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19 Recent Salmonella Cases Linked to MA Restaurant

State and local health department officials are investigating 19 Salmonella cases linked to a restaurant in Holyoke, MA.

Brian Fitzgerald, Holyoke’s health director, told a local TV station that officials were trying to figure out why people were apparently sickened after eating at the Delaney House in Holyoke between Nov. 11 and 15, 2014.

Investigative reports from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicate that 19 confirmed Salmonella cases and additional potential cases were traced back to 10 different events held at the Delaney House.

The restaurant has not been shut down, although the state asked local health officials to order the management to comply with several alleged food code violations.

Five food handlers and one non-food handling employee at the restaurant also tested positive for Salmonella. Some of the infected food handlers reportedly worked at events outside of the Delaney House, including the Log Cabin, a take-out restaurant, and various catered events.

Peter Rosskothen, a co-owner of the restaurant, told local media that the management has cooperated with the investigation and that the problem appeared to be limited to the Nov. 11-15 period.

“We feel awful about this, but I know for a fact that no one has been related to us with this issue since Nov. 15th. I feel really comfortable that whatever came to us left us even before the investigation started,” Rosskothen said. He added that no new cases had been reported since the investigation began.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. It is usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces or by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products.

Food Safety News

With Recent Victories, Movement to Label GMOs Gains Steam

More than six months after a big defeat in California, the movement to label foods containing genetically modified organisms appears to be picking up steam across the country.

In the past three weeks, Connecticut and Maine passed labeling bills, the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the first time approved a non-GMO label claim for meat products, Chipotle began voluntarily labeling menu items containing GMO ingredients online, and, perhaps most notably, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration funding to label genetically modified salmon if the agency approves the fish.

These are all small steps compared to what California’s Proposition 37 would have accomplished – since that state consumes about 8 percent of all groceries in the United States, some speculated that food giants would have reformulated their products to avoid creating two supply chains – but the string of victories has many in the so-called ‘Right to Know’ movement confident the tide is turning in their favor.

“It’s simply a matter of time,” said Scott Faber, who serves as executive director of Just Label It, a national advocacy campaign. Faber, who is vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, used to be a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which actively lobbies against mandatory labeling initiatives.

Faber believes mandated GMO labeling is inevitable, in part because the food industry would prefer federal standards over a patchwork of state laws.

“I think companies are starting to realize the fight is worse than the label,” he added, noting that campaigns against labeling can harm consumer confidence for certain brands. Some consumers, for example, who buy brands like Cascadian Farm, Kashi, Horizon Organic, Muir Glen, and Odwalla were outraged last fall after learning the companies’ corporate owners had helped fund the effort to defeat Prop 37.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement that it remains opposed to “special mandatory labeling for food products containing genetically modified ingredients because these labels could mislead consumers into believing that ingredients from genetically engineered plants are somehow different or unsafe or unhealthy – in clear contradiction of scientific fact.”

GMA points out that ingredients derived from GM plants have been widely studied and are considered safe by FDA and groups like the American Medical Association. According to the association, foods with genetically modified ingredients make up 70 to 8o percent of the products on grocery store shelves “because they require fewer pesticides, help foods have a longer shelf life and keep production costs down” which reduces food costs for consumers.

The group has been actively engaged in the labeling issue and contributed $ 2 million to help defeat Prop 37, which ultimately went down 51 to 48 percent. In total, $ 9.2 million was spent in support of the proposition and $ 46 million was spent opposing it.

In a speech last summer to the American Soybean Association, GMA CEO Pam Bailey said, “Defeating the initative is GMA’s single highest priority this year,” according to an account in the Hagstrom Report. “We have worked with you on what we consider to be valuable technology, but in the past year we have seen an increase in the rhetoric against it.”

Bailey said the current movement for labeling is stronger than past attempts. “Social media is feeding this effort and making it more difficult to confront and more powerful,” she said, according to the report.

While momentum may by building for labeling advocates, their recent victories come with significant caveats.

The bills approved in Connecticut and Maine only kick in if other states, including a neighboring state, pass labeling requirements. Vermont’s house passed a bill to require labeling GMOs in May but the state senate is not expected to take up the same law until next year. Labeling legislation or ballot initiatives have been introduced in 25 other states, but it’s not clear which states might actually adopt them.

Baylen Linnekin, the executive director of Keep Food Legal, a libertarian group that advocates against government involvement in the food arena, said he thinks mandatory labeling is unnecessary and still faces significant challenges going forward.

“I would not say it’s inevitable,” said Linnekin, explaining that even if labeling laws succeed at the state level they would be challenged in court.

In a recent column for Reason, Linnekin argued the government should stay out of the labeling business: “The truth is that most federal labeling schemes are flawed at best, and often involve conflicts and compromises that rob meaning from the label.”

