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Seedless mandarins to become market standard in Australia, says Freshmax exec

With small volumes of Sumo Citrus, Gold Nugget and Tang-Gold mandarins set to hit the market this season, Freshmax Australia is peeling ahead of the curve when it comes to consumer trends Down Under. But the company’s ambitious planting program includes an export strategy too, as GM for category and integrated supply Andrew Maughan tells Freshfruitportal.com.

With its “lumpy-bumpy” skin the Sumo Citrus-branded mandarin is a far cry from the smooth citrus normally seen at the supermarket, but that’s exactly the kind of point of difference Freshmax is looking for.

After all, Maughan says the company is now reaping the fruits of labor that has been ongoing for the last 10 years to grow and market protected varieties.

It’s a philosophy that spans a wide range of produce items under the group’s umbrella, and in citrus the big bet has been on seedless cultivars.

“We think that seedless easy peelers will become market standard in Australia in the not too distant future, and it’ll be non-negotiable to have seedless or very low-seeded fruit in this marketplace,” the executive says.

“In Australia we’re only just starting to get these seedless varieties into commercial volumes.

“There’s been exceptional growth in demand for easy peel and seedless fruit. It’s a rapidly growing category through North America, Europe and the U.K.”

Freshmax licenses the Sumo Citrus variety from Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co.in California, and the ultimate goal is to be a counterseasonal supplier back into the North American market while also working with the partner to aim for year-round supply into a variety of Asian countries.

Freshmax's Sumo Citrus-branded fruit

Freshmax’s Sumo Citrus-branded fruit

“This year we intend to be doing a few shipments in a small trial back into North America with both airfreight and seafreight. We did a little bit of airfreight last year, but that becomes cost-prohibitive when you start talking large volumes.

“We’ve commenced some small export programs into Southeast Asia, and done more work with developing export markets.

But with only around 25-30% of the 150 hectares of Sumo Citrus actually producing fruit, the bulk of volume will be staying in Australia for now.

“There are some trees that are just being planted now, so peak production is not going to hit with these current plantings for another four to five years’ time,” Maughan says.

“Sumo Citrus has ranged with Woolworths supermarkets in Australia for the last three years – it’s been exclusively through that retailer up to this point of time.

Going for gold

In mid-August, Freshmax will also start supplying another rough-skinned mandarin variety called the Gold Nugget.

“The Gold Nugget is quite a unique looking bit of fruit. It’s a later season maturing variety that’s gone away from the typical easy peelers going around.

Gold Nugget easy peelers

Gold Nugget easy peelers

“It does have a coarse textured skin. Initially it was a real negative or challenge to the variety as it’s not that smoother, fine-textured skin.”

When trees are in the juvenile stages, as many are now with 20% of the 100 hectares in production, the fruit tends be lumpier.

“But once the tree gets a little older it does settle down and produces a smoother piece of fruit. It is lighter in color than an Afourer or a Murcott is, but it creates a really good marketing point of difference,” Maughan says.

“It doesn’t have the top knot and it’s not as lumpy as Sumo Citrus is, but it’s certainly quite a coarse piece of fruit that is very unique.

“What’s good is you can have Afourer or Murcott on the shelf and have Gold Nugget on the shelf at the same time, and have a very easy distinction and point of difference. It’s seedless, it has an exceptional flavor – very sweet – and it’s a great eating piece of fruit.”

As there are currently only small volumes, Freshmax will probably only be selling the Gold Nugget variety over a four to five week window.

“It won’t be in every supermarket in every state at this point of time, but in time it’ll have the ability to be in the marketplace for a few months at least.

“And depending on production in the later areas that could give us some category extension for supply. You’ve got a fairly big window for maturity from harvest so you’re not pigeonholed into a small time window…it has good shelf life as well.”

The Gold Nugget is a product of the University of California breeding program, and is genetically seedless unlike the Tango – registered as Tang-Gold in Australia – which was bred to be seedless through the irradiation of budwood.

Freshmax is an Australian licensee for Tang-Gold as well, and Maughan is particularly bullish on the variety’s future.

“For Tang-Gold we have our first little bits of small-scale commercial volume this year, with a dozen or so pallets, but those pallets are going to grow very significantly and quickly,” he said.

“There will be 400 hectares of Tang-Gold in Australia, tree caps have pretty much been filled and tree plantings are going on pretty seriously now.

“Over the next two to three years we’ll see the vast majority of those hectares all planted. In five years’ time that’ll be a pretty significant player in this market.

Maughan highlights Australia’s geographical advantage for exports of all three of these varieties into Asia, and also how Australia’s diverse range of geographies and micro-climates allows for a long citrus production window.

“Within Australia there are several different growing regions which gives us the opportunity to have a pretty long window of supply – Queensland in the northern area which has been a traditional mandarin growing area is earlier.

“We anticipate that Tang-Gold grown in northern Australia will be in the market sometime in May and we’ll go to the southern parts of Australia that are traditionally Navel-growing areas, and we think it’s possible to have fruit harvested right through to October.

“We think there are opportunities with Tang-Gold from the domestic market perspective where we can range product for five months, and there will be a market for certain export markets,” he says, emphasizing Freshmax is still assessing where they will be, but there will be significant supply for U.S. and Canadian importers.

