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President and CEO of Foster Farms to Step Down

Ron Foster, the president and CEO of California-based Foster Farms, announced Thursday that he will step down from those positions within the poultry company, according to the Modesto Bee. However, he will remain an owner and board member.

Foster, 56, has served for 11 years as head of the company that his grandparents founded 75 years ago. He will remain as president and CEO until a replacement is named.

Beginning in early 2013, Foster led the company through two high-profile Salmonella Heidelberg outbreaks. The first sickened at least 134 people, primarily in Washington and Oregon, while the second sickened at least 634 people, including 490 Californians.

At the same time, under Foster’s leadership, the company has been celebrated by public figures, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), for becoming an industry leader in lowering Salmonella contamination. In July, the city council of Livingston, CA, where Foster Farms is headquartered, presented Foster with a key to the city.

Recent Food Safety and Inspection Service data suggest that fewer than 5 percent of Foster Farms chicken parts are contaminated with Salmonella, compared to the industry average of about 20 percent. Despite those numbers, the company has made more headlines for its Salmonella problems than any other in the poultry industry.

“I have greatly enjoyed the past 11 years as your CEO,” Foster said in a letter to employees announcing his resignation. “During this period, we have witnessed some of the most challenging and some of the most rewarding times in our company’s history. I am confident that Foster Farms is positioned to do great things.”

Company executives reportedly told the Modesto Bee that the two recent Salmonella outbreaks led to a 25-percent drop in sales, which have since recovered.

Food Safety News

President and CEO of Foster Farms to Step Down

Ron Foster, the president and CEO of California-based Foster Farms, announced Thursday that he will step down from those positions within the poultry company, according to the Modesto Bee. However, he will remain an owner and board member.

Foster, 56, has served for 11 years as head of the company that his grandparents founded 75 years ago. He will remain as president and CEO until a replacement is named.

Beginning in early 2013, Foster led the company through two high-profile Salmonella Heidelberg outbreaks. The first sickened at least 134 people, primarily in Washington and Oregon, while the second sickened at least 634 people, including 490 Californians.

At the same time, under Foster’s leadership, the company has been celebrated by public figures, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), for becoming an industry leader in lowering Salmonella contamination. In July, the city council of Livingston, CA, where Foster Farms is headquartered, presented Foster with a key to the city.

Recent Food Safety and Inspection Service data suggest that fewer than 5 percent of Foster Farms chicken parts are contaminated with Salmonella, compared to the industry average of about 20 percent. Despite those numbers, the company has made more headlines for its Salmonella problems than any other in the poultry industry.

“I have greatly enjoyed the past 11 years as your CEO,” Foster said in a letter to employees announcing his resignation. “During this period, we have witnessed some of the most challenging and some of the most rewarding times in our company’s history. I am confident that Foster Farms is positioned to do great things.”

Company executives reportedly told the Modesto Bee that the two recent Salmonella outbreaks led to a 25-percent drop in sales, which have since recovered.

Food Safety News

Peruvian mandarin exports to Japan a step further

Peruvian mandarin exports to Japan a step further

The Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI), through the National Service of Agricultural Health (SENASA), has successfully completed the cold storage quarantine treatment tests for Satsuma mandarins (Citrus unshiu), carried out by the Phytosanitary Treatments Department of the Directorate for Plant Protection of SENASA, which was the evidence required to enable the export of Peruvian Satsuma mandarins to the Japanese market. 

From 12 to 23 May, Dr. Horomitsu Naito, entomologist at the Plant Protection Station in Yokohama, an institution under the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), along with a team of specialists from SENASA led by engineer Felix Quenta, conducted the confirmatory tests at the Phytosanitary Treatment Centre of SENASA, based in La Molina.

The tests involved cold treatment at 2.1 °C for 18 days and at 3.0 °C for 23 days, intended to eliminate all possible infestations of Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata); a pest that does not exist in Japanese territory . 

With Dr Naito’s participation, it was found that the proposed treatments eliminated 100% of the larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly in Satsuma mandarins, which had been inoculated with 17,000 larvae before each treatment. 