On the other hand, Linnekin applauds the voluntary actions by companies like Whole Foods, which announced earlier this year it will require GMO labeling in its stores by 2018, and McDonalds and Starbucks, which both recently adopted calorie labeling on their menus.

The non-GMO label approved by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service last week – the first GMO-related claim allowed on U.S. meat, poultry and some processed egg packages – and Chipotle’s decision to note which foods contain GMOs on their online menu are prime examples of voluntary moves to meet niche consumer demands.

According to the New York Times, FSIS approved the label – which can be used on meat and liquid eggs from animals fed only non-GMO feed – after three meat companies petitioned for similar claims. The claim will be certified by the Non-GMO Project.

Private sector labels to help consumers avoid products containing GM ingredients have taken off in recent years. The Non-GMO Project, the leading third-party certifier in North America for non-GMO claims, said interest in certification has increased four-fold in the past year alone as Prop 37 and Whole Foods announcement has raised consumer awareness about GMOs. The group now certifies more than 10,000 products.

“These days you can walk into a gas station and find Non-GMO verified products,” said Courtney Pineau, assistant director of the project.

Despite the explosion in voluntary labeling, advocates want a national law.

While there are labeling bills in both chambers, no one expects Congress will approve them anytime soon. In May, the U.S. Senate voted on a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have required GMO labeling nationwide, but the measure failed by a vote of 71 to 27.

The closest that advocates have come to mandatory, national GMO labeling of any kind, was last week when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 15 to 14 to give the FDA $ 150,000 to implement labeling for GM salmon if the agency gives the fish a green light, which it is expected to do.

FDA has said it would not require the GM salmon to be labeled, which is consistent with the agency’s policy that GM foods are not materially different from non-GM foods. Some advocates think this decision has driven more consumers to support labeling efforts.

A Change.org petition asking FDA to require labeling for the modified salmon garnered nearly 25,000 signatures and consumer campaigns pressured Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Target, Giant Eagle, and 50 other retailers to promise they wont sell the fish even if the FDA approves it.

A handful of U.S. lawmakers, mostly from states like Alaska, Washington and Oregon, whose wild salmon fisheries are highly lucrative, have opposed approving the GM salmon and have argued that if the fish is approved it should be labeled as a GMO. The labeling amendment that succeeded in the Senate Appropriations Committee was co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). In the House, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has made similar attempts at mandating labeling for GM salmon.

Colin O’Neil, a regulatory analyst for the Center for Food Safety, an anti-GMO advocacy group, called the amendment “a big step forward for labeling in this country.”

The group said it’s not aware of efforts to strip the Begich-Murkowski amendment from the appropriations bill, but said that it would be closely monitoring the bill when it eventually goes to conference to be reconciled with the House version because “we have not seen something like this get that far before.”

Food Safety News

Is Bill Gates buying up farms in Vidalia? Documents and growers link Microsoft founder to recent sales

VIDALIA, GA — It has been rumored and discussed on the streets here for months that the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or Cascade Investment LLC, the Gates’ private trust located in Kirkland, WA, is actively seeking to purchase producing farms in the Vidalia area, renowned for its sweet onions and the center of that industry.

Already, two entities — Coggins Farms in Lake Park, GA, and more recently Stanley Farms and its subsidiaries in Lyons, GA — have been sold and, while the trail is murky, documents and interviews with other Vidalia-area growers link the purchases to Kirkland and seemingly to Gates.Gates-1Vidalia, GA, produces the most famous onion in the world. What growers here want to know is why Bill Gates seemingly wants to be in the sweet onion business — and why he apparently does not want that fact widely known. (Photo by Chip Carter)

The Produce News recently obtained a copy of a letter written by Stanley Farms General Manager Vince Stanley to vendors and suppliers dated Oct. 1 and headlined, “Re: Change of Ownership.” An included W-9 IRS form showed that while the business name of the operation is Stanley Produce Georgia LLC, the owner is the Mt. Hood Administration Trust, with a listed address of a post office box in Kirkland. There is no readily available information on the trust.

Stanley wrote, “On Oct. 1, Stanley Produce Georgia LLC purchased the interests of [Stanley Farms subsidiaries] Vidalia Valley, Manning Farms and Vidalia Onion Farms. Please accept this letter as notice of such a change. The Stanley Family wants to personally let you, our valued customer, know that the entire staff you have come to rely on will 100 percent stay in place and will only add quality folks to better serve you!”

One visitor to the Stanley Farms Facebook page posted two questions about the sale, the second of which read, “Is or has Bill Gates already bought your farm business via Cascade Investments…? Seems he already bought Coggins Farms awhile back.”

Neither post had received a reply as of Oct. 13, when The Produce News‘ queries regarding the sale began; by mid-day Oct. 14, both posts had been removed.

The Produce News contacted the Gates Foundation, Cottonwood AG (based in Naperville, IL and thought to be an agricultural assets management operation for Gates’ interests) and others Oct. 13, but there were no replies to requests for information or interviews.

