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NZ: Zespri responds to Chinese trade war speculation

New Zealand kiwifruit exporter Zespri says sales are on track to making China its number one market this year, after the government recently downplayed the likelihood of a trade war with the Asian giant.

The issue stems from reports of an application from Pacific Steel under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules calling for an investigation into alleged steel dumping from China in the New Zealand market. Zespri Shanghai 13

The local press has reported China’s Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Trade Policy (Mofcom) warned Zespri and other companies about possible retaliation against New Zealand primary industries including kiwifruit, wool and dairy.

Mofcom has denied the claims, and both New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Trade Minister Todd McClay have urged the public not to get carried away with the hypothetical scenario of a Chinese reaction to a WTO dispute.

“Neither in Beijing nor in Wellington is there any indication from the Chinese authorities that there is an issue that would see them have retaliatory action, so the official line from the Chinese, and we accept that, is there is nothing to see here,” Key was quoted as saying on new site Stuff.co.nz.

“Market economies don’t do that with each other. WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules don’t allow it,” McClay was quoted as saying in newspaper the Otago Daily Times when asked about the possibility of retaliatory action from China.

In a statement, a Zespri spokesperson said the issue was being dealt with at a government-to-government level, and the company had full confidence in both governments on the issue.

“Two weeks ago, Zespri local staff in China received unsubstantiated information from an industry body in China on purported industry consultations related to the import of New Zealand agricultural products,” the spokesperson said.

“We passed on this information by email in line with our regular engagement with New Zealand Embassy officials in China through the normal course of business.

“Outside of this single communication, Zespri has no further information on this matter and reports that Zespri was called in for a meeting in Beijing or was in some way pressured by the Chinese government are false.”

The spokesperson highlighted Zespri’s business in China benefited from a “deep and mature relationship” between the two nations across both government and business.

“We are heartened to hear Minister McClay’s assurances today,” the spokersperson said in an email on Tuesday.

“Our 2016 selling season continues as normal and we’re on track to grow our China business by one-third this season, making it our number-one market with sales to reach around NZ$ 500 million. Zespri has no further comment to make on this matter.”

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China to allow Chilean prunes in “natural condition”

While Chile has been selling prunes to the Chinese market since 2010 only tenderized fruit has been allowed until now.

According to the Chile Prunes Association, Chinese authorities have finally authorized imports of prunes that have been dried under “natural conditions”.

“Currently, 90% of prunes imported by China from the rest of the world are of this ‘natural condition’ type, which is why this new understanding between AQSIQ and SAG opens an important market for this product, which makes us very content with the new possibility of exports opened in that country,” says Chilean Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche.

Demand for health products is on the rise in China, bringing with it demand for dried fruits. Chinese consumers have historically eaten local dried ‘Wumei’ prunes, but in recent years there have been imports of the Western-style prunes Chile and other countries produce which are called ‘Ximei’ in the Asian nation.

“Our country, once again, is opening international markets with strong arguments for quality, seriousness and reliability. This news allows us to substantially increase our export potential in China,” said Chile Prunes president Pedro Pablo Diaz.

“Chile has an FTA which allows us to have a 0% tariff, and just this year California will produce 40% of its normal production, so availability of exports will be much lower and consequently, there will be a greater opportunity for Chile,” added Chile Prunes executive director Andrés Rodríguez.

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Can Colombia prove golden berries are not a Medfly host?

Colombian golden berry exporters may be able to improve their opportunities in the budding U.S. market thanks to initiatives such as a non-fruit fly host project, new cold storage facilities for seafreight, and the release of new varieties.

Carlos Lozano of the Colombian Uchuva Committee – ‘uchuva’ being one of many names for the fruit including physalis, Cape gooseberry and aguaymanto – tells www.freshfruitportal.com preliminary studies show the fruit is unlikely to be a host commodity for the Mediterranean fruit fly.

“Research has been done in conjunction with ICA (Colombian Agricultural Institute) and APHIS (U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) showing that golden berries are not a host of Ceratitis Capitata, or the Mediterranean fruit fly,” Lozano says.

“The results from inspections that have been done in the [Bogota] airport for going to the U.S. since 2015 help to corroborate that golden berries are not a host of this pest.

“We are working with APHIS and ICA to see if we’ll manage to meet the protocol and show the fruit is not a host, and that would help our entry into the United States.”

But why is this relevant?

Colombian golden berry exporters have been able to ship their fruit to the U.S. with cold treatment since 2002, however the process is costly, cuts shelf life by the 14 days required for the treatment, and is limited to Atlanta as the sole port of entry.

Last year, this all changed for growers in the departments of Boyaca and Cundinamarca who have pest-free properties at 2,200 meters above sea level or higher.

The impacts have been felt very quickly. Lozano says shipments to Colombia have risen from US$ 147,000 in 2013 to US$ 500,000 last year, and he expects U.S.-bound exports could hit the US$ 1 million mark in 2016.

