. The letter noted a number of “serious violations” of Current Good Manufacturing Practices, the non-toxigenic E. coli test results, structural problems in the manufacturing plant, and inadequate cleaning and sanitation practices.

The DOJ complaint further states that the most recent FDA inspection this past November found that “cleaning and sanitizing operations for utensils and equipment were not performed in a manner that protects against contamination of food and food contact surfaces.”

Fina Serra reportedly responded to FDA’s letter, but the agency did not find her response to be sufficient.

The government is represented by Dan Baeza of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Caplan for the Eastern District of Michigan, with the assistance of Assistant Chief Counsel for Enforcement Christopher Fanelli of the Food and Drug Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Health and Human Services.

Food Safety News

Southwest Michigan peach deal begins

Peach harvest in southwest Michigan is under way. “A few are in now,” said Barry Winkel, the partner and general manager of Benton Harbor, MI-based Greg Orchards & Produce Inc. The volume will grow in the last days of July.

Red Haven peach harvest will begin from this area in the first week of August, Winkel said. Southwest Michigan’s peach trees were hurt by bitterly cold weather last winter. Winkel expected about two-thirds to three-fourths of a full peach crop.

Over the winter, a couple of times temperatures in those orchards bounced as low as -17 degrees Fahrenheit. “Usually if you get to -10 it really gets iffy,” he said. “I’m surprised we got through with what we did.”

Growers around Benton Harbor have experienced a cool, wet summer. “Today the highs will be in the mid- to high 70s, and the low tonight will be in the 50s,” he said. The rain helps the size “but sometimes it affects the flavor. If it stays warm now, we will be fine.”

Winkel said local demand “will gobble up all the peaches we have.” Buyers in Michigan and surrounding states — certainly including Illinois and particularly Chicago — create very strong markets.

“We are within 500 miles of a lot of people,” he said. “We have more requests from buyers for pictures and the backgrounds of our growers, as they tout locally grown.’”

In southwest Michigan, the apple harvest will begin with Paula Reds in the third week of August.

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

Michigan grocers select award winners

This week the Michigan Grocers Association announced that Hal Neiman of Neiman’s Family Markets, and Country Fresh Dairy are the recipients of its 2014 Al Kessel Outstanding Achievement Awards.

“MGA created the awards last year to honor the memory of former MGA board member Al Kessel, who passed away in December 2012,” said MGA president and CEO Linda M. Gobler, in a statement. “To reflect his generous spirit, the awards recognize the company, industry and community achievements of one Outstanding Retailer and one Outstanding Business Partner.

Hal Neiman, founder of the Alpena, Mich.-based retailer,  was described in his nomination as “very hard-working, having exceptional care and concern for his employees … [and] constantly involved in local communities.” In 2013, Neiman’s Family Markets held a Community Growth Fundraising Initiative in celebration of the retailer’s 30th anniversary, which raised $ 23,500, which was donated to nonprofit organizations. Neiman has been named Alpena’s Outstanding Citizen, and was appointed by the governor to the Michigan Beef Industry Commission.

Neiman’s Family Markets has stores in Alpena, Tawas, St. Clair and Clarkston.

The Outstanding Business Partner is Country Fresh Dairy of Grand Rapids. Founded in 1949 by a group on independent grocers, it is now a part of Dean Foods and partners with more than 200 Michigan dairies.

“The company has invested much time, money and additional resources to strengthen security, traceability and sanitation. Those are things you’d like to take for granted in products, but you really can’t,” said Gobler.

Country Fresh Dairy has also received awards for its outstanding safety and health record from the Michigan OSHA.

The awards will be presented Sept. 14 at the MGA Fall Conference in Traverse City, Mich.

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Supermarket News

Michigan grocers select award winners

This week the Michigan Grocers Association announced that Hal Neiman of Neiman’s Family Markets, and Country Fresh Dairy are the recipients of its 2014 Al Kessel Outstanding Achievement Awards.

“MGA created the awards last year to honor the memory of former MGA board member Al Kessel, who passed away in December 2012,” said MGA president and CEO Linda M. Gobler, in a statement. “To reflect his generous spirit, the awards recognize the company, industry and community achievements of one Outstanding Retailer and one Outstanding Business Partner.

Hal Neiman, founder of the Alpena, Mich.-based retailer,  was described in his nomination as “very hard-working, having exceptional care and concern for his employees … [and] constantly involved in local communities.” In 2013, Neiman’s Family Markets held a Community Growth Fundraising Initiative in celebration of the retailer’s 30th anniversary, which raised $ 23,500, which was donated to nonprofit organizations. Neiman has been named Alpena’s Outstanding Citizen, and was appointed by the governor to the Michigan Beef Industry Commission.