Derek Yurosek of Cottonwood AG, whose name has been mentioned by several Vidalia growers as a participant in some of the proceedings and whose LinkedIn profile shows a Kirkland address, forwarded The Produce News‘ email seeking information to several other Cottonwood AG email addresses and others from Los Arboles Management LLC, which also has a listed address of a post office box in Kirkland, albeit a different one. His message atop the email simply read, “Please do not respond.” It is unclear whether Yurosek intended to copy The Produce News on that email.

While the Gates connection is still just rumor to some, others claim more intimate knowledge of the dealings.

“I’ve actually met with them,” said one well-placed grower who asked to remain anonymous.

Gates’ agricultural interests are well-known. He has been an active and ongoing crusader in developing countries, helping provide locals with means of improving subsistence farming operations.

What everyone in Vidalia would like to know is why Gates seemingly wants to be in the sweet onion business — and why he apparently does not want that fact widely known if that is indeed the case.

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

Recent Lapses in Global Food Safety Worry North American Consumers

Stomachs in China have been turning after a recent food scandal at the processing plant of a major supplier of Chinese fast-food restaurants.

A Chinese investigative television program exposed the conditions at a U.S.-owned meat processor that supplies major brands such as McDonald’s and KFC. The exposé showed workers at the processing plant picking up meat from the floor and mixing expired meat with fresh meat.

The parent company that owns the facility at the center of this scandal described the case as “appalling.” Most troubling, “The incident highlights the difficulty in ensuring quality and safety along the supply chain in China,” stated a reporter from Reuters.

This isn’t the first such scandal to rock the fast-food industry. In 2012, the issue was chicken nuggets that contained significant amounts of antibiotics. Other recent food-safety concerns have included fox meat passed off as donkey meat and expired duck meat.

Chinese Middle Class Demands Safer Food and Beverage Products

Although China is still a developing nation, we don’t need to be reminded that it is also a massive economy that has a global impact. Half a billion people in China are middle class; that’s nearly twice the population of the United States. Yes, there are some differences in consumption patterns, but, as Peter Hall, chief economist for Export Development Canada (EDC), states, “While Asian demand for luxury goods may be fettered by global economic decline, demand for food is much less elastic. Want proof? Over the latest economic downturn, Canada’s food exports to emerging markets has grown from a mere 14% of agricultural exports in 2002 to over 30% today.”

That means that, like any other place in the world, if someone has lost confidence in the quality of fast food due to an incident that put you and your family’s health at risk, you probably have an inclination to pick up some food from the grocery store that you know is safe and resort to cooking at home for a while. But what if you are watching a Chinese food scandal unfold from the other side of the world? Should North Americans be concerned that similar practices might take place here?

Are Consumers in North America Right to Worry about Food Scares Similar to the Recent Ones in China?

Let’s face it, food scandals can and do happen everywhere in the world. However, food systems in advanced nations like the U.S. and Canada greatly limit such abuses and allow for almost immediate containment of tainted food. Gordon Hayburn, director of food safety at Trophy Foods Inc., offered me his own personal opinion on food safety, mentioning the apparent lack of trust among the general public, which, like everything else, is usually exacerbated through social media sharing.

“It is unfortunate,” he says. “Humans are the only species I have ever seen that will at times willfully contaminate their own food supply. But if you consider the fact that in North America there are nearly 300 million people, then in theory close to 1 billion meals are consumed on a daily basis. So if you take that into account, there are really not that many incidents where food is contaminated. Furthermore, while I cannot speak on behalf of developing countries, I really do believe that the vast majority of food safety employees are doing their best to uphold food safety standards.”

It’s a Two-Way Street: Governments Need to Enforce Food Safety, and Consumers Need to Better Educate Themselves

Citing a number of food safety and security cases, Gordon explains that, while first-world countries are faced with the challenge of better enforcing food safety standards, consumers also need to become more educated and practice using their common sense. For example, Gordon draws attention to several recent cases where bakeries and food companies in Canada and the U.S. have made false claims stating their products are either “organic” or “gluten-free.” Trophy Foods Inc. recently went through a rigorous process to become certified gluten-free, but without consumers educating themselves on what to look for on packaging, it actually disincentivizes companies from making an investment in a legitimate certification process.

On the other side of the coin, there is also a need for more inspectors, and that’s not just in the U.S. and Canada; it’s a problem that is facing most first-world countries. There are well-written laws, but not enough food safety inspectors to adequately enforce them. Just like triage in a hospital, inspectors will have to prioritize which cases receive immediate attention.

A Burgeoning Demand for Skilled Labor in Food Science and Technology

Another problem facing the food safety and security industry is that there are not enough young people being drawn to a profession in food sciences. Gordon explains, “I and my partner are actually not from Canada. My partner received a job offer first and I followed. Within one day, I found a job.”