To put these figures in context, he mentions the country exported US$ 30 million worth of the fruit – or a volume of 6,000 metric tons (MT) – last year, with the U.S. vastly overshadowed by a predominant export focus on Europe.

However, the U.S. is much closer and would be a logical market for future development. And if the APHIS decides to officially recognize golden berries are fruit fly free it would imply exports would be permissible under a systems approach for virtually the whole country.

Lozano says Boyaca and Cundinamarca are the biggest growing regions, but significant amounts of fruit are also produced in the departments of Antioquia and Nariño. Under the current set-up fruit from these two areas can still only be shipped under the 2002 cold treatment guidelines.

“If the non-host protocol is approved, we’ll be able to export [without cold treatment] from all of Colombia, and Antioquia is an important department in golden berries.

“There is a company which is a leader in uchuva exports at the moment, called Caribbean Exotics, and they have their crop in Antioquia.”

A boost to port infrastructure

The current systems approach for approved farms in Boyaca and Cundinamarca has been for airfreight golden berry shipments to the U.S., but this mode of transport tends to imply limitations for volume. In this sense, the supply dynamics for the U.S. are similar to what they were for Europe around eight years ago before sea shipping got underway.

“The response from Europe meant that greater volumes and better logistics were needed, and that’s why we’ve been doing seafreight for some time now,” he says.

“The protocol for the work plan with the U.S. demands an inspection in the port of origin, and it demands an anti-thrips cover – in the airport there are two companies doing this with cold storage, so that the fruit arrives with all the protection that the protocol requires.

“We are also setting this up in the Port of Cartagena so that anyone who wants to export can apply these protections under the protocol,” he says, adding the new seafreight system for U.S. access should be ready within a month’s time.

Supporting production, demand through gastronomy

While Colombian golden berry growers have had to battle with the effects of drought in 2016, Lozano expects volume to still grow over the course of the coming years in line with demand.

To help producers, a partnership between the committee, ICA and its scientific investigation arm CorpoICA will soon be releasing new varieties to the industry.

“With CorpoICA we are also analyzing the genetic material for golden berries across the whole country, and we’ve had some important results with two varieties of golden berries registered in Colombia with ICA to be able to give growers and exporters material with promising characteristics. Golden berry dessert

“By that I mean productivity, fruit with higher pack-outs, good quality, and there is also research into another phytosanitary issue we’d like to get on top of for special characteristics against fusarium, but CorpoICA is still investigating.”

“The important thing is we have varieties registered in Colombia which have been promising, but the process hasn’t reached the point of deciding on names for commercialization.”

He says the committee has also been hard at work connecting with potential overseas customers in foodservice, the pharmaceutical industry and the world of haute cuisine to incorporate the fruit in more dishes and products.

He says some suggestions include using golden berries in sauces to accompany meats and seafood, or dipping the fruit in melted chocolate as a dessert in a similar way to what is often done with strawberries.

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Organic supply might not keep up with demand

Because of difficulty in finding suitable land, one of the biggest obstacles for suppliers of organic produce is meeting demand.

That theme was top of mind during a breakout session featuring suppliers at the recent Organic Produce Summit, held in Monterey, CA. Titled “Organic Produce Innovation: Next Generation, Next Geography,” a trio of speakers and moderator Nate Lewis of the Organic Trade Association explored the topic. The OTA executive began the discussion asking the group what the biggest challenge is with organic produce.

“Available ground is the biggest challenge,” said Jerrett Stoffel, vice president of operations for Taylor Farms in Salinas, CA. He noted that most of the conventional ground that is relatively easy to transition to organic production has already been converted. Taylor Farms continues to look for new ground but it is difficult to find, and much more expensive to convert.

Greg Holzman, founder of Purity Organics, said he travels extensively and continually tries to convince growers all over the world to switch to organic production. As such the company sources extensively from Central America and South America for its eponymous juices. Purity Organics only has an organic option that it offers to its customers, so it really can’t help growers market their transitional product.

Soren Bjorn, executive vice president of Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. in Watsonville, CA, said that is not the case with his firm. Because of some very conservative residue standards by some export buyers, he said transitional fruit is a good match for Driscoll’s export sales, which does help the company “sell” the concept of organic production to its growers. However, Driscoll’s relies on growers all over the world for its output and each of those growers must make their own business decision about growing organic berries. The company does have an aggressive program, especially in Mexico, to help new growers get started, which may help alleviate some supply issues in the future.

Lewis of OTA noted that the trade association is working with the federal government on standards that will allow for the marketing of transitional fruit as growers move their production from conventional to organic. While this may convince some growers to transition from conventional to organic, he said this idea has detractors as some practitioners do not want to cannibalize organic sales nor create an “organic light” category.