Looking at the overall situation, Maughan says seedless Tang-Gold will most likely be the main easy peeler cultivar, while Sumo Citrus and Gold Nuggets will occupy a different space in the market as IP varieties.

“Gold Nugget will be slightly more of a niche variety – it’s got that coarser texture to it. Sumo Citrus kind of sits in a different category; it’s larger, and it has exceptional eating quality.

“Tang-Gold will become what we believe will be the mainstream mid-to-late season easy peeler variety in Australia with very strong demand for counterseasonal supply into the Northern Hemisphere – the USA, Japan, Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the EU as well.”

www.freshfruitportal.com

 

FreshFruitPortal.com

CDC closes investigation; warns of ongoing Listeria threat

The investigation into a Listeriosis outbreak traced to frozen vegetables from CRF Frozen Foods Inc. has ended — but federal officials warn more people could still be stricken by the potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes pathogen.

logo-CRF-Frozen-Foods“People could continue to get sick because recalled products may still be freezers and people who don’t know about the recalls could eat them,” according to an outbreak update posted this afternoon by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

“Retailers should not sell and consumers should not eat recalled products.”

Those “recalled products” include more than 350 frozen products packaged by CRF Frozen Foods Inc. under 42 brands, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Recalled products were sold across the U.S. and Canada.

“The FDA facilitated the recall of at least 456 products related to this outbreak. CRF Frozen Foods recalled 358 products and at least 98 other products were recalled by other firms that received CRF-recalled products,” according to FDA.

A complete list of the recalls linked to CRF Frozen Foods’ recall is available on the FDA website.

Production plant remains closed
CRF owners closed the Pasco, WA, plant where the food was produced after issuing recalls on April 23 and May 2. The first recall was for 11 frozen vegetable products. The second was for all organic and traditional frozen vegetable and fruit products processed at the facility from May 1, 2014, through this spring.

Today an external public relations consultant hired by CRF said the company’s owners will take their time reopening the facility. He said CRF’s business is seasonal, based on crop harvests, and with the end of summer nearing it wouldn’t make any difference if they reopened in a few weeks or a few months.

A variety of Kroger-branded frozen vegetable products are included in the recall.

A variety of Kroger-branded frozen vegetable products are included in the recall.

“The company executives are spending a good bit of time and effort focused on a new design of the plant, to ensure the company has state of the art equipment and processes, once operations resume,” said spokesman Gene Grabowski.

Officials with the privately held CRF, which is part of the R.D. Offutt Co., were pleased that the outbreak investigation was declared ended, Grabowski said this afternoon, adding that they would “continue to proceed with redoubled vigilance to ensure that nothing of this nature happens again.”

Although CRF knows how much product it shipped, its officials did not reveal those volumes in its recall notices.

“The company has no estimate of product recalled or destroyed,” Grabovski said. “Much of the recalled product has been managed by retailers, so no complete records are available.”

The victims and how they were discovered
The outbreak includes at least nine people from four states on opposite sides of the U.S. They were sickened with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that Ohio officials coincidentally discovered in CRF frozen products while conducting routine testing of randomly collected packages of frozen foods from retail stores.

All nine people were so sick they had to be hospitalized. Three of them died, but state public health officials reported to the CDC that only one of the deaths was specifically caused by the Listeria infection.

The first known victim became sick in September of 2013. Five victims fell ill in 2015 and three were confirmed with the outbreak strain this year. The most recent case was May 3, according to the CDC.

recalled-Organic-by-Nature-frozen-peasCDC scientists detected the outbreak in March this year and linked it to frozen food from CRF’s Pasco plant using a combination of high-tech DNA testing and the oldest medical technique on the books — patient interviews.

“State and local health departments attempted to interview the ill people, a family member, or a caregiver for the ill person about the foods the ill person may have eaten in the month before the illness began,” CDC reported.

Officials were able to interview four people, three of whom reported that before they became sick they ate frozen vegetables that turned out to have been produced at the CRF Pasco plant.

“Two reported Organic by Nature brand frozen vegetables. The third ill person reported eating O Organic brand frozen vegetables,” CDC reported.

While the CDC investigators were trying to find a common denominator among the Listeria victims, staff with the Ohio Department of Agriculture were conducting routine, random product sampling of frozen vegetables from grocery stores.

The Ohio tests revealed Listeria monocytogenes in frozen organic white sweet corn and frozen organic green peas packaged under Meijer’s True Goodness brand. Both products were produced by CRF at the Pasco facility.

“Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to eight bacterial isolates from (the) ill people, and the Listeria isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from (one) ill person,” the CDC reported.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to compare and ultimately match the Listeria monocytogenes samples from the outbreak victims and the randomly tested frozen vegetables. PulseNet is a national sub typing network of public health labs and includes a national database of DNA fingerprints of foodborne pathogen strains.

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Food Safety News

SweeTango crop continues to grow with 18 percent increase over 2015

Members of the Next Big Thing Growers’ Cooperative, a 45-member cooperative of family growers headquartered in Lake City, MN, released their estimates for the 2016 crop of SweeTango, the apple that was developed by the University of Minnesota to feature the best characteristics of the Honeycrisp and Zestar! apple varieties.sweetang

The projected crop yield is 450,000 standard 40-pound boxes, which is an 18 percent increase over last year’s crop of 380,000 and 9 percent larger than the 2014 harvest of 413,000 boxes.