SENASA will send the official report of the test results to MAFF and, according to the procedures in force in Japan, this data will be analysed, corroborated and integrated in a proposal that will follow several stages.

Initially, the regulations will be discussed between the plant protection services of both countries to make way for a public hearing with the Japanese producers; the MAFF will subsequently make ​​an amendment to its regulations to include access to this Peruvian citrus variety. After the fulfilment of these steps, Peruvian mandarins will start being exported to this important international market.

It is worth noting that trials started in 2009 under an agreement between the MAFF of Japan and the SENASA of Peru, to enable the lifting of restrictions on Peruvian citrus, such as mandarins (Satsuma, Clementine, W. Murcott), Minneola tangelo and oranges (Lanelate and Washington navel). 

Source: Inforegion

Publication date: 6/12/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Peruvian mandarin exports to Japan a step further

Peruvian mandarin exports to Japan a step further

The Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI), through the National Service of Agricultural Health (SENASA), has successfully completed the cold storage quarantine treatment tests for Satsuma mandarins (Citrus unshiu), carried out by the Phytosanitary Treatments Department of the Directorate for Plant Protection of SENASA, which was the evidence required to enable the export of Peruvian Satsuma mandarins to the Japanese market. 

From 12 to 23 May, Dr. Horomitsu Naito, entomologist at the Plant Protection Station in Yokohama, an institution under the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), along with a team of specialists from SENASA led by engineer Felix Quenta, conducted the confirmatory tests at the Phytosanitary Treatment Centre of SENASA, based in La Molina.

The tests involved cold treatment at 2.1 °C for 18 days and at 3.0 °C for 23 days, intended to eliminate all possible infestations of Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata); a pest that does not exist in Japanese territory . 

With Dr Naito’s participation, it was found that the proposed treatments eliminated 100% of the larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly in Satsuma mandarins, which had been inoculated with 17,000 larvae before each treatment. 

SENASA will send the official report of the test results to MAFF and, according to the procedures in force in Japan, this data will be analysed, corroborated and integrated in a proposal that will follow several stages.

Initially, the regulations will be discussed between the plant protection services of both countries to make way for a public hearing with the Japanese producers; the MAFF will subsequently make ​​an amendment to its regulations to include access to this Peruvian citrus variety. After the fulfilment of these steps, Peruvian mandarins will start being exported to this important international market.

It is worth noting that trials started in 2009 under an agreement between the MAFF of Japan and the SENASA of Peru, to enable the lifting of restrictions on Peruvian citrus, such as mandarins (Satsuma, Clementine, W. Murcott), Minneola tangelo and oranges (Lanelate and Washington navel). 

Source: Inforegion

Publication date: 6/12/2014


FreshPlaza.com

GMA: Vermont GMO bill a step in wrong direction

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which backs a federal bill that would preempt states from legislative efforts to require labeling of GM foods, says that a Vermont measure to mandate labeling is “a step in the wrong direction for consumers.”

“It sets the nation on a costly and misguided path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will do nothing to advance the safety of consumers,” said GMA, in a statement.


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The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, of which GMA and nearly three-dozen food associations are part, also opposes state-based GMO laws.

“The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is focused on a federal labeling solution because initiatives, such as the one in Vermont, that are based on fear and politics hurt consumers and farmers,” spokeswoman Claire Parker told SN. “We need food labeling to be based on science as determined by the FDA. The nations foremost food safety authority.”

Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Association sees the advancement of the Vermont measure as a victory for consumers.

“We expect that the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a multi-billion dollar lobbying group representing more than 300 food, pesticide and drug makers, will try to pass their ‘Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,’ introduced last week by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., intended to strip Vermont, and all other states, of their right to pass GMO labeling laws,” said Cummins, in a statement.

“And we expect that Congress will not pass this law, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which seeks to deny consumers the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered, and deny states the right to enact laws designed to protect public health.”

The Vermont bill would set a precedent since unlike those passed in Maine and Connecticut, it doesn’t require any other states to pass GMO laws before it can be enacted. The bill will go back to the House, which is expected to agree to the Senate’s amendments, then to Gov. Peter Shumlin who is expected to sign it.

