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Oregon Worker Dies After Falling Into Meat Grinder

An Oregon man contracted to clean a meat processing plant died last week when he fell into a machine at the facility.

Hugo Avalos-Chanon, age 41, of Southeast Portland died late Friday night after becoming entangled in a blender at the Interstate Meat Disrtibutors, Inc. plant in Clackamas, OR, reported the Oregonian.

Interstate Meat Distributors was cited in October of 2012 for multiple violations of worker safety standards, among them that a table saw did not have a hood to protect against arm injuries, nor was a rotating blade “guarded to prevent inadvertent contact.”

However, these violations were corrected at the time of inspection, noted the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, which conducted the investigation.

And a spokesperson for Oregon OSHA told the Oregonian that it’s “way too early to say” whether the cause of Avalos-Chanon’s death was linked to the violations cited in that report.

Avalos-Chanon worked for a cleaning company that had been contracted to clean the Clackamas facility. At around 11:45 pm Friday, emergency workers responded to a call from the plant, and arrived on the scene to find him entangled in a blender used to regulate fat content in ground beef, according to the Oregonian. 

His body was extricated from the machine the following morning and the plant continued normal operation that day.

According to deputy medical examiner for the state, Dr. Cliff Young, Avalos-Chanon died of “blunt force injuries and chopping wounds,” reported the Oregonian.

Mesaros said OSHA’s investigation into the incident could take up to six months.

This incident is not the first negative one to be linked to Interstate Meat. In 2007, ground beef from the company was named as the source of an E. coli outbreak that sickened 8 people in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The company recalled approximately 41,000 pounds of ground beef for potential E. coli contamination that year.

 

Food Safety News

European-Style GM Crop Destruction Strikes Oregon

Federal felony charges of economic sabotage and domestic terrorism could be brought if whoever destroyed two sugar beet fields in Jackson County, Oregon earlier this month is ever brought to justice.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investing the destruction of about 6,500 sugar beets that occurred on the nights of June 8 and 11 at two separate fields, both leased by Syngenta AG, the Swiss multinational biotech company.

GMO Free Jackson County, which opposed planting genetically modified crops in the area, posted a notice on its website denying any involvement in the pulling up the sugar beets.

“From the beginning, GMO Free Jackson County has advocated only lawful means of addressing the GMO issue,” it said. “We remain firm in that commitment. We encourage everyone opposed to GMO crops to become involved in the public process of supporting the passage of Measure 15-119 that will ban GMO crops in Jackson County.”

Syngenta AG began contracting with Jackson County farmers to grow sugar beets on leased land last year. GMO Free Jackson County began campaigning against the GM sugar beets, saying they would contaminate surrounding lands. It drafted the ballot measure that will appear on Jackson County ballots on May 20,1914.

Jackson County is on the state’s border with California and is probably best known for the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland. Its politics, however, can be dicy. In 2007, voters said they preferred keeping all the county’s libraries closed.

It was on the other side of Oregon that plantings of an abandoned GM wheat variety were found growing in what USDA called an isolated event.  The GM wheat was a Monsanto product, dropped a decade ago for its lack of worldwide marketability.

Food Safety News

Oregon growers now allowed to ship frozen berries to China

Oregon growers now allowed to ship frozen berries to China

Thanks to a collaborative effort between a Curry County cranberry harvester and government officials at the county, state and national levels, farmers of cranberries, blueberries and strawberries in Curry and Coos counties now have a chance to make greater profits when exporting their product to China.

That’s because of a regulatory change approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, which now allows the federal agency to issue the phytosanitary certificate that’s required when shipping frozen fruit to the Asian country.

Previously, the USDA would issue the clean plant certificate for fresh produce but not for frozen, which posed considerable problems for cranberry farmers like Curry County’s Robert McKenzie of Wild Rivers Fruit who at times struggled to meet the 15- to 30-day shipping deadline imposed by the certificate. McKenzie, who has shipped cranberries to China for several years, dealt with the fact that at any time a container of fruit could be seized and quarantined by Chinese customs, which in turn would hold up the process and potentially cost him thousands of dollars. And like so many other independent harvesters, McKenzie has been forced to compete with international corporations like Ocean Spray, which has the advantage of shipping its Canadian product to China through Canada, a country whose government had no qualms issuing the certificate.