Bjorn believes genetics, technology and geography will play important roles in increasing the supply of organic berries. He said genetic research resulting in new varieties could allow production on marginal land, and should help increase yields as well. He also said that advancements in the use of bio-pesticides will help organic berries deal with pest pressures. Advancements in technology, Bjorn said, could help growers move the crop out of the soil and into potted production, which may allow a version of factory farming and greatly increase the supply of available land. The company is also continually exploring new regions of the world where strawberry production, including organic production, may take root.

Stoffel said that organic spinach is having a very difficult time because of disease problems for which there is no solution for organic production. At this point in time, he said “organic spinach is probably not a sustainable crop.”

The suppliers also talked about climate change and discussed its impact on both conventional and organic production. Lewis said warming temperatures have allowed the state of Washington to have a crop landscape that rivals California. While a warming trend in more northern locations may open up land for fruit and vegetable production of all kinds, other areas are getting too warm to grow some traditional crops. Even in Oxnard, CA, Bjorn said there are fields that no longer get much ocean cooling and so they are no longer suitable for strawberry production.

Stoffel said moving to areas that are now warmer may offer some opportunities, but generally those crop windows are shorter and require a lot more planning.

The three panelists took a much different view of the direction each of their individual companies will be taking in the near and distant future. Bjorn said Driscoll’s is concentrating on its four berry crops — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries — with no plans to diversify. Holzman said Purity Organics is always looking to add to its stable of operations and added that the firm’s papaya production is on the rise. Stoffel indicated that Taylor Farms will basically grow anything it can sell. “We are driven by consumer tastes,” he said.

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Justice helps FDA shut down noodle and sprout distribution

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors began recording the failure to properly maintain the Kwong Tung Foods facility at 1840 East 38th Street in Minneapolis in 2010.

Pipes were observed draining directly onto the floor. During 2011, 2012, and 2014 inspections, FDA observed dripping into food preparation areas and/or a food production room.

Those problems dating back to 2009, which were explained in Form FDA 483 observation reports after inspections and in warning letters, went unaddressed by Kwong Tung Foods.

But last week, a problem that dragged on for almost eight years came to end in 48 hours when the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Kwong Tung Foods Inc.

beansprouts_406x250The consent decree is being enforced against Kwong Tung Foods doing business as Canton Foods; the firm’s president and owner, Vieta C. Wang; and vice president, Juney H. Wang, to prevent the distribution of adulterated noodles and sprouts.

Department of Justice attorneys filed a complaint on July 14, in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota at FDA’s request.   The complaint alleged that Kwong Tung Foods violated the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by causing noodles and sprouts to be adulterated in that they have been prepared, packed and/or held under insanitary conditions whereby the food may have become contaminated with filth or have been rendered injurious to health.

According to the complaint, the insanitary conditions included failure to exclude pests and rodents from the facility, failure to maintain equipment and failure to ensure adequate employee sanitation.

“Kwong Tung Foods was repeatedly warned about the insanitary conditions at its Minneapolis food facility,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively to protect consumers from adulterated food and enforce our nation’s food safety laws.”

In conjunction with the filing of the complaint, the defendants agreed to be bound by a permanent injunction.  As part of the settlement, the defendants represented that they have ceased receiving, preparing, processing, packing, holding, or distributing any type of food at or from any location.  Under the permanent injunction, if the defendants seek to resume such activity, they must take specific steps to improve the firm’s manufacturing practices, and then receive written approval from FDA.

According to the complaint, in October 2015, FDA inspected Kwong Tung Foods’ facility, located at 1840 E. 38th Street in Minneapolis, and observed numerous insanitary practices, including the defendants’ failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination and maintain buildings in good repair.

USDistrctCourtMinn_406x250 Specifically, according to the complaint, FDA observed evidence of live and dead pests and rodents in production rooms, a black mold-like substance and debris on production equipment, inadequate employee sanitation practices, and potential cross-contamination with major allergens.  In addition, FDA observed condensate dripping onto finished bean sprouts, according to the complaint.

FDA inspected Kwong Tung Foods’ facility twice in 2014.  As alleged in the complaint, FDA also observed failures to exclude pests from the facility and to adequately maintain equipment and employee sanitation practices.

Under federal law, food processors are required to comply with current good manufacturing practices provided by FDA regulation.  The complaint alleged that the defendants violated the law by causing food to become adulterated while it was held for sale after shipment of one or more of its components in interstate commerce.

The government is represented by Trial Attorney Alistair Reader of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bahram Samie of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota. They were assisted by Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement Jennifer Kang of the Food and Drug Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Health and Human Services.

 

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Food Safety News

Justice helps FDA shut down noodle and sprout distribution

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors began recording the failure to properly maintain the Kwong Tung Foods facility at 1840 East 38th Street in Minneapolis in 2010.

Pipes were observed draining directly onto the floor. During 2011, 2012, and 2014 inspections, FDA observed dripping into food preparation areas and/or a food production room.