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Step Out of Comfort Zone: NEW Panel

Oct. 21, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Women may need to take chances and occasionally step out of their comfort zones to get ahead in business, a panel of women executives said here Monday during a panel discussion at the 2013 Leadership Summit of the Network of Executive Women.


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Ginnie Roeglin, senior vice president, e-commerce and publishing, for Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash., said she was given the assignment to integrate systems when Price Co. merged with Costco in 1993. Although she had been working in Price Co.’s IT department, “I was not a tech person, and things didn’t always go well in my new job — we had more than our share of glitches.

“But doing that job gave me great visibility among Costco executives, and they saw I could work hard and have a lot of success. So it turned out to be a good thing that I got out of my comfort zone, even if I wasn’t quite ready.”

Teresa Turley, vice president, human resources, operations for Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., said she took a risk in taking over HR operations for the Memphis division last week.

“I wish I’d taken the risk of getting into operations 20 years earlier because it’s good to broaden your scope,” she said.

She also took a chance “by expressing myself on the kind of compensation I wanted, rather than simply accepting whatever they were paying, as I had in the past. It took a lot of guts, but I negotiated with the company and got a 50% raise because I asked.”

Donna Sanker, vice president, marketing, for BP’s AM/PM Markets, said she was asked years ago to lead a division of BP’s gasoline business, “and though I had no experience in that part of the business, I learned I didn’t need to be an expert because I had an experienced team around me, so I asked a lot of questions, which is a great way to learn and also a great way to enable your team to feel valued.

“Asking questions is not a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of strength,” she added.

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Device speeds concentration step in food-pathogen detection

Oct. 15, 2013 — Researchers have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods by using hollow thread-like fibers that filter out the cells, representing a potential new tool for speedier detection.

The machine, called a continuous cell concentration device, could make it possible to routinely analyze food or water samples to screen for pathogens within a single work shift at food processing plants.

“This approach begins to address the critical need for the food industry for detecting food pathogens within six hours or less,” said Michael Ladisch, a distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University. “Ideally, you want to detect foodborne pathogens in one work shift, from start to finish, which means extracting the sample, concentrating the cells and detection.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a lack of recent progress in reducing foodborne infections and highlights the need for improved prevention. Although many foodborne illnesses have declined in the past 15 years, the number of laboratory-confirmed salmonella cases did not change significantly in 2012 compared with 2006 to 2008.

The first step in detecting foodborne pathogens is concentrating the number of cells in test samples. The new system enables researchers to carry out the concentration step within one hour, compared to a day for the standard method now in commercial use, said Ladisch, also a professor of biomedical engineering and director of Purdue’s Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE)

Findings are detailed in a research paper to appear in November in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The paper was authored by doctoral student Xuan Li; LORRE research scientist Eduardo Ximenes; postdoctoral research associate Mary Anne Roshni Amalaradjou; undergraduate student Hunter B. Vibbert; senior research engineer Kirk Foster; engineering resources manager Jim Jones; microbiologist Xingya Liu; Arun K. Bhunia, a professor of food microbiology; and Ladisch.

Findings showed the system was able to concentrate inoculated salmonella by 500 to 1,000 times the original concentration in test samples. This level of concentration is required for accurate detection. Another finding showed the system recovered 70 percent of the living pathogen cells in samples, Ladisch said.

“This is important because if you filter microorganisms and kill them in the process that’s self-defeating,” he said. “The goal is to find out how many living microorganisms are present.”

The machine was used to concentrate cells in a sample of chicken meat. The sample is first broken down into the consistency of a milkshake and chemically pretreated to prevent the filtering membranes from clogging. The fluid is then passed through 12 hollow-fiber filters about 300 microns in diameter that are contained in a tube about the size of a cocktail straw. The filtering process continues until pathogens if present are concentrated enough to be detected.

The technique, developed by researchers from Purdue’s colleges of Engineering and Agriculture, could be performed during food processing or vegetable washing before the products are shipped.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will test the system, which is not yet ready for commercialization.

One feature that could make the machine practical for commercial application is that it can be quickly cleaned between uses. The tubes are flushed with sodium hydroxide and alcohol.