Preliminary projections estimated a yield of 465,000 boxes for 2016, however severe storms on July 8 in northern Michigan produced hail up to two inches in diameter that caused extensive damage to the crop in that region, thereby reducing the overall estimate. Other growing regions across the United States and Canada have not been adversely affected by weather to date.

The timing of the harvest varies by growing region, as orchards are spread across differing climates in locations like Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and Nova Scotia. Washington will begin harvest first in early August, which means SweeTango will start appearing in the market around Labor Day.

As the SweeTango apple crop has continued to grow over the past decade, so does the length of the season. Once a hyper-seasonal fruit due to limited yields from a relatively small number of young orchards, SweeTango’s season is now expected to extend from early September to late December. This is great news for SweeTango’s enthusiastic and loyal consumer following.

Theron Kibbe, executive director of Next Big Thing Growers’ Cooperative noted, “We are looking forward to a good size SweeTango crop of excellent quality, with sizes that retailers are successful with. We have a robust marketing program in place that will drive shoppers to stores with SweeTango apples on their lists. We also will be partnering with retailers with in-store activities designed to increase trial and introduce new shoppers to SweeTango’s tangy-sweet flavor and exceptional crunch.”

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

Chinese vendor throws Philippine mangoes “in the trash”

China’s opposition to an international tribunal ruling over the South China Sea has spilled over into the fruit industry, with some traders deciding to do away with Philippine fruit. Dried mangoes

Earlier this week in a case brought by the Philippines, the Hague ruled China did not have a historical right to its existing claims on the sea, where it has been constructing artificial islands on top of reefs.

Neighboring and Western countries have called on China to respect the Hague’s decision, but the government has insisted it rejects the arbitration tribunal’s ruling.

One response from the Chinese public has been to call for a boycott of Philippine fruit on social media, singling out dried mangoes in particular.

A search on e-commerce site Taobao shows some Philippine dried mangoes are being sold, but a large portion of individual traders using the site have withdrawn Philippine products, including dried mangoes and dried banana slices.

“I am just a small seller on Taobao, but firstly I am a Chinese. I want to do everything to support our country,” one vendor told www.freshfruitportal.com.

“We will not sell the Philippine dried mangos any more – several tons of our inventories have been thrown into the trash can.

“I welcome patriotic people to keep watch. If you feel sorry for me, please buy some of my other products.”

The vendor said he was now turning to Chinese production such as dried mangoes from the provinces of Fujian or Hainan.

“If there is a war between China and the Philippines I will donate all of our income from this product to our country,” he said.

In 2012, there was a similar boycott on Philippine bananas relating to a dispute over the Scarborough Shoal, as well as a temporary ban from the government that officially related to phytosanitary concerns.

www.freshfruitportal.com

FreshFruitPortal.com

Genomic atlas of gene switches in plants provides roadmap for crop research

June 30, 2013 — What allows certain plants to survive freezing and thrive in the Canadian climate, while others are sensitive to the slightest drop in temperature? Those that flourish activate specific genes at just the right time — but the way gene activation is controlled remains poorly understood.

A major step forward in understanding this process lies in a genomic map produced by an international consortium led by scientists from McGill University and the University of Toronto and published online today in the journal Nature Genetics.

The map, which is the first of its kind for plants, will help scientists to localize regulatory regions in the genomes of crop species such as canola, a major crop in Canada, according to researchers who worked on the project. The team has sequenced the genomes of several crucifers (a large plant family that includes a number of other food crops) and analyzed them along with previously published genomes to map more than 90,000 genomic regions that have been highly conserved but that do not appear to encode proteins.

“These regions are likely to play important roles in turning genes on or off, for example to regulate a plant’s development or its response to environmental conditions,” says McGill computer-science professor Mathieu Blanchette, one of the leaders of the study. Work is currently underway to identify which of those regions may be involved in controlling traits of particular importance to farmers.

The study also weighs in on a major debate among biologists, concerning how much of an organism’s genome has important functions in a cell, and how much is “junk DNA,” merely along for the ride. While stretches of the genome that code for proteins are relatively easy to identify, many other ‘noncoding’ regions may be important for regulating genes, activating them in the right tissue and under the right conditions.

While humans and plants have very similar numbers of protein-coding genes, the map published in Nature Genetics further suggests that the regulatory sequences controlling plant genes are far simpler, with a level of complexity between that of fungi and microscopic worms. “These findings suggest that the complexity of different organisms arises not so much from what genes they contain, but how they turn them on and off,” says McGill biology professor Thomas Bureau, a co-author of the paper.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Oregon Worker Dies After Falling Into Meat Grinder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Food Safety News

FDA to Block Pomegranate Seeds from Turkey Linked to Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Saturday it will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Turkey as health officials have narrowed the likely cause of a Hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened at least 127 people in 8 states.

The agency has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and state and local health authorities for several weeks to try and track down the ingredient making people sick. Health officials have now determined that the “most likely vehicle” for the virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading of Turkey that were used by Townsend Farms to make Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries, sold to Costco and Harris Teeter stores.

FDA is now barring Goknur from shipping pomegranate seeds into the United States. It is not clear how much product is impacted, but an FDA official noted that Turkey is a “minor player” compared to countries like India, Iran, China, and Thailand, when it comes to providing pomegranate to the U.S. market.