Those problems dating back to 2009, which were explained in Form FDA 483 observation reports after inspections and in warning letters, went unaddressed by Kwong Tung Foods.

But last week, a problem that dragged on for almost eight years came to end in 48 hours when the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Kwong Tung Foods Inc.

beansprouts_406x250The consent decree is being enforced against Kwong Tung Foods doing business as Canton Foods; the firm’s president and owner, Vieta C. Wang; and vice president, Juney H. Wang, to prevent the distribution of adulterated noodles and sprouts.

Department of Justice attorneys filed a complaint on July 14, in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota at FDA’s request.   The complaint alleged that Kwong Tung Foods violated the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by causing noodles and sprouts to be adulterated in that they have been prepared, packed and/or held under insanitary conditions whereby the food may have become contaminated with filth or have been rendered injurious to health.

According to the complaint, the insanitary conditions included failure to exclude pests and rodents from the facility, failure to maintain equipment and failure to ensure adequate employee sanitation.

“Kwong Tung Foods was repeatedly warned about the insanitary conditions at its Minneapolis food facility,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively to protect consumers from adulterated food and enforce our nation’s food safety laws.”

In conjunction with the filing of the complaint, the defendants agreed to be bound by a permanent injunction.  As part of the settlement, the defendants represented that they have ceased receiving, preparing, processing, packing, holding, or distributing any type of food at or from any location.  Under the permanent injunction, if the defendants seek to resume such activity, they must take specific steps to improve the firm’s manufacturing practices, and then receive written approval from FDA.

According to the complaint, in October 2015, FDA inspected Kwong Tung Foods’ facility, located at 1840 E. 38th Street in Minneapolis, and observed numerous insanitary practices, including the defendants’ failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination and maintain buildings in good repair.

USDistrctCourtMinn_406x250 Specifically, according to the complaint, FDA observed evidence of live and dead pests and rodents in production rooms, a black mold-like substance and debris on production equipment, inadequate employee sanitation practices, and potential cross-contamination with major allergens.  In addition, FDA observed condensate dripping onto finished bean sprouts, according to the complaint.

FDA inspected Kwong Tung Foods’ facility twice in 2014.  As alleged in the complaint, FDA also observed failures to exclude pests from the facility and to adequately maintain equipment and employee sanitation practices.

Under federal law, food processors are required to comply with current good manufacturing practices provided by FDA regulation.  The complaint alleged that the defendants violated the law by causing food to become adulterated while it was held for sale after shipment of one or more of its components in interstate commerce.

The government is represented by Trial Attorney Alistair Reader of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bahram Samie of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota. They were assisted by Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement Jennifer Kang of the Food and Drug Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Health and Human Services.

 

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More sick, 20 hospitalized in Chicago E. coli outbreak

The number of people sickened in an E. coli outbreak traced to a suburban Chicago restaurant continues to increase, with 65 now confirmed. Twenty of the victims’ symptoms were so severe they were admitted to hospitals.

Public health officials have not yet determined the root cause of the outbreak, which was traced to the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill location on 26th Street in the suburb of Bridgeport. The restaurant remains closed, according to Matt Smith, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

logo Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill“As part of our comprehensive investigation, we have taken and tested numerous samples from the restaurant and have tested staff,” Smith said Thursday. He did not say whether the department had the test results yet.

It remains unknown when exactly the health department became aware of the outbreak. The department posted a news release about the outbreak July 1, but has not posted an update since then.

The restaurant’s owners voluntarily closed the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill, according to the July 1 news release. A second Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill on North Marshfield was also voluntarily closed, but the health department cleared it and the owners reopened.

At least two Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill customers who became ill and had to be hospitalized after eating food from the 26th Street location have filed civil lawsuits seeking compensation.

In their lawsuits, the two victims reported eating food from the restaurant on June 22 and June 24, respectively. A third victim who was hospitalized with the outbreak strain of E. coli told Chicago’s CBS News affiliate she ate at the restaurant during the last week of June.

Chicago public health officials continue to urge people to seek immediate medical attention if they ate food from the restaurant and later developed symptoms of E. coli infection.

Generally symptoms develop within five to seven days of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In otherwise healthy adults symptoms usually include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting.

“Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening,” according to the CDC. “Around 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

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Organic Produce Summit has tremendous debut

MONTEREY, CA — The inaugural Organic Produce Summit, held here July 13-14, was a resounding success with a sold-out trade show and attendance roster, standing-room only seminars, thought-provoking featured speakers and a trade show floor buzzing with activity.

“Have you ever seen a trade show with more excitement,” asked Dave Moore of Earthbound Farms, the San Juan Bautista, CA-based company that was a pioneer in organic produce production. “It reminds me of a party in high school where everyone hangs in the kitchen.”