Purdue has filed a patent application for the concept.

The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Purdue’s Agricultural Research Programs and Center for Food Safety Engineering, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered

Sep. 27, 2013 — Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $ 8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefitting both farmers’ bottom lines and the environment. The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are “confused” when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

“The problem is that corn, tomatoes and other crops have a different response and don’t support an intimate interaction with the rhizobia, thus making farmers apply larger amounts of nitrogen than might otherwise be necessary,” Stacey said. “Scientists have known about this beneficial relationship since 1888, but it only exists in legume crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. We’re working to transfer this trait to other plants like corn, wheat or rice, which we believe is possible since these other plants recognize the bacteria. It’s a good first step.”

When legumes like soybeans sense a signal from the bacteria, they create nodules where the bacteria gather and produce atmospheric nitrogen that the plants can then use to stimulate their growth. This reaction doesn’t happen in other plants.

“There’s this back and forth battle between a plant and a pathogen,” said Yan Liang, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at MU. “Rhizobia eventually developed a chemical to inhibit the defense response in legumes and make those plants recognize it as a friend. Meanwhile, corn, tomatoes and other crops are still trying to defend themselves against this bacteria.”

In the study, Stacey and Liang treated corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other plants to see how they responded when exposed to the chemical signal from the rhizobia bacteria. They found that the plants did receive the signal and, like legumes, inhibited the normal plant immune system. However, soybeans, corn and these other plants don’t complete the extra step of forming nodules to allow the bacteria to thrive.

“The important finding was that these other plants didn’t just ignore the rhizobia bacteria,” Stacey said. “They recognized it, but just activated a different mechanism. Our next step is to determine how we can make the plants understand that this is a beneficial relationship and get them to activate a different mechanism that will produce the nodules that attract the bacteria instead of trying to fight them.”

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered

Sep. 27, 2013 — Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $ 8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefitting both farmers’ bottom lines and the environment. The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are “confused” when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

“The problem is that corn, tomatoes and other crops have a different response and don’t support an intimate interaction with the rhizobia, thus making farmers apply larger amounts of nitrogen than might otherwise be necessary,” Stacey said. “Scientists have known about this beneficial relationship since 1888, but it only exists in legume crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. We’re working to transfer this trait to other plants like corn, wheat or rice, which we believe is possible since these other plants recognize the bacteria. It’s a good first step.”

When legumes like soybeans sense a signal from the bacteria, they create nodules where the bacteria gather and produce atmospheric nitrogen that the plants can then use to stimulate their growth. This reaction doesn’t happen in other plants.

“There’s this back and forth battle between a plant and a pathogen,” said Yan Liang, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at MU. “Rhizobia eventually developed a chemical to inhibit the defense response in legumes and make those plants recognize it as a friend. Meanwhile, corn, tomatoes and other crops are still trying to defend themselves against this bacteria.”

In the study, Stacey and Liang treated corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other plants to see how they responded when exposed to the chemical signal from the rhizobia bacteria. They found that the plants did receive the signal and, like legumes, inhibited the normal plant immune system. However, soybeans, corn and these other plants don’t complete the extra step of forming nodules to allow the bacteria to thrive.

“The important finding was that these other plants didn’t just ignore the rhizobia bacteria,” Stacey said. “They recognized it, but just activated a different mechanism. Our next step is to determine how we can make the plants understand that this is a beneficial relationship and get them to activate a different mechanism that will produce the nodules that attract the bacteria instead of trying to fight them.”

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered

Sep. 27, 2013 — Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $ 8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefitting both farmers’ bottom lines and the environment. The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are “confused” when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

“The problem is that corn, tomatoes and other crops have a different response and don’t support an intimate interaction with the rhizobia, thus making farmers apply larger amounts of nitrogen than might otherwise be necessary,” Stacey said. “Scientists have known about this beneficial relationship since 1888, but it only exists in legume crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. We’re working to transfer this trait to other plants like corn, wheat or rice, which we believe is possible since these other plants recognize the bacteria. It’s a good first step.”