In Canada, organizations such as the Food Processing Human Resources Council (FPHRC) are running programs like “Youth into Food Processing” to help gain interest from young people who are considering a career in the industry, along with offering a government wage subsidy program to help small- to mid-sized businesses with the expense of hiring a recent graduate into a food sciences position. Still, many industry experts say there isn’t enough being done to persuade young students to consider a career in food science.

Food Safety News

Recent Lapses in Global Food Safety Worry North American Consumers

Stomachs in China have been turning after a recent food scandal at the processing plant of a major supplier of Chinese fast-food restaurants.

A Chinese investigative television program exposed the conditions at a U.S.-owned meat processor that supplies major brands such as McDonald’s and KFC. The exposé showed workers at the processing plant picking up meat from the floor and mixing expired meat with fresh meat.

The parent company that owns the facility at the center of this scandal described the case as “appalling.” Most troubling, “The incident highlights the difficulty in ensuring quality and safety along the supply chain in China,” stated a reporter from Reuters.

This isn’t the first such scandal to rock the fast-food industry. In 2012, the issue was chicken nuggets that contained significant amounts of antibiotics. Other recent food-safety concerns have included fox meat passed off as donkey meat and expired duck meat.

Chinese Middle Class Demands Safer Food and Beverage Products

Although China is still a developing nation, we don’t need to be reminded that it is also a massive economy that has a global impact. Half a billion people in China are middle class; that’s nearly twice the population of the United States. Yes, there are some differences in consumption patterns, but, as Peter Hall, chief economist for Export Development Canada (EDC), states, “While Asian demand for luxury goods may be fettered by global economic decline, demand for food is much less elastic. Want proof? Over the latest economic downturn, Canada’s food exports to emerging markets has grown from a mere 14% of agricultural exports in 2002 to over 30% today.”

That means that, like any other place in the world, if someone has lost confidence in the quality of fast food due to an incident that put you and your family’s health at risk, you probably have an inclination to pick up some food from the grocery store that you know is safe and resort to cooking at home for a while. But what if you are watching a Chinese food scandal unfold from the other side of the world? Should North Americans be concerned that similar practices might take place here?

Are Consumers in North America Right to Worry about Food Scares Similar to the Recent Ones in China?

Let’s face it, food scandals can and do happen everywhere in the world. However, food systems in advanced nations like the U.S. and Canada greatly limit such abuses and allow for almost immediate containment of tainted food. Gordon Hayburn, director of food safety at Trophy Foods Inc., offered me his own personal opinion on food safety, mentioning the apparent lack of trust among the general public, which, like everything else, is usually exacerbated through social media sharing.

“It is unfortunate,” he says. “Humans are the only species I have ever seen that will at times willfully contaminate their own food supply. But if you consider the fact that in North America there are nearly 300 million people, then in theory close to 1 billion meals are consumed on a daily basis. So if you take that into account, there are really not that many incidents where food is contaminated. Furthermore, while I cannot speak on behalf of developing countries, I really do believe that the vast majority of food safety employees are doing their best to uphold food safety standards.”

It’s a Two-Way Street: Governments Need to Enforce Food Safety, and Consumers Need to Better Educate Themselves

Citing a number of food safety and security cases, Gordon explains that, while first-world countries are faced with the challenge of better enforcing food safety standards, consumers also need to become more educated and practice using their common sense. For example, Gordon draws attention to several recent cases where bakeries and food companies in Canada and the U.S. have made false claims stating their products are either “organic” or “gluten-free.” Trophy Foods Inc. recently went through a rigorous process to become certified gluten-free, but without consumers educating themselves on what to look for on packaging, it actually disincentivizes companies from making an investment in a legitimate certification process.

On the other side of the coin, there is also a need for more inspectors, and that’s not just in the U.S. and Canada; it’s a problem that is facing most first-world countries. There are well-written laws, but not enough food safety inspectors to adequately enforce them. Just like triage in a hospital, inspectors will have to prioritize which cases receive immediate attention.

A Burgeoning Demand for Skilled Labor in Food Science and Technology

Another problem facing the food safety and security industry is that there are not enough young people being drawn to a profession in food sciences. Gordon explains, “I and my partner are actually not from Canada. My partner received a job offer first and I followed. Within one day, I found a job.”

In Canada, organizations such as the Food Processing Human Resources Council (FPHRC) are running programs like “Youth into Food Processing” to help gain interest from young people who are considering a career in the industry, along with offering a government wage subsidy program to help small- to mid-sized businesses with the expense of hiring a recent graduate into a food sciences position. Still, many industry experts say there isn’t enough being done to persuade young students to consider a career in food science.

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

Recent Greek strikes not as bad as previous incidents

Recent Greek strikes not as bad as previous incidents

Recent protests by striking civil servants in Greece may remind some of similar manifestations in past years, but the fallout from these incidents has not impacted trade within the country like previous strikes did.