Moore was speaking of the crowded aisles, which did seem to have a party atmosphere, and didn’t bother anybody, especially the exhibitors like Earthbound.

Tonya Antle, another organic produce pioneer who is now a principal at Salinas, CA-based Tanimura & Antle, served as mistress of ceremonies during the two-hour keynote session that featured four diverse speakers. Antle beamed as she remembered the early days of organic produce and surveyed the packed room that gathered to hear these speakers.

After Chad Hagen, a noted organic industry devotee, made his presentation, Antle said she felt like a “proud mother” as she gave the speaker his start in the business about 25 years ago.

And after listening to Organic Trade Association Chief Executive Officer Laura Batcha wax poetic about the value of the organic shopper, Antle noted that it was great to have statistics backing up what the early pioneers seemed to know intrinsically — that buyers of organic produce buy more produce than the average shopper.

The summit, which began with a reception on Wednesday, July 13, and continued through a morning of seminars and an afternoon trade show the following day, did have a buzz as it is hard to deny that this segment of the industry is amazingly passionate about the organic sector. Antle revealed that the trade show had 75 different companies exhibiting and that there were more than 800 attendees, representing 100 buying groups and 50,000 grocery stores.

The main keynote speaker was noted author Mark Bittman, a well-known advocate of the consumption of “real food.” Bittman opened his remarks by opining that he was speaking to the “good guys.” Perhaps capturing an unannounced underlying theme of the show, Bittman focused on the “real food” nature of organic produce as its main advantage, rather than the fact that it is organic. He noted that “organic” junk food is still junk food, and is not good for you, while saying that fruits and vegetables — conventional or organic — should be the basis of every diet. He called organic produce a subset of the bigger category of real food, which he is on a mission to promote.

Batcha of the OTA touted a similar theme in her speech. An unabashed advocate for organic produce and food in general, Batcha ticked off a litany of statistics proving that the organic category is being driven by organic produce (about one-third of all organic food sales). She noted that 50 percent of organic produce buyers are millennial parents, and 51 percent of all households do purchase organic produce during a year.

“Retailers who sell more organic produce, sell more produce overall,” she said.

But she also said that the majority of organic buyers will choose an alternative produce item if the product they are shopping for is not available in an organic SKU.

While there is a small number of passionate organic produce shoppers who won’t buy conventional produce, Batcha said the vast majority (98 percent) are crossovers. The OTA’s advice to retailers is that a positive message touting organic produce is much more effective than a negative messaging denigrating conventional produce.

The show seemed to have the same vibe as the majority of exhibitors and attendees appeared to be from the mainstream produce industry, buying and selling both organic and conventional produce.

However, seminars earlier in the day were clearly devoted to specific organic produce topics. A trio of retailers discussed the best way to merchandise organic produce, while a trio of shippers talked about many of the challenges in attempting to fill the growing demand for organic produce. There is real concern about how supply can keep up with demand.

Another session was devoted to trends in organic consumption, while a final session dealt with the role organic produce plays in e-commerce retail produce sales.

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What’s big in the organic produce sector?

While the booming $ 13 billion organic fresh produce marketplace continues to attract attention from consumers and traders alike, certain products have performed more strongly than others. Organic Produce Summit held in Monterey, California this week, Organic Trade Association (OTA) CEO Laura Batcha gave the lowdown on some key trends to watch.

The OTA had previously revealed the strong growth rates seen for organic produce in its industry survey released in May, but in Monterey Batcha drew attention to more revealing insights.

She said more than half of all households in the United States now purchase organic produce, and findings from Nielsen show today’s organic produce shopper tends to be more kid-focused than the average produce shopper.

Additionally, the vast majority of these enthusiastic organic produce buyers, at 77%, are going to their favorite grocery store or supermarket chain to buy their organic fruits and vegetables.

Within organic produce there are some very strong categories in their own right, particularly organic bananas which grew 33% year-on-year to US$ 165 million, and organic value-added veggies grew 54% to almost US$ 150 million.

She added high growth rates had also been seen in organic blackberries (+61%), organic salad greens and baby carrots (+11%) and organic Pink Lady apples (+96%).

“The organic produce market is growing and strong, and it is driving trends in produce innovation across the board,” Batcha said.

The U.S. organic industry saw its largest dollar gain ever in 2015, adding US$ 4.2 billion in sales, with organic produce sales accounting for 36% of the US$ 39.7 billion U.S. organic food market.

Almost 13 percent of all the produce sold in the United States now is organic.

“We are excited to be sharing these numbers and findings on the rapidly growing organic produce sector.

“The more we know about the market and what consumers want, the better the organic produce grower, distributor and retailer can respond to meet the needs of today’s food buyer. Understanding the organic produce consumer will drive the future growth of the sector.”

Batcha said the findings bear important insights for retailers looking to draw more shoppers to the fresh produce section, as the booming demand for organic produce will spill over into purchases of conventional produce.