When legumes like soybeans sense a signal from the bacteria, they create nodules where the bacteria gather and produce atmospheric nitrogen that the plants can then use to stimulate their growth. This reaction doesn’t happen in other plants.

“There’s this back and forth battle between a plant and a pathogen,” said Yan Liang, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at MU. “Rhizobia eventually developed a chemical to inhibit the defense response in legumes and make those plants recognize it as a friend. Meanwhile, corn, tomatoes and other crops are still trying to defend themselves against this bacteria.”

In the study, Stacey and Liang treated corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other plants to see how they responded when exposed to the chemical signal from the rhizobia bacteria. They found that the plants did receive the signal and, like legumes, inhibited the normal plant immune system. However, soybeans, corn and these other plants don’t complete the extra step of forming nodules to allow the bacteria to thrive.

“The important finding was that these other plants didn’t just ignore the rhizobia bacteria,” Stacey said. “They recognized it, but just activated a different mechanism. Our next step is to determine how we can make the plants understand that this is a beneficial relationship and get them to activate a different mechanism that will produce the nodules that attract the bacteria instead of trying to fight them.”

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered

Sep. 27, 2013 — Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $ 8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefitting both farmers’ bottom lines and the environment. The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are “confused” when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

“The problem is that corn, tomatoes and other crops have a different response and don’t support an intimate interaction with the rhizobia, thus making farmers apply larger amounts of nitrogen than might otherwise be necessary,” Stacey said. “Scientists have known about this beneficial relationship since 1888, but it only exists in legume crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. We’re working to transfer this trait to other plants like corn, wheat or rice, which we believe is possible since these other plants recognize the bacteria. It’s a good first step.”

When legumes like soybeans sense a signal from the bacteria, they create nodules where the bacteria gather and produce atmospheric nitrogen that the plants can then use to stimulate their growth. This reaction doesn’t happen in other plants.

“There’s this back and forth battle between a plant and a pathogen,” said Yan Liang, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at MU. “Rhizobia eventually developed a chemical to inhibit the defense response in legumes and make those plants recognize it as a friend. Meanwhile, corn, tomatoes and other crops are still trying to defend themselves against this bacteria.”

In the study, Stacey and Liang treated corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other plants to see how they responded when exposed to the chemical signal from the rhizobia bacteria. They found that the plants did receive the signal and, like legumes, inhibited the normal plant immune system. However, soybeans, corn and these other plants don’t complete the extra step of forming nodules to allow the bacteria to thrive.

“The important finding was that these other plants didn’t just ignore the rhizobia bacteria,” Stacey said. “They recognized it, but just activated a different mechanism. Our next step is to determine how we can make the plants understand that this is a beneficial relationship and get them to activate a different mechanism that will produce the nodules that attract the bacteria instead of trying to fight them.”

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

USDA considering next step after US crops rejected in foreign markets

USDA considering next step after US crops rejected in foreign markets

After a Washington farmer had his alfalfa crop rejected for export last month because it tested positive for genetically modified organisms, the United States Department of Agriculture is considering what steps it might take to prevent further cross-contamination. “We’re still in discussion with the Washington State Department of Agriculture to determine what if any actions are warranted, what our next steps will be,” USDA spokesman Ed Curlett told Reuters.

The alfalfa crop, which was grown near the town of Royal City, contained traces of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” trait, a genetically engineered modification that allows the plants to tolerate greater amounts of pesticide. While Monsanto’s seeds can result in greater yields for farmers, 64 countries around the world ban the importation of GMO crops, and the Washington grower was unaware that he was growing genetically engineered alfalfa.

This marks the second time in recent months that a crop was rejected for export because it was found to be contaminated with a Monsanto’s GMO seeds. In May, “Roundup Ready” wheat was discovered in an Oregon farmer’s fields, prompting many Asian nations to suspend imports.

Voters in Washington will decide in November whether to pass an initiative requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods, and the discovery of GMO alfalfa has now become a central issue in the campaign to pass the ballot measure. “There are 64 countries across the globe that already require labeling and American consumers deserve the same right,” George Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety, told KING 5 News. “When these shipments are rejected, these (export) markets are lost. They don’t come back,” said Kimbrell.