Neiman’s Family Markets has stores in Alpena, Tawas, St. Clair and Clarkston.

The Outstanding Business Partner is Country Fresh Dairy of Grand Rapids. Founded in 1949 by a group on independent grocers, it is now a part of Dean Foods and partners with more than 200 Michigan dairies.

“The company has invested much time, money and additional resources to strengthen security, traceability and sanitation. Those are things you’d like to take for granted in products, but you really can’t,” said Gobler.

Country Fresh Dairy has also received awards for its outstanding safety and health record from the Michigan OSHA.

The awards will be presented Sept. 14 at the MGA Fall Conference in Traverse City, Mich.

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Supermarket News

“First Pick” marks start of Michigan blueberry harvest season

Mayor Bob Burr celebrates the inaugural pick
“First Pick” marks start of Michigan blueberry harvest season

The Michigan blueberry harvest is about to go into full swing and local growers are working long hours to ensure that the blueberries are picked, packed and distributed to retailers, restaurants and consumers locally as well as throughout the country.

South Haven Mayor Bob Burr helped kick off the local harvest by visiting the Fritz family of Brookside Farms, along with Archie Armino of Walmart and Bob Hawk, President & CEO of MBG Marketing, a grower-owned cooperative and a founding partner of Naturipe Farms, who manages the sales, marketing and distribution of the co-op’s blueberries. 

“This is a crucial time of year for our local family farmers,” stated Mayor Burr. “Our local and regional economies rely on a successful harvest season and it is a source of Michigan pride when we start to see our blueberries ripen and prepared to be shipped throughout the country.”


From left to right: Peter Fritz; Mayor Burr; Bob Hawk; Carly Fritz Parsley.

Third generation blueberry growers, cousins Peter Fritz and Carly Fritz Parsley, gave a tour of their home farm in Bloomingdale, Michigan, which was started nearly 60 years ago by their grandfather George Fritz, Sr. who started the farm with just five acres. Today, Peter and Carly are a great example of Michigan’s next generation of producers as they continue the family tradition of farming.

When asked about the status of this year’s crop, Peter shared that the unseasonably cold winter was thought to pose a significant negative effect on this year’s crop, however the plants have been able to rebound and the crop is looking strong for the year. “Certain varieties fared better than others,” added Bob Hawk. “However we are pleased with how the bushes have bounced back this spring and are looking forward to another great year.”

To assist in promoting the health and great taste of blueberries, MBG Marketing and Naturipe Farms is continuing their work with the Michigan Ag Council to sponsor the Pure Michigan program.  

“The locally grown movement has made tremendous strides to highlight the importance of supporting our local agricultural sector and the positive impact it has on our economy,” said Bob Hawk. “We are especially pleased to be working with local retail customers, including Walmart, who highlight the heritage, traditions and contributions made by the family farms in Michigan”


From left to right: Archie Armino; Peter Fritz; Carly Fritz Parsley; Bob Hawk.

Market Manager for Walmart in the South Haven area, Archie Armino, also joined in on the First Pick celebration. Walmart plans to double the sales of locally-sourced produce in the U.S. and has partnered with MBG Marketing to feature 11 of their family farms with in-store signage throughout Michigan Walmarts this summer. “Walmart is committed to the farmers who grow our food and supports the in-season locally grown products such as these healthy, flavorful Michigan blueberries,” said Armino.

Michigan is the number one state in highbush blueberry production with growers producing over 100 million pounds of blueberries every year for fresh and frozen markets. MBG Marketing represents a large portion of the approximately 600 family farms in Michigan that grow blueberries. 

For more information:
Kyla Oberman
Naturipe Farms LLC
Tel: +1 831-443-2352
Email: [email protected]
www.naturipefarms.com

Publication date: 7/2/2014


FreshPlaza.com

‘First Pick’ marks the start of the Michigan blueberry harvest

CoBrandLogo MBG BNThe Michigan blueberry harvest is about to go into full swing, and local growers are working long hours to ensure that the blueberries are picked, packed and distributed to retailers, restaurants and consumers locally as well as throughout the country.

South Haven Mayor Bob Burr helped kick off the local harvest by visiting the Fritz family of Brookside Farms, along with Archie Armino of Walmart and Bob Hawk, president and chief executive officer of MBG Marketing, a grower-owned cooperative and a founding partner of Naturipe Farms, which manages the sales, marketing and distribution of the co-op’s blueberries.