“Data show that the organic shopper is an extremely health-conscious consumer who is completely dedicated to eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said.

“Organic is a top choice because of the confidence in organic as the choice to avoid foods grown with toxic and persistent pesticides.

“Because of this health-driven commitment retailers should not be afraid to differentiate organic produce on their store shelves.

“Shoppers recognize the USDA Organic seal and respond to positive messaging about what organic delivers, but at the end of the day they want to fill their carts with farm fresh foods — benefiting the entire produce section of the store.”

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Animal rights mean no second chance for downer calves

vealcalve_406x250For the veal calf headed to market, it’s a distinction without a difference. If all goes according to plan, the animal will go to slaughter without incident, which means the producer will be happy. If the veal calf, however, falls down and cannot get up, the animal will be “promptly euthanized,” which means the Humane Society of the U.S. and other animal rights groups will be happy.

Currently veal calves that fall down and cannot get up are given time to see if they can rise from a recumbent position and walk after they’ve been given time to rest or a place to warm up. Then, if USDA veterinarians find they are free from disease, they can be sent down the chute to the “knock box” for slaughter as human food.

But the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and others have long viewed the second chance at slaughter as a “loophole” and have kept up the pressure to eliminate it. The change means any veal calves that fall down will have to be destroyed with the economic cost falling on the producer.

The annual economic impact analysis shows the cost for the veal industry will range between $ 2,368 and $ 161,404 per year. HSUS says closing the “loophole” gives producers a financial incentive to treat calves better through the slaughter process.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would save between 70.5 and 428 hours in agency time that is now going to “downer veal” re-inspections to see if the animals might get up and therefore be fit for slaughter as human food.

“FSIS is dedicated to ensuring the veal calves presented for slaughter at FSIS-inspected facilities are treated humanely,” said USDA Administrator Al Almanza. “Prohibiting the slaughter of all non-ambulatory veal calves will continue this commitment and improve compliance with the Human Methods of Slaughter Act.”

FSIS found that while cattle younger than 30 months do not present a serious risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, veal calves are vulnerable to “other systemic and metabolic diseases and and injury because of inadequate immunoglobulin transfer, nutritional inadequacies of an all-liquid iron-deficient diet, activity restriction and stress.”

It said veal calves are “acutely susceptible to enteritis, which is the inflammation of the small intestine caused by infection that may lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and dehydration.” FSIS said under the new rule, it will eliminate the time that was being taken to see if calves are non-ambulatory because they are tired or cold.

Animal agriculture groups said the existing system is more humane because it gives the animals time to rest and gain warmth.

Prior to 2009, FSIS used a case-by-case review to determine if a “downer” cow could be accepted for slaughter. After adult downer cows were banned, HSUS petitioned to eliminate downer veal calves, claiming the failure to require immediate euthanasia is an incentive for abusive conduct because a non-ambulatory disabled calf is worthless unless slaughtered.

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DNE kicks off Australian citrus season

DNE World Fruit LLC kicked off its 2013 Australian summer citrus program with the recent arrival of the first vessel into the port of Long Beach in California.

The season will run from late June through October starting with Daisies and Navels. Daisies will peak on size 70s followed by 54s. Peak promotion period for Daisies will run early July through early August.

Australian Navels will begin arriving early July but due to intermittent rains heavier volume won’t arrive until later in July.

“The quality has been excellent in the packing sheds in Australia,” said Stu Monaghan, Australian citrus program manager for DNE. “We’re seeing high color and great flavor right from the start from each of the growing regions. Peak sizing will be 56s followed by 48s then 72s. We’ll see that shift to higher volumes of 72s and fewer 48s in our August arrivals.”

DNE recommends promoting Aussie Navels from late July through the first week of October. Minneolas will be ready to promote the second week of July through September. Tangelo peak sizes will be 53 followed by 63 and packed in 10-kilo cartons. Three-pound bags are available throughout the program.

As the back-to-school timeframe approaches, Cara Cara Navels and blood oranges will be included in DNE’s Australian citrus lineup.

DNE, a leading importer of Australian citrus, plans to bring in more than 500,000 cartons of Navels for the season along with specialty varieties of Daisies, Minneolas, Cara Caras and blood oranges.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Weis Introduces Fan-Created Ice Cream Flavor

SUNBURY, Pa. — Chocolate Covered Strawberry is the newest private-label ice cream flavor sold under the Weis Quality brand.

The flavor was submitted by Heather Simmons of Muncy, Pa., who won Weis Markets’ Be the Next Flavor Creator Contest.

Simmons was one of 400 entrants who submitted suggestions to Weis Markets’ Facebook page. The company narrowed the field to the top three flavors which also included S’mores ice cream and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel ice cream. More than half of voters (51%) selected Chocolate Covered Strawberry ice cream.