While the USDA approved “Roundup Ready” alfalfa in 2011, many farmers argue that it is increasingly hard to prevent cross-contamination because the crop is pollinated by honeybees. In fact, many growers say they can’t know until harvest whether their alfalfa may contain genetically modified organisms until it is too late.

Source: nydailynews.com

Publication date: 9/18/2013


FreshPlaza.com

Dole a step closer to going private

David H. Murdock, chairman and chief executive officer of Dole Food Co., signed a definitive merger agreement with the company to acquire for cash all of the outstanding shares of Dole common stock not currently beneficially held by him.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Dole stockholders will receive $ 13.50 in cash for each share of Dole common stock that they hold, in a transaction that places the total value of Dole at approximately $ 1.6 billion.

This price represents an increase of $ 1.50 per share from the original proposal Murdock delivered to Dole on June 10 and a premium of 32 percent over the $ 10.20 per share price of the stock immediately prior to such proposal.

The transaction is subject to a number of conditions, including approval by at least a majority of the outstanding shares of common stock held by stockholders of Dole other than Mr. Murdock and his affiliates.

The merger agreement provides for a “go-shop” period of 30 days, during which a special committee will actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals. The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2013.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Southern Specialties hosts Step Upp leadership class

Southern Specialties, a grower, importer, processor and shipper of a variety of specialty products grown in Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada and the United States, hosted the 2013 Southeast Produce Council Step Upp leadership class for an educational presentation and tour of the company’s facility in Pompano Beach, FL, on Aug. 1.

Ten members from this year’s class were accompanied by Faye Westfall (Dimare Fresh), chairman; Joe Watson (Rouses), co-chairman; Tom Page (Supervalu-retired), co-chairman;20Members of the Step Upp program touring Southern Specialties’ facilities. and Andrew Scott, president of the Southeast Produce Council, during the visit.

“Each Step Upp class tours farms and facilities in the Southeast, and it is a great opportunity for future leaders in produce to get first-hand exposure to the many facets of our industry,” Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties, said in a press release. “We are pleased to have been selected by the leaders of this group to give a presentation focused on South Florida as a gateway into the U.S. for fruits and vegetables from Central and South America. Our company has been growing in the Americas for over 22 years, and we have gained expertise in growing, processing, warehousing and distributing safe, high-quality specialty produce from all regions.”

Robert Colescott, president and chief executive officer of Southern Specialties, joined Southern Specialties’ executives and members of its sales teams in greeting the 2013 STEP-UPP class.

A presentation by Tim Meissner, chief operating officer, addressed the 3 billion pounds of produce from Central America and South America that enter the country through South Florida each year. The presentation touched on growing, importing, processing and quality assurance.

The class also learned the significant role imported produce has played in the increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Publisher’s Platform: It is Past Time to Step Up on Foodborne Illness Surveillance

Cyclospora outbreak going on since June 1 and we do not know the source.

Did you hear the joke about the two doctors and a trial lawyer?

I am sure there might be something funny here if it were not that part of the story involves 321 sick with Cyclospora in 15 states and me getting a bit between Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health and Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, in an recent article by Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register entitled: “Iowa’s Cyclospora response criticized – Expert: Source should have been pinpointed quickly.”

In a nutshell the unfunny joke goes something like:

“If this same number of cases had happened in Minnesota as happened in Iowa, this would have been solved weeks ago.”  – Dr. Osterholm

“I guess it’s easy to be critical if you’re not involved in the investigation.”  – Dr. Quinlisk

“It seems to me that by now the health departments and the CDC and the FDA should have identified the products.” “[I] don’t know all the details of the investigation, [but I agree] with Osterholm that the Minnesota health department, along with the one in Oregon, often manages to quickly track down the source of tainted food.”  – Ambulance Chaser Marler

The reality is that Minnesota’s and Oregon’s foodborne illness surveillance works and works well.  They work in large part because of the people and the commitment to good epidemiology.  The goal for both is to find the source of the outbreak fast so illnesses are stopped as quickly as possible and so the correct food product gets off the shelves.  There is a misconception that you must go slowly to confirm that the right product is implicated.  In 20 years of following foodborne illness outbreaks worldwide, I have not seen Minnesota’s and Oregon’s prompt responses name a wrong product or manufacturer.