“This outbreak highlights the food safety challenge posed by today’s global food system,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a press release over the weekend. “The presence in a single product of multiple ingredients from multiple countries compounds the difficulty of finding the cause of an illness outbreak. The Hepatitis A outbreak shows how we have improved our ability to investigate and respond to outbreaks, but also why we are working to build a food safety system that more effectively prevents them.”

The Townsend Farms blend has been linked to the multistate outbreak affecting mostly western states. According to CDC, about half of the reported Hepatitis A cases are in California.

Colorado has reported 25 and Arizona 17. Hawaii is reporting 7, New Mexico and Nevada have 5 cases and Utah and Wisconsin have 2 each. The cases reported in Wisconsin, however, resulted from exposure to the product in California, according to health officials.

Nearly 60 percent of those sickened are women. The ages in the outbreak range from 2 to 84 and include 6 children under the age of 18. CDC said none of the children had been vaccinated. More than half of those ill required hospitalization.

The outbreak has sparked several large recalls. In early June, Townsend Farms recalled more than 300,000 four pound packages of the frozen berries sold at Costco and then issued another recall of berries sold at Harris Teeter. Last week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled over 60,000 bags of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because their product, imported from Turkey, has the potential to be contaminated with Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A, a liver disease, can range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Symptoms usually occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

If a person has been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus within two weeks or less, they may be able to prevent the disease by receiving a vaccine. Consumers who may have eaten recalled product or have Hepatitis A symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider or their local health department.

 

Food Safety News

USDA’s new school snack standards look to boost healthy offerings

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its new Smart Snacks in School standards that seek to improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages offered for sale to students in schools.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Parents and schools work hard to give our youngsters the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, and providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars will support their great efforts.”

The new nutrition standards, which must be implemented by July 1, 2014, apply to all foods and beverages sold a la carte, in school vending machines, stores and snack bars.

The new standards will increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products for sale to students, and reduce the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar.

“Increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks in schools will go a long way towards creating a healthy school food environment and improving nutrition for 32 million school children,” Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a press release. “In addition, this will drive opportunities for increased produce sales to schools, especially for fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables in convenient single servings.”

Designed to be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines, foods available for sale will now complement healthier school meals and help create healthier school food environments for U.S. school children, according to the United Fresh press release.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Survey shows increase in resistance to drug therapies among bovine respiratory disease cases

June 28, 2013 — A survey of records of bovine respiratory disease cases at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory showed that drug resistance in one of the primary pathogens that cause BRD, Mannheimia haemolytica, increased over a three-year period.

“We have been seeing an increase in the number of antibiotic resistant bacteria that cause pneumonia (also called BRD) in cattle,” said Brian Lubbers, assistant professor in the diagnostic lab, based at Kansas State University. “Many of these bacteria are resistant to, not one, but almost all of the antibiotics that we use to treat pneumonia in cattle.”

BRD is one of the most important diseases of feedlot cattle, particularly, said Lubbers, adding that the economic toll from the disease has been estimated to approach $ 1 billion annually in the United States alone, if one takes into account drug and labor costs, decreased production, and animal death losses.

Until now, one of the aspects that has not been studied very well is the cost linked to antimicrobial resistance in BRD cases, he said. To take a closer look, he and colleague Gregg Hanzlicek, also an assistant professor in the diagnostic lab, examined records of cases in which specimens of bovine lung tissue were submitted to the diagnostic lab over the three years, 2009 to 2011. Most of the cattle were from Kansas and Nebraska.

They found that over that period, a high percentage of M. haemolytica bacteria recovered from cattle lungs were resistant to several of the drugs typically used to treat that pathogen. The researchers also found, however, that no specimens were resistant to all six antimicrobial drugs.

The study was funded internally by the diagnostic lab.

Using resistance to three or more antimicrobials as the definition of multi-drug resistance, 63 percent of the bacteria would be classified as multidrug resistant in 2011, compared with 46 percent in 2010 and 42 percent in 2009.

The results of the study were published by the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation.

“Antimicrobial resistance in veterinary medicine has received a considerable amount of recognition as a potential factor leading to antimicrobial resistance in human medicine,” Lubbers said. “However, the contribution of multidrug resistance to limited or failed therapy in veterinary patients has received much less attention.”

Because there are a limited number of antimicrobial drugs that can be used for treatment of BRD pathogens, Lubbers said, multidrug resistance in those pathogens poses a severe threat to the livestock industry.

“We (KSVDL) consider this type of information to be part of our active ongoing disease surveillance and will continue this work,” Lubbers said. “The questions of how these bacteria develop or where they come from, how widespread they are, and what is the impact on cattle production are still unanswered. We are actively seeking industry partners to investigate these questions.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

California citrus crop escapes frost damage

The much-feared devastating freezing temperatures didn’t quite materialize in California’s San Joaquin Valley over the last few nights, and consequently the California citrus crop experienced little damage.

Below-freezing temperatures did prevail for several nights, necessitating the use of frost-protection tools, but the needle didn’t drop low enough or the cold hang around long enough to produce serious damage.

For damage to occur to Mandarin oranges on the tree, temperatures need to stay below 32 degrees for at least four hours. Navel oranges, with their thicker skin, typically don’t experience much damage until temperatures drop to the mid-20s for that four-hour threshold.