Now, the changes mean the process is as simple as an inspector from Medford writing the inspection for a nominal fee.

McKenzie said that because of the huge surplus and current depressed market, cranberries have become a less valued crop, but these changes in restrictions could help an independent farmer like himself increase profits by as much as 300 percent.

Source: theworldlink.com

Publication date: 10/29/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Oregon Plant Inspections Reveal Salmonella, Other Concerns

Environmental samples taken in July by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors at two different locations within the nSpired Natural Foods Inc. nut butter manufacturing facility in Ashland, OR, tested positive for Salmonella, according to agency inspection reports.

The samples were taken at a bakery “during the manufacturing of dried pasteurized almonds lot 5461,” the report stated. They were gathered on July 16, 2014, from the floor beneath a cooling tower, east side, northern floor surface, and the floor beneath a cooling tower, west side, southern floor surface, according to the FDA report.

There were several other safety problems noted at the plant during visits by five FDA inspectors on 17 different days between July 15 and Aug. 29, 2014.

These included inadequate cleaning and sanitizing (food residue observed on the discharge hopper after it had supposedly been cleaned), inadequate employee hand-washing between operations, food-contact surfaces not designed for how they’re being used (cracked buckets in direct contact with roast nuts), poorly bonded or welded seams on equipment (rough welds on shovels used for transferring roasted almonds from the discharge hopper to the cooling tower), potentially inadequate sanitizing procedures for equipment and utensils, cracks and gouges in the facility’s floors which make them difficult to keep clean, and lack of backflow protection from piping systems that discharge waste water.

“This document lists observations made by the FDA representative(s) during the inspection of your facility. They are inspectional observations, and do not represent a final Agency determination regarding your compliance,” the inspection reports notes, adding that any questions or concerns from the company should be discussed with FDA officials at the agency’s office in Bothell, WA.

Several brands of organic and conventional peanut and almond butters manufactured by nSpired, a division of Hain Celestial Group Inc. of Lake Success, NY, were voluntarily recalled during a Salmonella Braenderup outbreak linked to the products which sickened four people in four states (Connecticut, Iowa, Tennessee and Texas). One person was hospitalized, but no deaths were reported.

The recalled products included Arrowhead Mills peanut butter, MaraNatha almond and peanut butters, Whole Foods almond butter, and Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Kroger brands of almond butter.

An Aug. 21 update on the outbreak from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that since nut butters typically have a long shelf life, the recalled brands could still be in people’s homes. CDC recommends that people not consume the recalled nut butters but discard any remaining product.

Food Safety News

Oregon Health Officials Say Source of Deadly E. Coli Infection May Never be Found

Health officials in Oregon are testing several possible contaminants that could be the source of the E. coli infection that killed a 4-year-old Oregon girl this week, but they warn that the source may never be found.

Serena Profitt

Serena Profitt died on Monday in Portland after suffering from an E. coli infection for more than a week. Food Safety News spoke with her uncle on Tuesday when reporting on her death.

A family friend, 5-year-old Brad Sutton, is in critical condition and on dialysis in a Tacoma, WA, hospital but was reported on Thursday to be steadily improving. The two children were playing together over Labor Day weekend and apparently shared one meal — a turkey sandwich — at a restaurant.

The children also played in a pond, which has been connected to E. coli cases in the past. Both children later tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

But health officials are not ready to place blame on the sandwich. Investigation into the restaurant where it was served showed no evidence of E. coli exposure, according to Dr. David Long from the Lincoln County Health & Human Services Department.

“We’ve investigated the places that the people have been in the public and so far we haven’t found any evidence that there’s a source that would be potentially dangerous to the public,” Long said at a Thursday news conference in Newport, according to KOIN 6 News.