Beyond stopping an outbreak is the traceback to the source so lessons can be learned to prevent another outbreak.  Minnesota and Oregon do not wait for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to do a product traceback. Certainly, the Feds play a role, but there have been times in the past where federal traceback was unusually slow and manufacturers, shippers and retailers were left unnamed.

In Minnesota, Team D (D for diarrhea) is a squad of graduate students at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and epidemiologists at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) performing epidemiological interviews in trace back investigations. Armed with tantalizing knowledge of the gastrointestinal system, telephones, and a lot of gumption, the work of Team D gives Minnesota an unusual prowess in cracking some of the most infamous foodborne illness cases in the U.S.

By Minnesota state law (oddly, only 35 states in the U.S. mandate Cyclospora as reportable), doctors must send stool cultures believed to be from cases of foodborne illness to the MDH laboratory where they are pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) tested to create DNA finger printing – which tell investigators if different samples likely came from a common host.  Team D gets to work immediately, interviewing the victims, often as they are suffering symptoms, looking for commonalities in what, where, and when they ate. Whereas some states may take weeks to perform the interview portion of an investigation, it is this real-time history gathering that adds an invaluable level of depth to trace back investigations, something it seems that this Cyclospora outbreak desperately needs.

Team D is a model that all states should emulate.

Of course, you cannot do without individual knowledge.  Dr. William Keene, senior epidemiologist is the top foodborne illness investigator at Oregon’s Division of Public Health. Keene has been unraveling the path of pathogens from victims to the source for over 30 years, and has an impressive list of solved cases under his belt.  One of his most valuable contributions to the food safety world is the shotgun questionnaire, which lists hundreds of foods for foodborne illness victims to choose from to help them recall what they recently ate.

But, do not take it just from me.

In 2011, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a nationwide report card grading the 50 states and the District of Columbia on how well they detect, investigate, and report outbreaks of foodborne illness (See Report). The report shows that there is a need for improvement. CSPI assigned a letter grade and created an outbreak profile for each state.

A: Oregon, Minnesota, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Washington, and Wyoming.

B: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Vermont.

C: Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

D: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.

F: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

In addition to states being committed quickly and accurately seeking the source of a foodborne illness outbreak, perhaps too the answer to the low grades and the lack of a source in this Cyclospora outbreak may lie in overlooked Sec. 205 of the Food Safety Modernization Act.  The Section should:

- Coordinate Federal, State and local systems, including complaint systems and networks of public health, food regulatory agencies and labs;

- Facilitate sharing of findings between FDA, USDA, State and local agencies, and the public;

- Develop improved epidemiological tools;

- Improve systems that attribute an outbreak to a specific food;

- Expand fingerprinting and other detection strategies for food-borne agents;

- Allow public access to aggregated, de-identified surveillance data;

- Publish findings at least yearly;

- Rapidly initiate scientific research by academic institutions;

- Integrate surveillance systems and data with other bio surveillance and public health entities.

Also, is the creation of “PARTNERSHIPS,” which appears to actually be a “working group of experts and stakeholders from Federal, State and local food safety and health agencies, the food industry, consumer organizations and academia.”  In addition, Sec. 205 (c) adds “strengthen[ing] the capacity of State and local agencies to carry out inspections and enforce safety standards” and, “the Secretary to (within a year) complete a review of State and local capacities, including staffing levels, laboratory capacity, outbreak response, inspection and enforcement functions.”

Stopping outbreaks sooner, means less ill people. Honestly, that is not good for my business. Tracing it to the source gives everyone a better understanding of how the outbreak happened and what can be done to prevent the next one.  Hmm, that does not help my bottom line either.

So, if the states and the federal government did a better job of figuring out foodborne illness outbreaks, there would be fewer ill people and fewer outbreaks?

Wait, I just figured out, this joke could well be on me!

Photo courtesy of FDA’s flickr page.

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