Many citrus-growing areas did see temperatures drop into the 20s but only for short periods of time. And most growers were able to use wind machines and irrigation systems to raised grove temperatures a few degrees during critical periods.

On the morning of Jan. 1, California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said that growers had survived what ended up being the worst of the nights.

“Growers initiated frost protection by 10 p.m. (the night before) in most cases,” he said. “No doubt the early start helped keep temperatures higher throughout the night and with lows not reaching 26 degrees, except in the coldest unprotected areas, we conclude it was a long night but a safe night.”

He added that producers of Mandarins and lemons ran their equipment for about 10 hours that night, with Navel orange growers needing about six hours of frost-protection action.

Some of the areas that typically get the coldest have already been harvested.

“Thirty days makes a difference,” Nelsen said. “Last season a major freeze event occurred the first week of December, thereby creating much more vulnerability for the industry. The past 30 days significant tonnage was harvested from those historic areas of low temperatures, thereby eliminating potential loss.”

The lower cost of fuel this year also helped in the battle as the cost of running the wind machines was considerably less than a year ago.

As the new year dawned, warmer temperatures were in the forecast for the next week and citrus harvest and packing operations were expected to return to normal levels.

The crop estimate for the 2014-15 Navel orange season is 78 million cartons in the San Joaquin Valley and another 5 million cartons in Southern California. Approximately 25 percent of the orange crop has been harvested.

Mandarin tonnage is estimated to be 50 million five-pound cartons this year and approximately 70 percent of the crop remains on the tree.

The California lemon crop has been estimated at 45 million cartons with the vast majority of the lemon tonnage in Ventura County and still on the tree.

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

Vick Family Farms expands storage, adds bagging

WILSON, NC — Lyndon B. Johnson, the legendary master of the U.S. Senate, used to say that the time to make friends is before you need them. And the time to expand farming operations is before you need more space. That’s the approach Vick Family Farms here took last year, when spring rains foreshortened the 2013 sweet potato harvest. The family corporation invested in a new storage facility for year-round sweet potatoes and a bagging machine to spur consumer demand.

The move paid off.VICK11214-EXPORTIn the packinghouse at Vick Family Farms, a growing share of the 2014 sweet potato harvest is being exported overseas. These cartons, with Süßkartoffeln printed on them — German for ‘sweet potatoes’ — are being shipped to Amsterdam for German markets. Vick added 22,000 square feet of refrigerated storage space and was able to accommodate the back-to-normal abundance of the 2014 sweet potato harvest. The new storage facility gives Vick the ability to store 600,000 bushels on site, according to Hunter A. S. Rascoe, packinghouse and food-safety manager. Rascoe said the added capacity enables Vick to offer cured sweet potatoes year-round.

“Vick Family Farms cures its sweet potatoes for seven to 10 days at temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees with 80-90 percent humidity,” he said. “Curing causes sugar-creating enzymes to develop that make sweet potatoes taste sweet. After curing, we store the potatoes at 55-60 degrees for the rest of the year until the new crop is harvested.”

The bagging machine, added in the last year, puts sweet potatoes into three-pound bags. Experience shows, Rascoe said, some supermarket consumers prefer to buy their sweet potatoes in bags rather than pick them from a bin, especially for the Thanksgiving holidays. “Right now our bagging machine runs at capacity for the holidays,” he observed, “but we hope it will steadily build into more consistent business throughout the year.”  

Food safety is a key concern, and Rascoe said each sweet potato bin is labeled so that its contents can be traced back to the field where they grew and the workers who were involved. The cartons contain labels that show when they were processed and by which workers, along with the bin number. “We track crop rotation, pesticide and fertilizer applications and harvesting crews,” Rascoe said. “Once a year we have a mock recall, where we check on traceability from the retailer back to the field.”

In the packinghouse, where skilled fork-lift drivers expertly jockey their loads from one point to another, some experienced workers have nine years’ tenure on the job. In addition to the bagging machine, other evidence of consumer preference can be found. For example, sweet potatoes are sized, and those too big or too small — or which have too weird a shape to appeal to retail consumers — are relegated to canneries, french fry factories, puree manufacturers or pet food pellets.

Rascoe noted that a sizable percentage of the cartons shipped have Süßkartoffeln printed on them — German for “sweet potatoes” — because they are destined for the growing export market. In any language, Vick Family Farms anticipates consumer demand, making friends before they are needed.

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

Jump Your Bones Brand Kangaroo Meat Pet Treats Recalled for Salmonella Risk

Jump Your Bones, Inc. of Boca Raton, FL is recalling Jump Your Bones brand name “Roo Bites (Cubes)” due to potential Salmonella contamination. The pet treat product is made from dehydrated kangaroo meat.

Salmonella can sicken animals that eat contaminated products. Humans are at risk of contracting illness from handling contaminated pet products, especially those who do not thoroughly wash their hands after touching the products or any surfaces that touch the products.

The affected lots of Jump Your Bones Pet Treats were distributed to retail pet food stores nationwide and through pet food retailers and distributors, as well as online stores.

The recalls affects all products bearing the following UPC:

  • 63633010041 for 80g. / 2.82oz. including samples of .32 oz.
No illnesses have been associated with the recalled product. However, due to the time required to trace an illness back to a specific food product, it is impossible to say whether or not any illnesses have occurred.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection in humans include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever, and abdominal pain.

Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled pet treats are urged to stop feeding them to pets and either dispose of the product return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Food Safety News

Florida 127 a sweet ‘Sensation’ in strawberry industry

Florida’s strawberry industry is abuzz as studies show strong potential for the Florida 127, a relatively new strawberry variety marketed under the “Sensation” brand.

“Florida 127 is a promising new cultivar for west-central Florida growers due to its early yield, robust plant habit, and excellent fruit size and eating quality,” according to the Institute of Food & Agricultural Services of the University of Florida.

According to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, the IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center has patented nine Florida strawberry varieties since 1992.Florida12The Florida 127 strawberry is a relatively new variety marketed under the ‘Sensation’ brand. They are grown and marketed under the “Sweet Charlie,” “Rosa Linda,” “Earlibrite,” “Strawberry Festival,” “Carmine, “Winter Dawn, “Florida Elyana, “Florida Radiance” and “Winterstar” names. Although developed for optimum performance in Florida’s winter climate, the association said the varieties are marketed globally.

“We are so fortunate to have the University of Florida land grant university,” said Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.

IFAS operations are spearheaded by Vance Whitaker, who Parker called “a tremendous asset to this industry.” He added that Whitaker’s predecessor, professor emeritus Craig Chandler, paved the way for the important research currently being conducted.

Florida 127, first crossed in 2009, reached marketplace introduction quickly. A limited volume was released in 2013.

“This is the second year it has been in commercial production,” Parker said. “We have to make sure it meets a high flavor profile.”

Another advantage of the Florida 127 is its ability to maintain high quality during and after shipment. “Consumers want sweeter berries with a longer shelf life,” he said.

Initial feedback about the strawberry variety has been positive. In addition to its sweet taste, Parker said the variety is large and the red color doesn’t darken over time. Whether eaten fresh or used for cooking applications, Parker said Florida 127 is a berry of choice.

Looking at production, Parker said limited acreage currently under cultivation for Florida 127 could bloom to as much as 2,500 acres next season. To illustrate the impact of the variety on the industry, Parker said Florida strawberry growers had approximately 11,000 acres in production for all varieties this season.

The commercialization process for new varieties gives Florida producers a competitive edge.

“Florida growers usually have a three-year competitive advantage [before the variety is generally released],” he said.

UF sells strawberry plants around the world, and Parker said the Middle East and Mexico are two top destinations for these patented plants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracing evolution of chicken flu virus yields insight into origins of deadly H7N9 strain

An international research team has shown how changes in a flu virus that has plagued Chinese poultry farms for decades helped create the novel avian H7N9 influenza A virus that has sickened more than 375 people since 2013. The research appears in the current online early edition of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results underscore the need for continued surveillance of flu viruses circulating on poultry farms and identified changes in the H9N2 virus that could serve as an early warning sign of emerging flu viruses with the potential to trigger a pandemic and global health emergency. The work focused on the H9N2 chicken virus, which causes egg production to drop and leaves chickens vulnerable to deadly co-infections. Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the China Agricultural University, Beijing, led the study.

Researchers used whole genome sequencing to track the evolution of the H9N2 chicken virus between 1994 and 2013. The analysis involved thousands of viral sequences and showed that the genetic diversity of H9N2 viruses fell sharply in 2009. From 2010 through 2013 an H9N2 virus emerged as the predominant subtype thanks to its genetic makeup that allowed it to flourish despite widespread vaccination of chickens against H9N2 viruses.

Evidence in this study suggests the eruptions set the stage for the emergence of the H7N9 avian virus that has caused two outbreaks in humans since 2013, with 115 confirmed deaths. The H9N2 infected chickens likely served as the mixing vessel where H9N2 and other avian flu viruses from migratory birds and domestic ducks swapped genes, researchers noted. The resulting H7N9 virus included six genes from the H9N2.

“Sequencing the viral genome allowed us to track how H9N2 evolved across time and geography to contribute to the H7N9 virus that emerged as a threat to human health in 2013,” said Robert Webster, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases. He and Jinhua Liu, Ph.D., of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the China Agricultural University, are co-corresponding authors.

“The insights gained from this collaboration suggest that tracking genetic diversity of H9N2 on poultry farms could provide an early warning of emerging viruses with the potential to spark a pandemic,” Webster said.

The analysis also provided insight into the creation of the H9N2 virus that emerged as the predominant subtype in 2010. Factors included widespread use of poultry vaccines and the natural tendency of flu to mutate, mix and swap genes.

Beginning in 1998, vaccinating poultry against H9N2 prevented flu outbreak for more than a decade. Vaccines work by recognizing and attaching to the spike-shaped hemagglutinin (HA) protein on the surface of the flu virus. That blocks the virus from infecting healthy cells. Changes in the HA gene that change the shape of the HA protein can reduce vaccine effectiveness and result in disease outbreaks. HA mutations occur naturally over time. Vaccines increase pressure for HA mutations that help the virus escape vaccine detection and cause infection.

Researchers at the China Agricultural University checked H9N2 vaccine effectiveness against the predominant H9N2 virus from 2010-11. Working in vaccinated and unvaccinated chickens, investigators found the vaccine neither protected vaccinated chickens from infection nor prevented spread of the virus in vaccinated chickens. Those failures suggest that due to HA mutations vaccines were less able to recognize the virus.