“We don’t really feel an impact from the strikes,” said George Frangistas from Gefra. “There have been a couple of reactions from growers and from transport companies, but in reality, there have been no side effects.” Frangistas was referring to the road blocks and sometimes violent altercations that sprang up on Greece’s roads in previous years. But, unlike in past years, where manifestations seriously hampered the transport of fresh produce within the country, this year’s activities have not been major. But that’s not to say growers and shippers haven’t had other issues to deal with.


“Greece is in dire straits,” said Frangista. “People are sad and depressed, so they don’t want to do anything, and I think that’s why nothing serious has happened at the moment.” Poor morale probably has to do with poor economic conditions, which, in turn, have made for low domestic demand for fresh produce. In fact, Frangista noted that most produce that’s grown in Greece heads directly for the export market because of sluggish demand at home.


“Our company is 100 percent exports, so we’re not affected by the domestic situation,” said Frangista. “We focus on the big European supermarkets, so we haven’t felt the effects of the crisis.” But he also warned that the export market has significant barriers to entry for those wishing to escape bad conditions at home. While there might be produce available in Greece, it’s hard to set up the packing houses and trade relationships necessary to successfully export goods. Even if those things can be attained, Frangista noted that Europe can be a tough market to crack because of the relatively few large clients.


“Most retailers go with central buying, so there are only about 10 supermarket groups, so you’re really trying to sell to the same ten people all over Europe,” said Frangista. “They will listen to us about citrus, because we are experts in citrus, but they won’t buy kiwis from us, for example, because they already have experts in kiwis they buy from. So, in the end, Europe is not so big a market.”

For more information:

George Frangistas
Gefra
Tel: +30-210-9636382
Fax: +30-210-9607092
Email: [email protected]
www.gefra.gr
 

Publication date: 3/14/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Recent Greek strikes not as bad as previous incidents

Recent Greek strikes not as bad as previous incidents

Recent protests by striking civil servants in Greece may remind some of similar manifestations in past years, but the fallout from these incidents has not impacted trade within the country like previous strikes did.


“We don’t really feel an impact from the strikes,” said George Frangistas from Gefra. “There have been a couple of reactions from growers and from transport companies, but in reality, there have been no side effects.” Frangistas was referring to the road blocks and sometimes violent altercations that sprang up on Greece’s roads in previous years. But, unlike in past years, where manifestations seriously hampered the transport of fresh produce within the country, this year’s activities have not been major. But that’s not to say growers and shippers haven’t had other issues to deal with.


“Greece is in dire straits,” said Frangista. “People are sad and depressed, so they don’t want to do anything, and I think that’s why nothing serious has happened at the moment.” Poor morale probably has to do with poor economic conditions, which, in turn, have made for low domestic demand for fresh produce. In fact, Frangista noted that most produce that’s grown in Greece heads directly for the export market because of sluggish demand at home.


“Our company is 100 percent exports, so we’re not affected by the domestic situation,” said Frangista. “We focus on the big European supermarkets, so we haven’t felt the effects of the crisis.” But he also warned that the export market has significant barriers to entry for those wishing to escape bad conditions at home. While there might be produce available in Greece, it’s hard to set up the packing houses and trade relationships necessary to successfully export goods. Even if those things can be attained, Frangista noted that Europe can be a tough market to crack because of the relatively few large clients.


“Most retailers go with central buying, so there are only about 10 supermarket groups, so you’re really trying to sell to the same ten people all over Europe,” said Frangista. “They will listen to us about citrus, because we are experts in citrus, but they won’t buy kiwis from us, for example, because they already have experts in kiwis they buy from. So, in the end, Europe is not so big a market.”

For more information:

George Frangistas
Gefra
Tel: +30-210-9636382
Fax: +30-210-9607092
Email: [email protected]
www.gefra.gr
 

Publication date: 3/14/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Report: Problems Posed by Animal Agriculture Have Worsened in Recent Years

In the past five years, policies by the Obama administration and Congress have worsened the problems that animal agriculture poses to public health, the environment and animal welfare, according to a new report by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

The new report, released Tuesday, updates a 2008 one released by the commission detailing the state of American livestock production and its influence on several study areas, including public health.

That original report called for the government to implement specific changes such as banning the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals and implementing new systems to deal with industrial farm waste. But the commission now says that Congress and the administration have only made decisions that exacerbate those issues.

“The present system of producing food animals in the United States is not sustainable and presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food,” the report concludes.

The commission was created with a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The latter organization is associated with a number of initiatives focused on food systems and public health, including community food assessments and the “Meatless Monday” campaign.

To make its initial report, the commission says it examined technical reports from academic institutions across the country, listened to testimony from agriculture experts, and visited animal agriculture facilities in a number of major agriculture states. The authors say it was the first time the impacts of animal agriculture on public health, the environment and rural communities were systemically examined.