On Sept. 5, a 3-year-old girl in Washington state also died from an unrelated E. coli infection.

Food Safety News

4-Year-Old Oregon Girl Dies From Complications of E. Coli Infection

A 4-year-old Oregon girl has died from medical complications resulting from an E. coli infection contracted sometime around Labor Day weekend, according to the Lincoln County Health and Human Services Department.

A 5-year-old family friend from Washington state is reportedly also sick with an E. coli infection. State and local health officials are still working to determine the source of the infections.

Serena Profitt of Otis, OR, died Monday at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

The Profitt family is reporting that Serena and the other sick child shared a sandwich at a restaurant. They also played in a pond and a river with other children.

Severe E. coli infections in young children can cause kidney failure, brain damage and death. Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a type of kidney failure that can occur in people of any age, but it is most common in children less than 5 years old and the elderly who develop severe symptoms from E. coli infections.

Food Safety News

4-Year-Old Oregon Girl Dies From Complications of E. Coli Infection

A 4-year-old Oregon girl has died from medical complications resulting from an E. coli infection contracted sometime around Labor Day weekend, according to the Lincoln County Health and Human Services Department.

A 5-year-old family friend from Washington state is reportedly also sick with an E. coli infection. State and local health officials are still working to determine the source of the infections.

Serena Profitt of Otis, OR, died Monday at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

The Profitt family is reporting that Serena and the other sick child shared a sandwich at a restaurant. They also played in a pond and a river with other children.

Severe E. coli infections in young children can cause kidney failure, brain damage and death. Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a type of kidney failure that can occur in people of any age, but it is most common in children less than 5 years old and the elderly who develop severe symptoms from E. coli infections.

Food Safety News

Voters in Two Oregon Counties Approve Measures Banning GE Crops

Voters in two Oregon counties have approved ballot measures to ban the cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their borders.

On May 20, the Jackson County initiative passed with 66 percent of the vote, and the Josephine County initiative passed with 58 percent of the vote.

The Jackson County measure requires “affected persons to harvest, destroy or remove all genetically engineered plants within 12 months of the enactment of the ordinance.” The Josephine County measure “would allow confiscation and destruction of plants that have been genetically altered if contamination was occurring.”

Supporters of the measures say they will keep crops free from contamination by genetically engineered crops.

The Josephine County ban is likely to be challenged in court because of a 2013 law that prohibits local governments from regulating genetically engineered crops. The Jackson County measure was exempted because it had already qualified for the ballot before the state legislation passed.

The Center for Food Safety, which supports the bans, reports that GE crops are also banned in California’s Santa Cruz County, Trinity County, Marin County and Mendocino County, Washington’s San Juan County, and a number of cities.  Hawaii’s Big Island and Oahu have banned GE taro and coffee.

Food Safety News

Oregon Campylobacter Cluster Prompts Raw Oyster Recall

The Oregon Health Authority has announced the investigation of a cluster of three Campylobacter cases among Oregon residents who consumed raw oysters. The oysters came from two different markets in Lane and Coos counties. The oysters were harvested from Coos Bay Oyster Company of Charleston, Oregon. Campylobacter is an organism that can cause serious and some times fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

The three Oregon patients who became ill with Campylobacter coli (a less common species of Campylobacter) reported illness after eating raw oysters between January 15-20, 2014. All patients were males between 50-75 years of age. Of the three patients, two were hospitalized and are reportedly recovering well.

On January 30, Coos Bay Oyster Company recalled Plastic Tubs (1/2 gallon, quart, pint, half – pint), Coos Bay Oyster Co., Raw/Ready – to – eat Shucked Oysters, with sell by dates from January 15 – February 17, 2014 because they have the potential to be contaminated with Campylobacter. On January 31, the recall was expanded to include all of its shellstock oysters in red onion sacks containing five (5) dozen shellstock oysters (various sizes) with a Coos Bay Oyster Co. label and shellstock tags with various harvest dates (December 2013-January 2014).