Archie-Armino-Peter-FritzArchie Armino of Walmart with Peter Fritz and Carly Fritz Parsley of Brookside Farms and Bob Hawk, president and CEO of MBG Marketing.“This is a crucial time of year for our local family farmers,” Mayor Burr said. “Our local and regional economies rely on a successful harvest season and it is a source of Michigan pride when we start to see our blueberries ripen and prepared to be shipped throughout the country.”

Cousins Peter Fritz and Carly Fritz Parsley, third-generation blueberry growers, gave a tour of their home farm in Bloomingdale, which was started nearly 60 years ago by their grandfather George Fritz Sr., who started the farm with just five acres.

When asked about the status of this year’s crop, Peter shared that the unseasonably cold winter was thought to pose a significant negative effect on this year’s crop; however the plants have been able to rebound and the crop is looking strong for the year.

“Certain varieties fared better than others,” Hawk noted. “However, we are pleased with how the bushes have bounced back this spring and are looking forward to another great year.”

To assist in promoting the health and great taste of blueberries, MBG Marketing and Naturipe Farms are continuing their work with the Michigan Ag Council to sponsor the Pure Michigan program.

“The locally grown movement has made tremendous strides to highlight the importance of supporting our local agricultural sector and the positive impact it has on our economy,” said Hawk. “We are especially pleased to be working with local retail customers, including Walmart, who highlight the heritage, traditions and contributions made by the family farms in Michigan.”

Archie Armino, market manager for Walmart in the South Haven area, also joined in on the First Pick celebration. Walmart plans to double the sales of locally sourced produce in the United States and has partnered with MBG Marketing to feature 11 of its family farms with in-store signage throughout Michigan Walmarts this summer. “Walmart is committed to the farmers who grow our food and supports the in-season locally grown products such as these healthy, flavorful Michigan blueberries,” said Armino.

Michigan produces more than 100 million pounds of blueberries every year for fresh and frozen markets. MBG Marketing represents a large portion of the approximately 600 family farms in Michigan that grow blueberries.

Naturipe Farms LLC is a grower-owned producer and international marketer of premium berries. With production primarily from multi-generation family farms located in the prime berry-growing regions throughout North America and South America. The diverse grower base ensures year-round availability of “locally grown” and “in-season global” conventional and organic berries.

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

Michigan crops looking good, despite being late due to cold weather

Like so much of the United States, the winter and spring in Michigan was long, cold and wet. These factors have delayed production in the state, but fruit and vegetable growers alike indicated that their fresh products will be in good condition.

Some vegetables, such as radishes, were shipped as early as May and early June. As the calendar turns to July, Michigan vegetable shipping will be gearing up toward full production.FruitOverviewJohn Schaefer, Jr., president of Jack Brown Produce Inc., in Sparta, MI, said his firm will be shipping storage apples into July. Schaefer said the early indications for the 2014 crop are for an ‘excellent season.’

Buurma Farms, Inc. has vegetable farms in Gregory, MI, and Willard, OH. Loren Buurma, company treasurer, told The Produce News that the two locations provide supply security for the firm, should one of these locations endure bad weather.

“The key is to keep the chain business” through consistent supplies, he said. Buurma ships from Georgia farms from February to June.

Normally, vegetable harvest dates on the Michigan farm are 10 to 14 days behind the Ohio operation. But it was Ohio this spring that experienced a relatively colder spring growing season. Thus, Buurma’s Michigan farm is only three or four days behind Ohio.

Buurma said that radishes started in early June. His shipments of Michigan celery began the week of June 9. This was followed by collards, kale, flat parsley, cilantro and other such crops.

In Byron Center, MI, Nick Huizinga, general manager, of Hearty Fresh Inc., indicated that Michigan cabbage harvest will be a week late, starting about July 10 this year. Michigan cucumbers and squash are “on pace as usual and will be on the market in August.”

Bruce Heeren, marketing director for Michigan Fresh Marketing in Comstock Park, MI, said his company started shipping squash June 10 and cucumbers June 20-25. Tomatoes will be on the market in mid-July. “Those are three of our bigger items,” Heeren said.

In Michigan’s apple business, John Schaefer, Jr., president of Jack Brown Produce Inc., in Sparta, MI, said his firm will be shipping storage apples into July. Schaefer said the early indications for the 2014 crop are for an “excellent season.”

Up the road from Jack Brown at Riveridge Produce Marketing, Inc., Don Armock indicated that on the ridge of Michigan’s apple country, bloom is “seven to ten days later than normal.” While marketers like early production, Armock said “it is really better if the crop is later because the apples are harvested in later ‘apple weather.’” This means cooler temperatures at harvest time in mid-September. Apple varieties like Gala, McIntosh and Honeycrisp have the best flavor when they gain color with those late summer dropping temperatures.