In its follow-up report, the commission reviewed progress made toward achieving its six key recommendations for better managing the 9.8 billion food animals raised and slaughtered in the U.S. each year.

Limited effort made on recommendations

One of the commission’s chief recommendations was to end the practice of giving farm animals non-therapeutic doses of antibiotic drugs useful to human medicine, a practice associated with the evolution and proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

“Non-therapeutic use” refers to delivering antibiotics to animals for any reason other than the treatment of disease. An estimated 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in animal agriculture, most of which is given to healthy animals to promote growth and prevent disease.

“We’re very concerned with recent developments of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter,” said Dr. Robert Martin, Food System Policy Director at Johns Hopkins and one of the report’s authors. “The reliance on these antibiotics is a crutch to compensate for overcrowding and poor environmental conditions at farms.”

While the commission did commend a recent ban on the off-label use of cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics, it criticized as ineffective the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approach of asking meat producers to voluntarily reduce their non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. The report suggests that “meaningful change” was not likely to occur in the near future.

Similarly, the commission recommended the curbing of arsenic-based drugs following evidence linking their use to dietary and environmental exposures to arsenic. Despite more mounting evidence of that link since 2008, FDA has not taken action to remove those drugs from the market, the report states.

In 2008, the commission also recommended mandatory animal tracking systems be implemented at farms to establish a disease outbreak tracing system, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s existing voluntary tracking system. Since then, however, the commission found little effort to implement more stringent tracking systems.

“Consequently, it is not expected that measurable changes in rates of foodborne illness resulting from contaminated animal products will be observed,” the report reads.

Weakened oversight of farm waste

Federal oversight of farm waste from animal agriculture has been weakened in the past five years since the release of the original report, the commission says. In particular, the report states that federal regulations on air and water pollution from farm waste has been limited, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency struggles to enforce laws intended to minimize farm-related pollutants.

Animal agriculture produces approximately 335 million tons of manure each year, according to USDA. Nutrients from that manure, in turn, can contaminate ground and surface waters or result in foodborne illness outbreaks if that manure is contaminated with foodborne pathogens and comes into contact directly or indirectly with crops, Martin said.

On the state level, the commission called efforts to regulate farm waste “mixed.” While some states implemented fees and penalties for farms that do not comply with regulations, other states transferred oversight to agriculture departments from environmental agencies and “attempted to limit state regulatory oversight and enforcement of existing laws.”

The commission also recommended the industry phase out intensive confinement of animals, such as swine gestation crates, battery cages for hens and tethered veal crates. The report called efforts by the Humane Society of the United States to end such practices “very encouraging,” but criticized efforts by some states to criminalize animal abuse whistleblowers through so-called “ag-gag” laws.

Meat industry response

The Animal Agriculture Alliance, a non-profit organization representing the meat industry and related animal drug industries, released its own report responding to the Pew Commission’s update. The response provided a stark opposing opinion to the findings of the commission, stating that the animal agriculture industry has made considerable progress in improving animal well-being, protecting the environment, using antibiotics responsibly and producing the world’s safest food.

“While there’s always more progress to be made, the entire animal agriculture community has worked hard and has achieved results,” said Alliance President Kay Johnson Smith.

In part, the alliance report highlights the fact that illness rates from E. coli have dropped to fewer than one case per 100,000 people, meeting goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 2010. The report also emphasizes the role of USDA federal meat inspectors in all meat facilities to help assure a safer meat supply.

The alliance also says that while improper use of antibiotics in human medicine poses the greatest threat to resistant bacteria affecting humans, the industry and government have “proactively implemented multiple steps” to minimize the development and impact of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The industry has adopted FDA guidance on the judicious use of medically important drugs in farm animals, the alliance says, and farms are now required to have veterinary oversight to use medically important antibiotics.

“In the five years since the [Pew Commission's report], the animal agriculture community has continued to collaborate, fund research, and evolve to meet the highest food safety and animal care standards while feeding an even larger population,” Johnson Smith said.

The alliance issued a similar response following the initial Pew Commission report.

Responding to the alliance’s latest report, Martin at the Pew Commission said that the commission’s findings were based on very thorough scientific research. Each of the two commission reports include hundreds of citations to studies and other research, whereas the alliance reports include no citations.

“We were very cautious in our efforts for the initial report and this update,” Martin said. “We only said what we could support with reputable sources.”

Food Safety News

Bay Area Restaurant Makes Michelin ‘Value’ List Despite Recent E. Coli Outbreak

Burma Superstar, a popular San Francisco restaurant that voluntarily closed over Labor Day weekend following an E. coli outbreak in mid-August, has snagged a coveted spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for 2014. It was also listed for 2013.

The outbreak reportedly sickened at least a dozen people, the majority of whom ate at the Clement Street restaurant on Aug. 16 or 17. Five were hospitalized, and one of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections.

All of those sickened were later discharged, and no new related cases have surfaced, according to Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, health officer for the city and county of San Francisco.