Weis unveiled the new flavor during an ice cream social at its Muncy, Pa. store Friday. In addition to having Simmons’ flavor sold in all 164 of its stores, Weis awarded her one year’s supply of Weis Quality Ice Cream.

Supermarket News

Weis Introduces Fan-Created Ice Cream Flavor

SUNBURY, Pa. — Chocolate Covered Strawberry is the newest private-label ice cream flavor sold under the Weis Quality brand.

The flavor was submitted by Heather Simmons of Muncy, Pa., who won Weis Markets’ Be the Next Flavor Creator Contest.

Simmons was one of 400 entrants who submitted suggestions to Weis Markets’ Facebook page. The company narrowed the field to the top three flavors which also included S’mores ice cream and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel ice cream. More than half of voters (51%) selected Chocolate Covered Strawberry ice cream.

Weis unveiled the new flavor during an ice cream social at its Muncy, Pa. store Friday. In addition to having Simmons’ flavor sold in all 164 of its stores, Weis awarded her one year’s supply of Weis Quality Ice Cream.

Supermarket News

Weis Introduces Fan-Created Ice Cream Flavor

SUNBURY, Pa. — Chocolate Covered Strawberry is the newest private-label ice cream flavor sold under the Weis Quality brand.

The flavor was submitted by Heather Simmons of Muncy, Pa., who won Weis Markets’ Be the Next Flavor Creator Contest.

Simmons was one of 400 entrants who submitted suggestions to Weis Markets’ Facebook page. The company narrowed the field to the top three flavors which also included S’mores ice cream and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel ice cream. More than half of voters (51%) selected Chocolate Covered Strawberry ice cream.

Weis unveiled the new flavor during an ice cream social at its Muncy, Pa. store Friday. In addition to having Simmons’ flavor sold in all 164 of its stores, Weis awarded her one year’s supply of Weis Quality Ice Cream.

Supermarket News

Price Chopper Creates Shopper/Digital Marketing Dept.

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Price Chopper Supermarkets here Thursday announced the creation of a Shopper and Digital Marketing Department that will concentrate exclusively on building shopper marketing programs and leading the company’s digital strategy. 


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This department will be headed up by Heidi Reale, director of shopper and digital marketing. The Shopper and Digital Marketing team includes Maritza Santos, senior shopper marketing coordinator; Meagan Handford, brand marketing manager; and Megan Finin, digital marketing coordinator.

The team will focus on building incremental sales and customer loyalty through comprehensive marketing and merchandising programs for key selling occasions and themes; it will use the company’s digital properties and traditional marketing vehicles. 

Read more: Marketing, IT Form Tech Tag Team

In her new role, Reale will be responsible for directing all shopper marketing programs and advancing Price Chopper’s digital strategy, asset development and execution. Reale has been with the company since 1984 and has held numerous positions in marketing, consumer research and e-commerce. 

Santos will coordinate shopper marketing programs with Price Chopper’s consumer packaged goods partners; she has been with the company since 2008 most recently as marketing coordinator. Handford, who has been with the company since 2004, most recently as brand manager,  will work with Price Chopper’s CPG partners to develop shopper marketing plans designed work in synergy with Price Chopper’s overall brand strategy. Finin will coordinate all digital marketing for Price Chopper; she has been with the company since 2011, most recently as marketing coordinator.   

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Listeria outbreak prompts caramel apple recall

Two companies have announced recalls for their caramel apples as a result of the current outbreak of Listeriosis. Both companies — California Snack Foods and Happy Apples — cited Bidart Bros. as one of their apple suppliers.

The Center for Disease Control has noted 29 illnesses in 10 states linked to the outbreak, and it has advised consumers not to eat commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel apples until more is known.

“We recently received notice from Bidart Bros., one of our apple suppliers to our California facility, that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility,” California Snack Foods said in a press release.

California Snack Foods’ voluntary recall is of “California Snack Foods” brand caramel apples with a best-use-by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28. The product was sold in single packs and three packs, and each package will have a best-use-by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

The Happy Apples recall is for product with similar best-use-by dates: Aug. 25-Nov. 23. Happy Apple caramel apples are sold in single pack, three packs, four packs and eight packs, and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

According to California Snack foods, the company used the last of the Bidart Bros. apples in the first week of November, and they should no longer be available in stores. Happy Apples ceased its operations at the end of October as part of the company’s normal, seasonal shut down, and the caramel apples produced are no longer available in stores.

“However, out of an abundance of caution and concern for consumer safety, we are recommending that consumers follow the advice of the CDC and remove any caramel apples you may have in storage and dispose of them in a secure container to avoid potential contamination in animals,” each company stated in a press release.

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

Young entrepreneurs innovate in green energy with an in situ organic waste digester

Young Mexican entrepreneurs develop a bio-digestion plant capable of generating electricity from organic waste in the market of the Nopal Collection Center in Mexico City.