The tendency of flu viruses to swap genes also contributed to the enhanced ability of the predominant H9N2 subtype to spread. Researchers found that prior to the virus’ emergence as the predominant H9N2 the virus had swapped genes with quail and duck influenza viruses.

The combination fueled the recent outbreaks of H9N2 on chicken farms by helping the virus escape vaccine detection and spread rapidly in vaccinated and unvaccinated poultry, said co-first author Juan Pu, Ph.D., a St. Jude visiting scientist from the China Agricultural University. The other first authors are Shuoguo Wang, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Department of Computational Biology, and Yanbo Yin, Ph.D., of Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao, China.

“The emergence of this dominant H9N2 virus was the first step in the genesis of the H7N9 viruses because it greatly increased the likelihood of reassortment between H9N2 and other flu subtypes,” Liu said. Reassortment refers to the tendency of flu viruses to swap genes.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Tracing evolution of chicken flu virus yields insight into origins of deadly H7N9 strain

An international research team has shown how changes in a flu virus that has plagued Chinese poultry farms for decades helped create the novel avian H7N9 influenza A virus that has sickened more than 375 people since 2013. The research appears in the current online early edition of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results underscore the need for continued surveillance of flu viruses circulating on poultry farms and identified changes in the H9N2 virus that could serve as an early warning sign of emerging flu viruses with the potential to trigger a pandemic and global health emergency. The work focused on the H9N2 chicken virus, which causes egg production to drop and leaves chickens vulnerable to deadly co-infections. Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the China Agricultural University, Beijing, led the study.

Researchers used whole genome sequencing to track the evolution of the H9N2 chicken virus between 1994 and 2013. The analysis involved thousands of viral sequences and showed that the genetic diversity of H9N2 viruses fell sharply in 2009. From 2010 through 2013 an H9N2 virus emerged as the predominant subtype thanks to its genetic makeup that allowed it to flourish despite widespread vaccination of chickens against H9N2 viruses.

Evidence in this study suggests the eruptions set the stage for the emergence of the H7N9 avian virus that has caused two outbreaks in humans since 2013, with 115 confirmed deaths. The H9N2 infected chickens likely served as the mixing vessel where H9N2 and other avian flu viruses from migratory birds and domestic ducks swapped genes, researchers noted. The resulting H7N9 virus included six genes from the H9N2.

“Sequencing the viral genome allowed us to track how H9N2 evolved across time and geography to contribute to the H7N9 virus that emerged as a threat to human health in 2013,” said Robert Webster, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases. He and Jinhua Liu, Ph.D., of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the China Agricultural University, are co-corresponding authors.

“The insights gained from this collaboration suggest that tracking genetic diversity of H9N2 on poultry farms could provide an early warning of emerging viruses with the potential to spark a pandemic,” Webster said.

The analysis also provided insight into the creation of the H9N2 virus that emerged as the predominant subtype in 2010. Factors included widespread use of poultry vaccines and the natural tendency of flu to mutate, mix and swap genes.

Beginning in 1998, vaccinating poultry against H9N2 prevented flu outbreak for more than a decade. Vaccines work by recognizing and attaching to the spike-shaped hemagglutinin (HA) protein on the surface of the flu virus. That blocks the virus from infecting healthy cells. Changes in the HA gene that change the shape of the HA protein can reduce vaccine effectiveness and result in disease outbreaks. HA mutations occur naturally over time. Vaccines increase pressure for HA mutations that help the virus escape vaccine detection and cause infection.

Researchers at the China Agricultural University checked H9N2 vaccine effectiveness against the predominant H9N2 virus from 2010-11. Working in vaccinated and unvaccinated chickens, investigators found the vaccine neither protected vaccinated chickens from infection nor prevented spread of the virus in vaccinated chickens. Those failures suggest that due to HA mutations vaccines were less able to recognize the virus.

The tendency of flu viruses to swap genes also contributed to the enhanced ability of the predominant H9N2 subtype to spread. Researchers found that prior to the virus’ emergence as the predominant H9N2 the virus had swapped genes with quail and duck influenza viruses.

The combination fueled the recent outbreaks of H9N2 on chicken farms by helping the virus escape vaccine detection and spread rapidly in vaccinated and unvaccinated poultry, said co-first author Juan Pu, Ph.D., a St. Jude visiting scientist from the China Agricultural University. The other first authors are Shuoguo Wang, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Department of Computational Biology, and Yanbo Yin, Ph.D., of Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao, China.

“The emergence of this dominant H9N2 virus was the first step in the genesis of the H7N9 viruses because it greatly increased the likelihood of reassortment between H9N2 and other flu subtypes,” Liu said. Reassortment refers to the tendency of flu viruses to swap genes.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Stoiber leaves LMTS

Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations for L&M Transportation Services Inc., based in Raleigh, NC, has resigned his position with the company, effective January. A 10-year veteran of the third-party logistics company, he will pursue a career as a recruiting consultant in the post-harvest produce industry.

Stoiber will be based in Wilson, NC, and will focus on produce businesses primarily based in the eastern and southeastern United States.

“Doug Stoiber has been a valuable asset to LMTS for 10 years, and his presence will be missed,” Mike Devine, president of LMTS, said in press release. “We wish him well in his new endeavor as a recruiting consultant for produce industry positions.”