This summer’s E. coli outbreak was the first such reported incident in connection with Burma Superstar in its 17 years of operation, according to owner Desmond Tan. The Richmond District location is one of three Burma Superstar outlets he owns in the Bay Area; the others are in Oakland and Alameda.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that an incident of this type never occurs again,” Tan said in a statement. “We have and continue to adhere to the highest food safety health practices, including having DPH officials provide food safety seminars to our staff. Additionally, we have always utilized vendors that provide only the best ingredients.”

Michelin’s Bib Gourmand awards are given for so-called “value” restaurants serving two courses and a glass of wine (or dessert) for $ 40 or less before tax and tip. They are named for Bibendum, the nickname for the company’s longtime logo, the Michelin Man.

Burma Superstar is one of 83 Bay Area/Wine Country restaurants given Bib Gourmand status for 2014, up from 70 last year. The highly prized (and very lucrative) Michelin stars will soon be announced, although eateries named to the Bib Gourmand list are not eligible for the one, two or three stars Michelin gives out each year to top restaurants as determined by the company’s anonymous reviewers.

Food Safety News

Recent rains don’t diminish worries about water supplies

Monsoonal flows, which began in July, were well-received by Colorado residents and agricultural producers. But the rainfall was not enough to overcome extreme drought conditions and improve water supplies.

Craig Cotten, district engineer with the Colorado State Engineer’s office, provided The Produce News with a detailed snapshot of conditions experienced in the San Luis Valley this production season.

WaterOverviewWater running in the San Luis Valley is being blackened by ash as a result of the North Fork Fire, which had burned 110,000 acres by mid-August. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado State Engineer’s Office)“We had low spring runoff and flows,” he stated. “This was the fourth-lowest steamflow on record as the irrigation season began.” July rainfall changed hydro-dynamics somewhat. “It improved the situation to the point where it’s the 10th lowest year we’ve had in the last 120 years,” Cotten went on to say. “The rain did definitely help. But we’re not having a good year. [Agricultural producers] are glad to see the rain. But there’s a realization it’s not enough to change things.”

According to Cotten, water use at a “fair amount” of wells is decreasing in the valley. “Some wells are going dry,” he added, explaining that this means that wells that have traditionally pumped at 1,000 gallons per minute are now pumping at a rate of 200 gallons per minute.

Some producers have gone to Colorado Water Court seeking permission to deepen their wells. He illustrated by some owners who have wells drilled to a depth of 60 feet are seeking to increase that depth to 80 to 100 feet.

“Some objections have been filed [in Water Court],” Cotten said. Objectors contend that deepening of wells will worsen the overall situation in the valley. Requests for deepening of wells are dealt with in the same manner as other cases in Water Court. “These are multi-year cases. In the meantime, these farmers in are limbo.”

Prior to the July rainfall, ditches were running at 300 cubic feet per second. Immediately following rainfall, they flowed at 1,000 cfs. “They are at 600 cfs right now,” Cotten said in mid-August.

Ag producers are also being hit with the after-effects of the devastating North Fork Fire. “Water coming into the ditches is pretty black,” said Cotten about the ash content. The fire, which was still burning in mid-August, had already consumed 110,000 acres.

On other fronts, creation of the first groundwater management subdistrict in the Rio Grande Water Conservation District is moving into its final stages. Despite arguments from objectors, this past spring Chief Judge Pattie Smith ruled in favor of the sufficiency of the subdistrict’s management plan. Objections to the ruling have been filed with the Colorado Supreme Court.

Cotten said the case has not yet been scheduled for oral arguments, and he expects the court will issue its ruling in 2014. He said objections only affect a few provisions of the overall management plan..

The State Engineer’s office continues to work on a computer model which will determine the extent of injury to the valley’s aquifer. “We’ve been working on that model for quite a while,” he stated, adding that he expects it will be completed this fall.

After the model is finalized, the State Engineer’s office will move forward with rule-making. A 55-member advisory committee, which has been working for the past three to four years, continues to provide its input. “The rules are 90 percent developed,” Cotten said. “The remaining 10 percent is the most important and is based on the model.”

Cotten said the National Resource and Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on the Conservation and Reserve Enhancement Program with a goal of taking 40,000 acres out of agricultural production within Subdistrict 1. “On average, approximately 100,000 acre feet of water could be saved,” Cotten stated. “There is a possibility we could get other acreage in [as new groundwater management subdistricts are formed].”

The Colorado CREP program is offering the highest amount of reimbursement per acre in the United States. But commodity pricing makes agricultural producers reluctant to participate, Cotten said. “The subdistrict sees this as a primary way to bring the aquifer back up,” Cotten stated. As a result, the subdistrict is also offering additional incentives for producers who sign up by Oct. 1.