The company SUEMA, Sustainability in Energy and Environment, created by Jahir Mojica Hernández, Carlos Apipilhuasco Gonzalez Mejía and Nelly Rodriguez, designed a system for waste treatment and decided to implement it in the market sector due to the amount of waste they generate.

The plant will be located in Milpa Alta, a delegation in the south of Mexico City, and process three to five tons of waste per day operating 24 hours to generate its own electricity and illuminate the market. Thus benefiting from 65 tons of organic waste per month. The treatment plant will also nurish from sunlight.

Having an on-site plant will avoid transporting organic waste to the Bordo Poniente, city’s wasteland where it is processed, avoiding an extra expenditure of up to 640 pesos per tonne per day. With the capture of harmful greenhouse gases energy will be generated and an soil improver will be produced, which will be delivered to the farmers.

The soil improver, which is equivalent to a mixture of nutrients up to 600 kilograms per day, generates higher quality products, making the development attractive for traders, which will help in growing and marketing.

“The plant will improve competitiveness, image and increase the number of customers. It is intended to get people more interested in going to the market instead of a convenience store,” said the CEO of the company, Jahir Mojica.

“The public markets are entities of economy for the city and main supply centers for poor people; however, they have weakened against major foreign consortia, which often define the price of commodities,.”

SUEMA decided to use the Nopal Collection Center in Milpa Alta as host for the natural energy production plant, because the delegation has the first place in the waste separation program of the city; however, it is the one that receives less budget for infrastructure. “Tenants separate waste very well, it is a deeply rooted practice in this area,” said Carlos Apipilhuasco, director of Engineering.

Another achievement of the company is the construction of an innovation research center, with three research areas: soil improvement, thermal use of solar energy and bioenergy. (Agencia ID)

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Investigación y Desarrollo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ground Beef in School Lunches Meets Stricter Microbial Standards

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report published last week, the ground beef supplied to school lunches contains “significantly less” Salmonella contamination than products sold on the commercial market.

USDA’s Economic Research Service examined the impact of food-safety standards imposed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Because ground beef is a staple of school menus and has suffered a number of product recalls in recent years, AMS pays particular attention to the food safety of ground beef. The report addresses the need for information regarding economic incentives for suppliers to improve the food safety of their products.

The researchers found that the food-safety performance of active suppliers exceeded the performance of inactive ones (meaning they sought approval to supply the NSLP but did not bid for contracts) and commercial market suppliers, “suggesting that AMS standards encourage superior food safety performance.”

AMS and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which regulates ground beef sold in general commerce, have different tolerance levels for microbial testing and testing frequency and for certain slaughter operation procedures.

In order to adhere to AMS’ strict tolerances for Salmonella and other potentially harmful pathogens, ground beef suppliers have to make costly investments in sanitation and cleaning. The companies recoup the costs through higher bid prices, but they still have to bid low enough to be selected by AMS.

The research found that inactive AMS suppliers exceeded FSIS’ tolerance for Salmonella, but that they were worse than all other suppliers on tests that were one-half to one-tenth the FSIS tolerance.

Some evidence suggests that AMS-approved suppliers consider their food-safety performance before bidding on contracts to supply the NSLP. Those suppliers who may not be confident that they would meet AMS food-safety standards and don’t bid then sell their ground beef in the commercial market to other buyers.

Food Safety News

Ralphs pops cork on wine bar

Consumers in downtown Los Angeles can stop into the local Ralphs Fresh Fare either to shop or to lift a glass or two at a new in-store wine-and-beer bar.

The bar, located off to one side in the center of the 49,000-square-foot store, is designed to enhance the customer experience moreso than to generate grocery sales, Kendra Doyel, VP, government and public affairs, for Ralphs Grocery Co., told SN.

“What we try to do is offer a total experience for customers, no matter what the neighborhood is,” she told SN. “Adding a wine bar is not necessarily intended to generate sales — we simply want to do something different and determine if customers want it.”

Doyel said Ralphs has not determined what kind of traffic the bar is drawing or if it is resulting in additional sales.

The bar, which seats nine, is open daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., with the biggest crowds between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Doyel noted. It serves beer and wine in 2-oz. or 4-oz. glasses, but no liquor. 

Ralphs, a division of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., operates the perishables-oriented Fresh Fare format at 54 Southern California locations. Although the beer-and-wine bar is a first for Ralphs, it is modeled on similar offerings in other Kroger divisions, Doyel noted.

The Fresh Fare opened in 2007 in an urban area in downtown Los Angeles that draws from residents in surrounding high rises as well as from people who work in the area. The bar was added as part of a $ 2.5-million remodel that began last summer and was completed in November.

Space for the bar was taken from the deli area of the store, Doyel noted.

The company uses its own employees to operate the bar, based on the experiences of other Kroger operations and the expertise of its wine and beer buyers, Doyel said.

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