The recall is the result of an epidemiologic investigation of a Campylobacter outbreak in Oregon. There have been three (3) confirmed reported cases of Campylobacter illness related with the consumption of raw shucked oysters to date.

The oysters were distributed through wholesale dealers and retail stores in Oregon and California.

Coos Bay Oyster Company has ceased the production and distribution of the product as the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).

Healthy persons infected with Campylobacter often experience diarrhea, headache and body ache, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two (2) to five (5) days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one (1) week and some infected persons do not have any symptoms. In persons with compromised immune systems Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life threatening infection.

Food Safety News

Listeria-tainted Queso Fresco Cheese Sickens Oregon Infant

Queso Fresco cheese imported illegally from Mexico and sold in a Latino grocery store in Woodburn, Oregon may be tainted with Listeria, Oregon state officials warned Friday.

Oregon’s Health Authority and Department of Agriculture launched an investigation into the dairy product after an infant in Clackamas County fell ill from the bacteria.  Officials traced the infection to batch of queso fresco, a soft white cheese manufactured in Mexico.

Officials believe the cheese was brought into the country illegally because it was found unlabeled and sold in plastic bags, the spokesman said.

“If people have this cheese in their refrigerators, they should throw it out or take it back to where they bought it,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak of the Oregon Public Health Division. “Eating it can make people very sick, especially pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.”

Food Safety News

Oregon Demands Documents on 5-Hour Energy Ingredients

The Oregon Department of Justice is demanding that the makers of 5-Hour Energy hand over data supporting its advertising claims that the drink is doctor-recommended and that consumers won’t “crash” when its effects wear off.

According to The Oregonian, the state is part of a 33-state investigation into the accuracy of the caffeinated drink’s marketing campaign.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed papers in Multnomah County Circuit Court last week against brand owner Living Essentials LLC, forcing the company to hand over uncensored documents, something it tried to block with a lawsuit last June.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has documented more than 90 “adverse incidents” involving 5-Hour Energy, including 11 deaths.

Food Safety News

Oregon Demands Documents on 5-Hour Energy Ingredients

The Oregon Department of Justice is demanding that the makers of 5-Hour Energy hand over data supporting its advertising claims that the drink is doctor-recommended and that consumers won’t “crash” when its effects wear off.

According to The Oregonian, the state is part of a 33-state investigation into the accuracy of the caffeinated drink’s marketing campaign.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed papers in Multnomah County Circuit Court last week against brand owner Living Essentials LLC, forcing the company to hand over uncensored documents, something it tried to block with a lawsuit last June.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has documented more than 90 “adverse incidents” involving 5-Hour Energy, including 11 deaths.

Food Safety News

Oregon Demands Documents on 5-Hour Energy Ingredients

The Oregon Department of Justice is demanding that the makers of 5-Hour Energy hand over data supporting its advertising claims that the drink is doctor-recommended and that consumers won’t “crash” when its effects wear off.

According to The Oregonian, the state is part of a 33-state investigation into the accuracy of the caffeinated drink’s marketing campaign.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed papers in Multnomah County Circuit Court last week against brand owner Living Essentials LLC, forcing the company to hand over uncensored documents, something it tried to block with a lawsuit last June.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has documented more than 90 “adverse incidents” involving 5-Hour Energy, including 11 deaths.

Food Safety News

Oregon Demands Documents on 5-Hour Energy Ingredients

The Oregon Department of Justice is demanding that the makers of 5-Hour Energy hand over data supporting its advertising claims that the drink is doctor-recommended and that consumers won’t “crash” when its effects wear off.

According to The Oregonian, the state is part of a 33-state investigation into the accuracy of the caffeinated drink’s marketing campaign.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed papers in Multnomah County Circuit Court last week against brand owner Living Essentials LLC, forcing the company to hand over uncensored documents, something it tried to block with a lawsuit last June.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has documented more than 90 “adverse incidents” involving 5-Hour Energy, including 11 deaths.