Land fallowed under the program is taken out of production for a minimum of 15 years. The fallowing can become permanent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

J&J Produce hires new employees to accommodate recent growth and expansion

J&J Produce, which specializes in growing cucumbers, Bell peppers, squash, tomatoes and eggplant, has recently hired several new employees in the areas of operations, sales and food safety. The additions will help the company as it continues to grow and expand to a national platform.

David Beecher joined J&J as its new vice president of operations. He will be responsible for facility operations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and the Dominican Republic. Over the past 13 years, Beecher has gained experience in the produce industry by working for Bland Farms, Rosemont Farms and IFCO Systems.

“J&J is a well-established company with a diversified customer base, in both the foodservice and retail divisions,” Beecher said in a press release. “They have a strong management team and private-equity partner that are both in support of the national growth opportunities. I am very excited about helping the company continue to implement these best practices.”

Mike Bentel, new vice president of food safety and responsibility, has more than 20 years of experience at NSF International, Naturipe Farms and Walmart. His experience includes certifications in ISO 22000, HACCP, GAP and active industry roles with the United Fresh, PMA and FDA on food-safety and technology issues.  

“While J&J has always been a proactive leader in food safety, Mike will assist in taking us to the next level as we continue to develop our national sales plan with international sourcing to compliment our domestic production,” Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing, said in the release.

As part of the company’s regional expansion plans, Brian Helms has been hired as assistant division manager to help with the day-to-day management of the White Pine, TN, facility. Helms’ previous experience with regional and national retail and foodservice companies provides a long history of experience in produce.  

“J&J was immediately the first company I thought of when I made the decision to move out of distribution and into the grower-packer side of the business,” he said. “The chance to be apart of the J&J team and their continuing growth is truly exciting.”

New to the sales and marketing department is industry veteran Chris Paul, who has experience in various positions, ranging from quality control to purchasing and sales.  According to Paul, “This is a great opportunity to sell and market all varieties of produce from a well-respected company focused on quality.” He will head up the newly opened Midwest office based in New Glarus, WI. 

“This is an exciting time to be a part of J&J Produce,” said Rayfield.  “Aggressive business goals and capital expansions are creating new pathways for business growth to meet the needs of new and existing companies and talented people in every part of our business make that possible.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Highest winter losses in recent years for honey bees in Scotland

Aug. 13, 2013 — Soaring numbers of honey bees died last winter, University of Strathclyde research has revealed.

A survey, run by Strathclyde academics on behalf of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, indicated 31.3 per cent of managed honey bee colonies in Scotland failed to survive last winter — almost double the previous year’s loss rate of 15.9 per cent.

Dr Alison Gray and Magnus Peterson, of Strathclyde’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, warn the figures ought to be of major concern because bees play a pivotal role in crop pollination, agricultural yields and, therefore, food supply and prices.

Last winter’s figures represent 156 colonies lost during the winter of 2012-13, out of a total of 498 colonies being managed by beekeepers taking part in the survey. Furthermore, 67 of the 117 beekeepers who provided useable data reported losing at least some of their colonies between 1 October 2012 and 1 April 2013.

Dr Gray said: “This is an extremely high loss rate.

“In fact, the loss rate last winter is the highest we have found since these surveys began in 2006 — and is similar to that over the winter of 2009-10, when we estimate that 30.9 per cent of colonies were lost.

“Results from European colleagues conducting similar surveys show that the loss rate in Scotland is amongst the highest in Europe this year, while similarly high losses have been reported recently from England and Wales.”

The results were based on responses to online and postal questionnaires from a random sample of 300 members of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, which is thought to represent most of the country’s estimated 1,300 beekeepers.

Since the spring of 2008, Mr Peterson has also been collecting data twice a year, from a network of volunteers across Scotland, on wild honey bees — those not managed by beekeepers and which instead live in habitats such as hollow trees and the roofs of old buildings. Last winter, 11 out of 20 wild honey bee colonies known to be alive last September — and reported on this spring — are known to have died.

Mr Peterson said: “The latest results indicate a low survival rate, of just 45 per cent, amongst feral colonies over this last winter. This is the worst winter survival rate amongst the feral colonies known to the volunteers since they started monitoring them five years ago.”

Dr Gray told how bees face many challenges internationally. She said: “Honey bees worldwide are having to contend with habitat loss and reduction in variety of forage sources due to pressures of intensifying land use, increasing spread of new and old pests — caused by globalisation of trade in bees and bee products — as well as possible adverse effects of agricultural pesticides.

“For bees in northern Europe, poor weather conditions — combined with these various other factors which impact adversely on bees — are certainly making beekeeping a challenge and survival difficult for honey bees generally.

“The difficult weather conditions are a particular problem in Scotland, with severe winters followed by long cold wet springs being a problem, especially if it comes after a poor wet summer as in this last year.”

In April, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced the Scottish Government was making £200,000 available to help commercial bee farmers to restock and rebuild their colonies, which were devastated by prolonged winter weather conditions.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News