The 2013 crop “had the potential for a full crop but it didn’t quite become a full crop. This year it has the potential to be a full crop” and may very well meet that potential, Armock said.

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

FDA Warning Letters: California Seafood Company and Michigan Dairy Farm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Los Angeles District Director, Alonza E. Cruse, has issued a warning letter to LA-based P & D Seafood Company Inc. regarding comments the company offered after an inspection last September.

FDA’s district office used the warning letter to express its concerns about shortcomings the agency found in the company’s response to its earlier concerns.

For example, FDA’s warning letter states: “Your corrective action plan for ‘Scombroid Fish’ at the (b)(4) critical control point to control the hazard of ‘Chemical Scombrotoxin formation’ lists a corrective action of (b)(4). However, you should evaluate the pertinent hazard (histamine formation).”

The letter goes on to state, “Your ‘Canned Raw Scallops’ and ‘Canned Pasteurized Crabmeat’ plans list the hazard of ‘Chemical,’ which is referred to in your hazard analysis as ‘Toxin formed when temperature abused.’ However, your plan should specify the hazard of Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin formation.”

The agency offered this comment about imported products: “Product specifications should ensure that the product is not adulterated under section 402 of the Act. However, the specifications you provided with your response do not include any potential safety hazards (i.e., water activity, pH, histamine formation, pathogen limits, aquaculture drugs, parasites etc.). Please refer to Chapter 2 and 3 of the Fish and Fishery Products hazards and Controls Guidance, 4th Edition.”

Although dated March 26, the warning letter was only recently posted on FDA’s website.

Separately, a June 9 warning letter was sent to Kenneth E. Newell, owner of Newell Farms in Trufant, MI, from the agency’s Detroit District Office. In that letter, Newell was warned about selling an animal for slaughter that later tests found to contain illegal drug residues. Here are some of the specifics:

On or about Oct. 22, 2013, FDA states that Newell sold an animal for slaughter and that a “United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) analysis of tissue samples collected from this animal identified the presence of 6.28 parts per million (ppm) of desfuroylceftiofur (marker residue for ceftiofur) in the kidney and 0.879 ppm of flunixin in the liver.”

As explained in the letter, FDA has established a tolerance of 0.4 ppm for residues of desfuroylceftiofur in the kidney tissue of cattle as codified in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Section 556.113(b)(3)(i) (21C.F.R. 556.113(b)(3)(i)). FDA has established a tolerance of 0.125 ppm for residues of flunixin in the liver tissue of cattle as codified in 21, C.F.R. 556.286(b)(1)(i).

“The presence of these drugs in edible tissue from this animal in these amounts causes the food to be adulterated,” the warning letter stated.

Recipients of these warning letters have 15 working days from receipt to outline specific steps they have taken to come into compliance with the law.

Food Safety News

FDA Warning Letters: California Seafood Company and Michigan Dairy Farm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Los Angeles District Director, Alonza E. Cruse, has issued a warning letter to LA-based P & D Seafood Company Inc. regarding comments the company offered after an inspection last September.

FDA’s district office used the warning letter to express its concerns about shortcomings the agency found in the company’s response to its earlier concerns.

For example, FDA’s warning letter states: “Your corrective action plan for ‘Scombroid Fish’ at the (b)(4) critical control point to control the hazard of ‘Chemical Scombrotoxin formation’ lists a corrective action of (b)(4). However, you should evaluate the pertinent hazard (histamine formation).”

The letter goes on to state, “Your ‘Canned Raw Scallops’ and ‘Canned Pasteurized Crabmeat’ plans list the hazard of ‘Chemical,’ which is referred to in your hazard analysis as ‘Toxin formed when temperature abused.’ However, your plan should specify the hazard of Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin formation.”

The agency offered this comment about imported products: “Product specifications should ensure that the product is not adulterated under section 402 of the Act. However, the specifications you provided with your response do not include any potential safety hazards (i.e., water activity, pH, histamine formation, pathogen limits, aquaculture drugs, parasites etc.). Please refer to Chapter 2 and 3 of the Fish and Fishery Products hazards and Controls Guidance, 4th Edition.”

Although dated March 26, the warning letter was only recently posted on FDA’s website.

Separately, a June 9 warning letter was sent to Kenneth E. Newell, owner of Newell Farms in Trufant, MI, from the agency’s Detroit District Office. In that letter, Newell was warned about selling an animal for slaughter that later tests found to contain illegal drug residues. Here are some of the specifics:

On or about Oct. 22, 2013, FDA states that Newell sold an animal for slaughter and that a “United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) analysis of tissue samples collected from this animal identified the presence of 6.28 parts per million (ppm) of desfuroylceftiofur (marker residue for ceftiofur) in the kidney and 0.879 ppm of flunixin in the liver.”

As explained in the letter, FDA has established a tolerance of 0.4 ppm for residues of desfuroylceftiofur in the kidney tissue of cattle as codified in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Section 556.113(b)(3)(i) (21C.F.R. 556.113(b)(3)(i)). FDA has established a tolerance of 0.125 ppm for residues of flunixin in the liver tissue of cattle as codified in 21, C.F.R. 556.286(b)(1)(i).

“The presence of these drugs in edible tissue from this animal in these amounts causes the food to be adulterated,” the warning letter stated.

Recipients of these warning letters have 15 working days from receipt to outline specific steps they have taken to come into compliance with the law.

Food Safety News

Michigan apples finishing and ready to bloom

BENTON HARBOR, MI — For Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., located here, the 2013 apple storage deal was coming to an end by late May.

On May 13, Barry Winkel, partner and general manager, said, “We’ve been packing 10 hour days and for the last few Saturdays. But I can’t complain. We had the biggest year we ever had.”

Michigan produced “30 million bushels” in 2013 “when normally we have 21 [million] or 22 million,” he said. “The markets have been good. The later we go, the better it gets, as other shippers finish.”Barry-Marilyn-GrAt Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Barry Winkel, partner and general manager, and Marilyn Redder, sales manager, check out packing of the tail end of the 2013 Michigan apple crop.

Given good prices, “I wish we could start the fall from here,” Winkel joked.

The outlook is very good for the 2014 Michigan apple crop, he added.

Although it was a hard winter for Michigan, “It was never cold enough to hurt the apple trees,” he said. “We could have as big of a crop as last year. We use newer rootstocks that are precocious and bear consistently. We look forward to another good crop.”

When the 2012 Michigan apple crop was destroyed by multiple spring frosts, “it set everyone back a year.” But the industry rebuilt and recovered.

“Either you get bigger or you get out,” Winkel said. “The numbers of customers keep getting smaller as the chains buy each other. The industry has really changed in the last 15 years.”

Winkel said Michigan’s peach crop “looks good. Normally once you hit 10 below zero, you lose your peaches. We had some minus-15 and minus-17 nights, but it wasn’t that cold for long and we are looking at a good peach crop.”

He added that Michigan peach trees have such heavy blooms “that the growers could lose half of them in the winter and still have a good crop. The sour cherries are fine too and Concord grapes in Lawton look good. The wine grapes are more tender and they got hurt.”

Greg Orchards’ Marilyn Redder, sales manager, summed up the early-spring status of Michigan fresh fruit crops by saying, “I’ve heard no one say they’ve had problems.”

Winkel said Greg also markets 60 acres of asparagus production. Northern Michigan asparagus will run until the end of June.

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

Michigan apple crop appears strong

SPARTA, MI — Don Armock presented his usual professional countenance and positive attitude on the morning of May 16. But his puffy eyes couldn’t hide that he was up all but a couple of hours on the previous evening, working with field crews to assure everything possible was done to avoid frost damage to the 2014 apple crop.

Armock was fighting for fruit scheduled for packing and harvesting later this year by Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., which is based here.Sweet-CherriesIn mid-May, Sweet cherry blossoms on Michigan’s fruit ridge running through Sparta preceded most apple blossoms by a few days.

Armock, president and a partner in the organization, said that temperatures need to fall to 28 or 29 degrees to damage the apple crop, which was generally several days away from bloom. Temperatures around 24 degrees will ruin an apple crop. But with the help of wind machines and temperatures that weren’t dangerously below freezing, Armock expected no damage from the previous night.

As Riveridge and Michigan’s other grower-packer-shippers think about the coming harvest, they are still finishing the 2013 crop.

Armock said Riveridge is 95 percent complete in shipping its storage crop. It should be finished by the end of June, “but some of our plants finished packing last week. It was a phenomenal marketing year for apples in general. For Michigan, it far exceeded expectations.”

Armock indicated there was some concern that the demand for the 2013 crop might have been harmed after a market vacuum when the state’s apples were almost literally wiped out by cold weather in the spring of 2012. That concern proved not to be at all a factor, and Michigan apples were in great demand.

Sweet cherries on Michigan famous Fruit Ridge were blossoming May 15-16. Armock said plums blossomed there about May 11.

“We have some apples that are in first bud,” he said May 16. “Some have opened on our early varieties but the bloom is really to begin early next week. That is seven to 10 days later than normal.” Those blossoms will then “set the stage for timing of the crop.”

While marketers like early production, Armock said, “It is really better if the crop is later because the apples are harvested in later ‘apple weather.’”

This means cooler temperatures at harvest time in mid-September. Apple varieties like Gala, McIntosh and Honeycrisp have the best flavor when they gain color with those late summer dropping temperatures.

“There is an economic threshold you need to harvest and you need a certain color to be economically viable. Sometimes you do not get a lot of color until harvest. If that is a little later, you are more likely to avoid pitfalls.”

The 2013 crop “had the potential for a full crop but it didn’t quite become a full crop. This year it has the potential to be a full crop” and may very well meet that potential, Armock said.

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

Labor concerns loom for Michigan asparagus industry

Frost damage in west-central Michigan’s asparagus crop is minor compared to that industry’s labor concerns for the year.

John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, indicated that there was significant frost damage to his industry’s crop on the evening of May 16.

Eighty percent of the asparagus fields in west-central Michigan had frost damage, “but we are just waiting for it to re-grow,” Bakker said May 19. “We will be harvesting again mid- to late this week. The forecast is good and we didn’t lose a lot of production,” in part due to the crop being late this year.

“We started very late,” he said. “Spring wouldn’t come this year. It was a hard winter and a cold spring. We are a couple of weeks behind.”

Asparagus growers with fields in southern Michigan didn’t begin harvest until about May 9. It was only a few days before May 16 that the state’s northern asparagus fields were frozen. But, those fields will quickly rebound and Bakker expects Michigan’s asparagus harvest to run through June.

Marketed volume in 2014 should about equal to 2013 Michigan asparagus volume of 20 million pounds. About 8 million pounds will to go to the fresh market this year, with the remainder of the total going to the processing market. The fresh market share has risen in two years to about 40 percent from 20-25 percent. Bakker said in another two years about half the state’s asparagus will go to the fresh market.

When Bakker was told that The Produce News had seen Peruvian asparagus in a Michigan warehouse on May 15, he responded, “I’m not surprised.” He said Michigan growers enjoy “a high demand” that is driven in large part by Midwesterners’ interest in locally grown produce. “There are times you could buy Peru or Mexican asparagus cheaper. What we are willing to sell for would be the question.”

Bakker said the strong demand would naturally be expected to drive growers to increase asparagus production in Michigan. A major intervening factor, however, has been inadequate labor to harvest the crop.

A lack of labor “is about to crush the industry. Last year we mowed off 10 percent of the crop because there was no labor to harvest it. This year we are easing in to harvest but when we hit our stride over the weekend” there may be more problems.

Michigan asparagus growers are talking with other Michigan commodity groups — including sweet cherries, apples, blueberries and peaches — about cooperating to create an H2A foreign labor program.

“We are all in the same situation,” he said. “We are working on creating a statewide association.”

This would be especially useful in Michigan because of the horticultural crop diversity, which brings a demand for labor from May 1 until the end of October. The Michigan Farm Bureau might start a pilot program with Michigan apple growers this fall, he said. If this succeeds, there will be a program expansion.

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

Labor concerns loom for Michigan asparagus industry

Frost damage in west-central Michigan’s asparagus crop is minor compared to that industry’s labor concerns for the year.

John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, indicated that there was significant frost damage to his industry’s crop on the evening of May 16.

Eighty percent of the asparagus fields in west-central Michigan had frost damage, “but we are just waiting for it to re-grow,” Bakker said May 19. “We will be harvesting again mid- to late this week. The forecast is good and we didn’t lose a lot of production,” in part due to the crop being late this year.

“We started very late,” he said. “Spring wouldn’t come this year. It was a hard winter and a cold spring. We are a couple of weeks behind.”

Asparagus growers with fields in southern Michigan didn’t begin harvest until about May 9. It was only a few days before May 16 that the state’s northern asparagus fields were frozen. But, those fields will quickly rebound and Bakker expects Michigan’s asparagus harvest to run through June.

Marketed volume in 2014 should about equal to 2013 Michigan asparagus volume of 20 million pounds. About 8 million pounds will to go to the fresh market this year, with the remainder of the total going to the processing market. The fresh market share has risen in two years to about 40 percent from 20-25 percent. Bakker said in another two years about half the state’s asparagus will go to the fresh market.

When Bakker was told that The Produce News had seen Peruvian asparagus in a Michigan warehouse on May 15, he responded, “I’m not surprised.” He said Michigan growers enjoy “a high demand” that is driven in large part by Midwesterners’ interest in locally grown produce. “There are times you could buy Peru or Mexican asparagus cheaper. What we are willing to sell for would be the question.”

Bakker said the strong demand would naturally be expected to drive growers to increase asparagus production in Michigan. A major intervening factor, however, has been inadequate labor to harvest the crop.

A lack of labor “is about to crush the industry. Last year we mowed off 10 percent of the crop because there was no labor to harvest it. This year we are easing in to harvest but when we hit our stride over the weekend” there may be more problems.

Michigan asparagus growers are talking with other Michigan commodity groups — including sweet cherries, apples, blueberries and peaches — about cooperating to create an H2A foreign labor program.

“We are all in the same situation,” he said. “We are working on creating a statewide association.”

This would be especially useful in Michigan because of the horticultural crop diversity, which brings a demand for labor from May 1 until the end of October. The Michigan Farm Bureau might start a pilot program with Michigan apple growers this fall, he said. If this succeeds, there will be a program expansion.

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

Labor concerns loom for Michigan asparagus industry

Frost damage in west-central Michigan’s asparagus crop is minor compared to that industry’s labor concerns for the year.

John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, indicated that there was significant frost damage to his industry’s crop on the evening of May 16.

Eighty percent of the asparagus fields in west-central Michigan had frost damage, “but we are just waiting for it to re-grow,” Bakker said May 19. “We will be harvesting again mid- to late this week. The forecast is good and we didn’t lose a lot of production,” in part due to the crop being late this year.

“We started very late,” he said. “Spring wouldn’t come this year. It was a hard winter and a cold spring. We are a couple of weeks behind.”

Asparagus growers with fields in southern Michigan didn’t begin harvest until about May 9. It was only a few days before May 16 that the state’s northern asparagus fields were frozen. But, those fields will quickly rebound and Bakker expects Michigan’s asparagus harvest to run through June.

Marketed volume in 2014 should about equal to 2013 Michigan asparagus volume of 20 million pounds. About 8 million pounds will to go to the fresh market this year, with the remainder of the total going to the processing market. The fresh market share has risen in two years to about 40 percent from 20-25 percent. Bakker said in another two years about half the state’s asparagus will go to the fresh market.

When Bakker was told that The Produce News had seen Peruvian asparagus in a Michigan warehouse on May 15, he responded, “I’m not surprised.” He said Michigan growers enjoy “a high demand” that is driven in large part by Midwesterners’ interest in locally grown produce. “There are times you could buy Peru or Mexican asparagus cheaper. What we are willing to sell for would be the question.”

Bakker said the strong demand would naturally be expected to drive growers to increase asparagus production in Michigan. A major intervening factor, however, has been inadequate labor to harvest the crop.

A lack of labor “is about to crush the industry. Last year we mowed off 10 percent of the crop because there was no labor to harvest it. This year we are easing in to harvest but when we hit our stride over the weekend” there may be more problems.

Michigan asparagus growers are talking with other Michigan commodity groups — including sweet cherries, apples, blueberries and peaches — about cooperating to create an H2A foreign labor program.

“We are all in the same situation,” he said. “We are working on creating a statewide association.”

This would be especially useful in Michigan because of the horticultural crop diversity, which brings a demand for labor from May 1 until the end of October. The Michigan Farm Bureau might start a pilot program with Michigan apple growers this fall, he said. If this succeeds, there will be a program expansion.

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

Four E. Coli Cases in Ohio Genetically Matched to Five Michigan Cases

An E. coli O157 outbreak in Michigan has been genetically matched to one in Ohio, where local, state and federal health officials are currently investigating at least four similar cases.

“There is a genetic match to the cases in Michigan, but right now, we have not determined if there is a common source,” said Melanie Amato, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Health.

She said the case count in Ohio includes three in Lucas County and one in Portage County and involve adults ranging in age from 19 to 42 years.

The five Michigan cases of E. coli infection include adults aged 20 to 41 from the following five counties: Oakland, Washtenaw, Ken, Livingston and Ottawa. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, three of the five people sickened were hospitalized.

Those sickened in Michigan indicated to health officials that they had consumed undercooked hamburger prior to developing symptoms. Michigan health officials have reportedly been trying to track down the source of the meat.

Symptoms of E. coli infection can vary from person to person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild; however, others are severe or can even be life-threatening.

Food Safety News

Two Cases of E. Coli in Western Michigan Linked To Raw Milk

Two cases of E. coli 0157:H7 in Western Michigan have been linked to consumption of raw milk products from an Ottawa County cow-share program.

In March, a 31-year-old Muskegon County woman became ill after drinking raw milk, and, in April, a six-year-old child from Kent County became ill after possible consumption of the raw-milk product.

Due to the health risk of consuming raw milk, it is not legal to sell raw milk or raw milk products in the state of Michigan. Because of this, raw milk is obtained through herd share programs where consumers purchase a share of a cow and, as the owner of the cow, are provided raw milk from the farmer.

These herd-share dairy programs are not licensed or inspected by state or local agencies.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness, and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products. Due to poorly developed immune systems, infants and children are at greater risk for becoming sick and are more likely to suffer from long-term damage from diseases linked to drinking raw milk.

Symptoms of E. coli illness include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain along with fever, headache, and body ache.

Food Safety News

Michigan Officials Link Recent E. Coli Illnesses to Undercooked Ground Beef

State and county public health officials in Michigan are investigating five confirmed Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157 illnesses, with preliminary information pointing to undercooked ground beef as the likely source.

The illnesses have been reported in five adults between 20-41 years old who noticed symptoms from April 22 to May 1. Three people have been hospitalized, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Officials said that none of the ill individuals have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe complication of E. coli O157 infection, and that no deaths have been reported.

So far, the investigation indicates that the sickened individuals ate undercooked ground beef at several different restaurants in multiple locations. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is working with local health departments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine where the ground beef came from and where it was distributed.

“E. coli O157 illnesses can be very serious or life-threatening, especially for young children, older adults, and people who are immunocompromised,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, the health department’s chief medical executive. “Whether you cook at home or order in a restaurant, ground meats, including ground beef, should always be cooked thoroughly to the proper temperature.”

Consumers are advised to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only eat ground beef that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to be sure that ground beef has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.

A gastrointestinal infection caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 can cause diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps three to four days after exposure (incubation ranges from two to 10 days). Most people get better within five to seven days, but the elderly, infants, and those with weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe or even life-threatening illness such as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Persons who are ill with these symptoms and have consumed ground beef recently should consult with their medical provider and ask about being tested for an E. coli infection.

Food Safety News

‘Pure Michigan’ branding appeals to retailers, consumers

A program launched by the Michigan Ag Council and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. June 3 will help Michigan consumers easily identify Michigan-produced commodities. Under the “Pure Michigan Agriculture” program, retailers can take advantage of special signage designed to remove the guesswork. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness about food and agriculture in Michigan today.

PureMichiganOverview2Kroger Co. of Michigan began to brand produce and dairy with the ‘Pure Michigan’ logo on its own signage a little over a year ago. (Photo courtesy of Kroger Co. of Michigan)Many of Michigan’s retailers highlight Michigan-grown commodities through their own in-store initiatives. “This is a tremendous opportunity to tack onto a hugely successful and well-recognized brand,” said Laura Moser, president of the Michigan Ag Council. “Michigan residents resonate with and are proud of the Pure Michigan message. It makes sense to apply that message to agriculture and the Michigan foods they are searching for.”

Through the unique branding program, Michigan retailers are able to use specific point-of-sale signage, which identifies Michigan-produced produce and dairy.

“Currently, we have eight Plumb Supermarket stores using the signage,” said Becky Cunningham, program coordinator with the council. “Kroger, one of our Ag Council partners, uses the shelf tags but has created separate signage with the same logo.”

“Retailers have to learn how to market Michigan products in an environment that is different from roadside stands and farmers markets,” said Dale Hollandsworth, customer communications manager for the Kroger Co. of Michigan. “We have experienced a consumer demand to be able to identify fresh and processed Michigan product at the point of sale. It’s not only a matter of state pride but of quality and freshness.” Kroger has been using the “Pure Michigan” brand in stores for more than a year.

Interested companies can purchase two “Pure Michigan Agriculture” retail kits and the council’s “Homemade” radio spot for in-store audio for $ 250. The 60-second “Homemade” radio ad, narrated by Pure Michigan spokesman Tim Allen, talks about the diversity and positive effects of Michigan agriculture.

Cunningham said each kit contains 250 water-resistant shelf tags, 100 14″x11″ produce signs and four 22″x28″ grommeted mobile signs. “Additional kits sold after the first two will cost $ 50 each,” she added.

The $ 250 fee is good for one year of participation beginning in June 2013. “Renewal fees are $ 150 per store to maintain point-of-sale materials for an additional year,” Cunningham stated.

Persons interested in the program can contact Cunningham by phone at 517/323-6693 or via email at becky@miagcouncil.org.

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