Food Safety News

Washington, Oregon unite to sponsor 2014 annual conference

Potato producers in the Pacific Northwest should once again mark their calendars for the upcoming 2014 Washington-Oregon Potato Conference to be held at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, WA.

“This will be the fifth year that both states have worked together on our jointly held conference. It has been a positive relationship that has helped to create a very worthwhile event for all involved,” said Ryan Holterhoff, director of marketing and industry affairs for the Washington State Potato Commission.ConventionOVThe potato commissions of Washington and Oregon have once again united to sponsor this year’s 2014 Washington-Oregon Potato Conference to be held Jan. 28-30 in Kennewick, WA. (Photo courtesy of the Washington State Potato Commission)

The convention will be held Jan. 28-30. “We would anticipate around 1,700 or so people participating in the conference over the course of the three-days,” Holterhoff stated.

According to Holterhoff, the conference “provides many meaningful aspects for those that attend. There is great networking value and opportunities for attendees to collaborate and learn what is new for the 2014 season. Some of the top industry experts in their respective fields will share their insights during the general session portion of the conference in one of the over 30 presentations.”

Activities will begin on Jan. 28 with a Spanish Language Session, Cultivar Performance Workshop and Trade Show Reception and Potato PAC Auction.

A continental breakfast and general sessions have been scheduled Jan. 29-30. A Leadership Recognition Banquet will be hosted at the Red Lion Columbia Center on Jan. 29, and a ladies’ program as well as a potato bar have also been scheduled that day.

This year’s keynote speaker is Michael Broome, who has been engaging audiences since 1979. The thrust of his address, to be delivered on Jan. 29, is framed this way: “During his presentation, Michael will share the good economic news that since 1787, our nation has survived 23 recessions, three depressions, a civil war, and two world wars. History and logic conclude that those who swiftly adapt will survive our present economic calamity.”

Broome plans to use inspiring and humorous anecdotes to support his view that people should always be prepared for tough times. He is the author of Be a Liver of Life, Not a Gallbladder and sums up his philosophy this way: “The ultimate success is when our life overflows with things that money cannot buy.”

On Jan. 30, attendees are also encouraged to attend a hosted lunch at the Three Rivers Convention Center.

The registration fee for the conference is $ 5. Further information about the conference is available at www.potatoconference.com.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Oregon Seed Policy Dispute Sprouts Up on Special Session Agenda

The state, not a patchwork of local voters, should regulate seed, according to the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB). The bureau’s policy was turned into Senate Bill 633 during the last session of the Oregon Legislature, but it did not get a vote in the House.

Now, SB 633 is back as part of the special session set to get under way Monday in Salem. Along with public employee pensions and taxes, the bill to prevent local governments or local voters from banning farm practices is on the special-session agenda.

The agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. John Kitzhaber calls for the special session to pass a package of a half-dozen bills, and, if they all don’t make it, the Democratic governor will veto the ones that do.

Now, however, the same groups that blocked SB 633 in the Oregon House by calling it “Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act” are pressuring liberal Democrats, mostly from the Portland and Eugene areas, against including it in the larger pension/tax deal. Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, is circulating a petition asking that the farm bill be removed from the special-session package.

One of the opponent groups, Friends of Family Farmers, says that state jurisdiction of seed policy would be “a direct affront to Oregon’s respected organic and natural food trade sector….” It notes that Oregon is fifth in organic farms in the U.S., with 156,000 acres as of 2010, and the more than 444 certified organic farms in the state are threatened with serious economic losses from contamination from genetically engineered crops.

SB 633 would prohibit any local laws or regulations governing the display, distribution, growing, harvesting, labeling, marketing, mixing, notification of use, planting, possession, processing, registration, storage, transportation or use of agricultural seeds or products of those seeds, including finished crops, trees or food.

Oregon has an evenly split state House of Representatives, and one Republican legislative staffer told Food Safety News that it is going to be a reach for the Farm Bureau to get the necessary votes on SB 633 with groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters stirring up the other side.

OFB says it values all types of farming practices and technologies, but does not want one elevated at the expense of the other, and certainly not by local governments. And it says it makes no sense to have Oregon farms fall under as many as 400 jurisdictions.

Public hearings on the package of special-session bills are being held today and Friday in Salem, and the full House and Senate will be gaveled to order on Monday. Legislators will then take up Oregon’s shaky public-employee pension system and a $ 244-million tax package.

If the new version of SB 633 is voted on during the special session, it would grandfather in Jackson County, which has already banned GM seeds and crops.

Nationally, farmers planting genetically modified seeds approved for commercial use by USDA are losing an immunity they temporarily had from certain federal court actions. Known as the Farmer Assurance Provision by supporters and the “Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, a federal budget provision since March has protected GM crops from being torn up in the same season if a federal judge found they were creating some sort of damage.  The Senate has now removed this proviso, much to the delight of the anti-Monsanto side.

Food Safety News

Oregon Seed Policy Dispute Sprouts Up on Special Session Agenda

The state, not a patchwork of local voters, should regulate seed, according to the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB). The bureau’s policy was turned into Senate Bill 633 during the last session of the Oregon Legislature, but it did not get a vote in the House.

Now, SB 633 is back as part of the special session set to get under way Monday in Salem. Along with public employee pensions and taxes, the bill to prevent local governments or local voters from banning farm practices is on the special-session agenda.

The agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. John Kitzhaber calls for the special session to pass a package of a half-dozen bills, and, if they all don’t make it, the Democratic governor will veto the ones that do.

Now, however, the same groups that blocked SB 633 in the Oregon House by calling it “Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act” are pressuring liberal Democrats, mostly from the Portland and Eugene areas, against including it in the larger pension/tax deal. Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, is circulating a petition asking that the farm bill be removed from the special-session package.

One of the opponent groups, Friends of Family Farmers, says that state jurisdiction of seed policy would be “a direct affront to Oregon’s respected organic and natural food trade sector….” It notes that Oregon is fifth in organic farms in the U.S., with 156,000 acres as of 2010, and the more than 444 certified organic farms in the state are threatened with serious economic losses from contamination from genetically engineered crops.

SB 633 would prohibit any local laws or regulations governing the display, distribution, growing, harvesting, labeling, marketing, mixing, notification of use, planting, possession, processing, registration, storage, transportation or use of agricultural seeds or products of those seeds, including finished crops, trees or food.

Oregon has an evenly split state House of Representatives, and one Republican legislative staffer told Food Safety News that it is going to be a reach for the Farm Bureau to get the necessary votes on SB 633 with groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters stirring up the other side.

OFB says it values all types of farming practices and technologies, but does not want one elevated at the expense of the other, and certainly not by local governments. And it says it makes no sense to have Oregon farms fall under as many as 400 jurisdictions.

Public hearings on the package of special-session bills are being held today and Friday in Salem, and the full House and Senate will be gaveled to order on Monday. Legislators will then take up Oregon’s shaky public-employee pension system and a $ 244-million tax package.

If the new version of SB 633 is voted on during the special session, it would grandfather in Jackson County, which has already banned GM seeds and crops.

Nationally, farmers planting genetically modified seeds approved for commercial use by USDA are losing an immunity they temporarily had from certain federal court actions. Known as the Farmer Assurance Provision by supporters and the “Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, a federal budget provision since March has protected GM crops from being torn up in the same season if a federal judge found they were creating some sort of damage.  The Senate has now removed this proviso, much to the delight of the anti-Monsanto side.

Food Safety News

Offshore opportunities being developed for Oregon, Washington potato producers

Officials from Oregon and Washington are working on an upcoming joint trade mission to expand export opportunities for Northwest potatoes. “We are conducting a trade mission to the Philippines and Vietnam with the directors of Agriculture from both Oregon and Washington State planned for November,” said Bill Brewer, executive director of the Oregon Potato Commission. “OPC will be conducting this mission jointly with the Washington State Potato Commission.”

OpenerShotPotato producers in Washington and Oregon are expecting good crops in 2013. (Photo courtesy of the Washington State Potato Commission)Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, said export markets present the state’s fresh producers with important market destinations. “Most of our fresh potatoes are kept here in the U.S.,” he stated. “About 20 percent of our fresh potatoes are export. About half of that are fresh potatoes shipped to Asia for processing into potato chips.”

Canada is Washington’s largest export market for fresh potatoes. “Washington has a built-in advantage of having nearby access to critical seaports located within our own backyard. This close proximity allows access to critical markets throughout Asia and Central America,” he added.

According to Brewer, roughly 13 percent of Oregon’s fresh product is exported. “It is hard to track because statistics don’t separate fresh chip exports from fresh table stock exports,” he stated. “Oregon easily exports over 50 percent of the entire potato production to international markets.” Key destinations include Taiwan and Mexico. Although there is no market access for table stock at the current time, Korea does receive potatoes for chipping. “Vietnam has potential, and we have high expectations with the Philippines approving market access for table stock now,” he commented.

Both men said producers in their respective states are anticipating good crops in 2013. “It’s been a really good growing season, with perfect growing conditions the first half of the season,” Voigt said. “Higher temperatures in early July will take the top off yields. But we are expecting a great crop. Fresh potato harvest started [the week of July 14] and will continue through mid-late October.”

Voigt expects Washington potato supplies to be similar to last season. “Volumes will be higher than normal in the early season since the supply pipeline is pretty dry,” he stated.

The current crop is expected to be one of very high quality. “Growing conditions were near perfect, which should translate into a great quality crop,” Voigt said. “Early season size may be on the smaller side only because growers will have to harvest a little earlier than normal and sacrifice some yield to keep fresh potatoes in the supply pipeline. The later season fresh potatoes should have a normal size profile.”

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington planted 160,000 acres of potatoes for all uses this season. Washington has 40 growers producing supplies for the fresh market. “Harvest has already begun for growers in certain parts of the state and for select varieties,” he continued. “Harvesting efforts will continue into October depending on exactly which region the fields are located.”

Brewer said Oregon’s growers are also having a good season. “It’s been a very good growing year to date for all areas of the state,” he noted. With a total of 40,000 acres devoted to potato production, Brewer said 40 growers, many of them small fresh growers in the Klamath Falls area, account for 15 percent of land in potato production. “Oregon has ‘Healthy Distinct Potatoes’ grown in healthy distinct soil by exceptional potato growers,” he added.

Looking at weather, Brewer said, “Oregon had a short winter snowpack.  It hasn’t been an issue yet for fresh growers. We need to wait to see how the late summer goes.”

Overall, Brewer is expecting a slight reduction in volume this season when compared to 2012. “The fresh harvest will begin in [early August]. Harvest will be completed mid-October.  There are generally a few acres in the field until the end of October depending on weather and market demand. But generally everyone has finished by Oct. 25.”

Labor and water availability have not been factors affecting production in either state.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Norovirus Suspected in Rural Oregon Illness Outbreak

Grant County Health Department officials are waiting on state lab test results to determine whether norovirus was behind the illness of more than two dozen people who were sickened in John Day, OR, this past week.

According to an Aug. 5 story in the Blue Mountain Eagle, health officials suspected that the illness could have been transmitted between July 27 and Aug. 3 at the Snaffle Bit Restaurant. The owner of the restaurant was reportedly cooperating with the county and taking steps to prevent any other illness outbreaks.

Norovirus is a fairly common and highly contagious illness that can cause nausea, vomiting and other symptoms. It spreads by fecal contamination of food or water sources and by contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces.

Norovirus is not killed by alcohol-based hand sanitizers, officials said, and there is no vaccine available yet to prevent it. Washing thoroughly with soap and water before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet or changing diapers is recommended.

Food Safety News