LMTS, a member of the L&M Family of Cos., is a third-party, non-asset based logistics provider specializing in all modes of freight movement including produce, truck load, less than truck load, intermodal, air, and ocean.

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

Stoiber leaves LMTS

Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations for L&M Transportation Services Inc., based in Raleigh, NC, has resigned his position with the company, effective January. A 10-year veteran of the third-party logistics company, he will pursue a career as a recruiting consultant in the post-harvest produce industry.

Stoiber will be based in Wilson, NC, and will focus on produce businesses primarily based in the eastern and southeastern United States.

“Doug Stoiber has been a valuable asset to LMTS for 10 years, and his presence will be missed,” Mike Devine, president of LMTS, said in press release. “We wish him well in his new endeavor as a recruiting consultant for produce industry positions.”

LMTS, a member of the L&M Family of Cos., is a third-party, non-asset based logistics provider specializing in all modes of freight movement including produce, truck load, less than truck load, intermodal, air, and ocean.

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

Illegal marijuana grows threaten fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada

June 27, 2013 — Rat poison used on illegal marijuana grows is killing fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada, according to a recent study conducted by a team of scientists from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW), University of California, Davis, University of California, Berkeley, and the Integral Ecology Research Center.

A previous study published last summer by the research team documented that rodenticides were being found in the tissues of the cat-sized, weasel-like critters which live in rugged portions of the southern Sierra Nevada. The authors speculated that the most likely source of the poisons was the illegal marijuana grows found throughout the Sierra Nevada. This new study solidifies that link, documenting that female fishers who live in areas with a higher number of marijuana sites had more exposure to rodenticides, and subsequently had lower survival rates. The findings concern scientists because the fisher is a candidate for listing under federal, Oregon, and California endangered species acts, and is considered a sensitive species in the western United States by the U.S. Forest Service.

The researchers deduced that illegal marijuana grows are a likely source of the poison, because the fishers in this study were radio-tracked and many were not observed venturing into rural, urban or agricultural areas where rodenticides are often used legally. Illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands is widespread, and some growers apply large quantities of numerous pesticides to deter a wide range of animals and insects from encroaching on their crops. While the exposure of wildlife to rodenticides and insecticides near agricultural fields is not uncommon, the amount and variety of poisons found at the illegal marijuana plots is a new threat.

According to co-author PSW wildlife biologist Dr. Kathryn Purcell, “exposure of wildlife to pesticides has been widely documented, but this is a fundamentally different scenario.

“In marijuana cultivation sites, regulations regarding proper use of pesticides are completely ignored and multiple compounds are used to target any and all threats to the crop, including compounds illegal in the U.S.,” she says.

While some fishers have died from either directly consuming flavored rodenticides or by consuming prey that had recently ingested the poisons, exposure may also predispose animals to dying from other causes. Exposure to lower doses — or to combinations — of the poisons, results in slower reflexes, reduced ability to heal from injuries, and neurological impairment. Consequently, this leads to death from other sources, such as predation or road kill.

Fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada are highly susceptible to pesticide exposure because, unlike their larger bodied relatives in other parts of the country that eat larger prey, their diet consists of small mammals, birds, carrion, insects, fungi, and other plant material. In the vicinity of illegal marijuana sites, numerous dead or dying insects and small mammals are often found. In this study, scientists reported on the amount of poisons found at over 300 illegal plots and compared the locations of these sites with the home ranges and survival of 46 adult female fishers.

The conservation implications of this study are far-reaching.

“By increasing the number of animals that die from supposedly natural causes, these pesticides may be tipping the balance of recovery for fishers” says Dr. Craig Thompson, a PSW wildlife ecologist and the study’s lead author.

This new threat may also impact other species already facing declining populations, including the wolverine, marten, great gray owl, California spotted owl, and Sierra Nevada red fox, which may also be exposed to the poisons, say the scientists.

The full report can be found at http://treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/43761

Headquartered in Albany, Calif., the Pacific Southwest Research Station develops and communicates science needed to sustain forest ecosystems and other benefits to society. It has research facilities in California, Hawai’i and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Nash Finch promotes Tom Swanson to senior VP of retail operations

Nash Finch Co., a Minneapolis-based food distributor, promoted Tom Swanson to senior vice president of retail operations.

Since joining Nash Finch in 2012, Swanson has successfully led corporate retail through several key growth initiatives, including new store openings, implementation of innovative retail marketing and merchandising programs, execution of a focused family fresh market remodel strategy, and the integration of Bag ‘N Save and No Frills stores into Nash Finch.

As senior vice president, Swanson will continue to oversee overall corporate retail operations at Nash Finch, including developing and executing on strategic plans, retail marketing strategies and accountability for corporate store operations and growth. Swanson will report to Kevin Elliott, executive vice president, president and chief operating officer.

“Tom Swanson brings extensive retail operations expertise to Nash Finch,” Elliott said in a press release. “We’ve positioned our corporate retail operation for sales growth, and Tom’s extensive experience operating multiple retail formats has positioned us along this path.” 

Prior to joining Nash Finch, Swanson spent over 25 years in various leadership positions at Bashas’ Supermarkets, including leading operations for their 50 Food City Markets.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines