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School lunch compromise good news to fresh fruit, vegetable suppliers

WASHINGTON — Fruit and vegetable companies will continue to sell to schools that must meet improved nutrition standards thanks to a deal cut in the FY 2015 omnibus spending bill signed Dec. 16 by President Obama.

The appropriations bill that funds U.S. Department of Agriculture programs hit a roadblock when an amendment passed that would have allowed schools struggling to meet the strict standards to be granted a waiver. 

“Although well-intended, some of USDA’s rules went too far, too fast, and ended up driving students away from healthy school meals while unnecessarily driving up costs for schools,” said School Nutrition Association CEO Patricia Montague, who backed the waiver.

A coalition of groups, including the United Fresh Produce Association, urged Congress not to allow schools to opt out of all the new provisions, and this month lawmakers agreed to a compromise that allowed schools flexibility in meeting the whole grain and sodium standards.

“Congress agreed that rolling back the very modest requirement that kids get one-half cup of fruits and vegetables in their lunch would not be good policy and would have been detrimental to achieving our shared public health goal, which is to help children learn to make half-their-plate fruits and vegetables,” said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh. “The modest half-a-cup requirement is one step toward a lifetime of better health for today’s kids, and lower long-term healthcare costs for our country.”

The agreement also sets the stage for next year’s reauthorization of child nutrition programs, which expire in 2015.

“Schools need help in modernizing and streamlining procurement processes, updating refrigeration and cafeteria equipment, and financial resources to support healthy meals,” Stenzel said. “The solution contained in the omnibus passed today resolves a past debate, and sets all of us on a positive course where we can work together to serve our nation’s children.”

On a related note, a draft report from the committee developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported this week the U.S. population has made few dietary changes from 2001-2010, with fruit intake low but stable and vegetable intake declining.

The committee, which recommends changes to the guidelines every five years, is set to recommend U.S. consumers follow a diet high in vegetable, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts, and low in red and processed meat, added sugars and refined grains.

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

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Many suppliers for medjool date market

Demand in Europe for Medjool dates has remained strong this year, with growers reporting enough demand to accommodate the product that’s been shipped.

“Demand is good and prices are good,” said Avi Dagul of Field Produce Marketing in Israel. “The Medjool date is a very good item that brings a very good income to the grower.” Total production for Israel is expected to be about 23,000 tons, while the total amount of trees in Israel is about 400,000. 

Field Produce Marketing is expecting a growth of about 15%, comparing to last year. Though the company is not one of the biggest growers in Israel, its two packing houses ship enough dates throughout Europe to make it one of the top three exporters in the country. This year, exports have been good.

“There was very tough competition last year, and prices went down because of that on a few occasions,” said Dagul. “But you don’t see that this year. There is always competition, but this year there was enough demand that there was enough of a market for everyone.” Dagul attributes strong demand to the appeal of Medjool dates, which he says are nutritious and a good way to start the day. Interest for the item is so great that he’s increased his program for next season to 2,500 tons, in order to accommodate future demand.

“Around the world, there are about 35,000 tons of dates available for export,” said Dagul. “That’s a small quantity for the demand there is, so I see a good future for Medjool dates.”

For more information:
Avi Dagul
FIELD PRODUCE MARKETING LTD
Tel:  +972-4-8522749
Fax:  +972-4-8525364
[email protected]
www.fpmarketing.co.il

Publication date: 12/16/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

European suppliers maintain presence at World Food Moscow

European suppliers maintain presence at World Food Moscow

Despite the restrictions imposed on European goods by the Russian government, there was a healthy European presence at the recent World Food Moscow. Though it’s uncertain when the current situation between Russia and the European Union will be resolved, European fresh produce suppliers want to maintain their relationships in Russia for when the situation improves.

“There were quite a lot of Europeans attending,” noted Irina Koziy, general director of «FruitNews» News Agency in Russia. Koziy attended the event and noted that although the attendees were more nervous than usual, given the current political climate and embargo on food products, European participants made a strong impression.

“For me, personally, their attendance left a very good impression,” said Koziy. “Because even though they’re not able to send their products to Russia, it shows they’re serious about this market.” That European suppliers are willing to make an effort to maintain the relationships they have in Russia is a testament to the importance the Russian market has for European shippers. But the relationship is a reciprocal one, and many Russian buyers are also eager for a resolution to the current situation.

“Some Russian companies have been able to find new partners and change their sources,” noted Koziy. “For other companies, it’s a big challenge if they focused on products that came from the European Union.” Programs that could be used to wean Russians off foreign imports may pay off in the long run, but they currently aren’t much help because it takes more than just one season for local producers to make up for the deficit brought on by the European ban.

“You can’t plant an orchard to have a peach harvest in less than one year,” explained Koziy. “So we just have to survive with the changes that have happened and hope that those changes will be played back in the next few months for the good of the Russian market and Russian customers.” It’s hard to tell the full impact that the ban on European goods has had on supplies of food or prices because the fresh produce market is always in flux. For consumers, who often deal with price fluctuations and changing inventories, current market conditions could be just a more pronounced version of a typical year. But the effects are there, and even if consumers can’t quantify them exactly, they see fewer options and higher prices. That the effects are apparent to everyone in the country, however, doesn’t guarantee that the cause of those effects – the ban on European goods – will be lifted any time soon.

“We know a lot of people are complaining about the current prices and even the Russian government has recognized that prices went up because of restrictions implemented on food products,” said Koziy. “But we are not in Europe, so the Russian government is not going to change its decisions immediately just because prices went up. So I really don’t know what the Russian government is planning.”

Publication date: 9/26/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Why retailers and suppliers should attend next year’s FMI Connect

FMI’s return to an annual trade show — FMI Connect: The Global Food Retail Experience — was an important step in maintaining the connectivity of our industry.

For many senior executives, this is the only place where they get to see “what’s new” and visit with the movers and shakers of our trade partners at the highest levels. For our up and coming trainees and executives, it is an opportunity to experience the industry from a global view.

I was involved in the launch of the FMI Connect concept, and I remain an advocate. My company, Price Chopper Supermarkets, sent a large number of associates to the event.

For those looking for exposure to ideas, trends and the realities of retail food it is a terrific education. At this year’s show, a number of Price Chopper associates mentioned that the new world of communication via the internet was an eye opener.

When it comes to our trade partners who attend FMI Connect, it is important to recognize that attendees from different levels of a retail organization are looking for different things at the show. For example, senior management often doesn’t get to see new equipment designs on a day-to-day basis that might fit our needs for next generation stores.

At the same time, members of the Price Chopper engineering team get valuable information from equipment manufacturers, often seeing what others are offering that they had not seen before. The team wanted to see even more displays of equipment at this year’s show.

Beyond all the “stuff,” it is the personal relationships and contacts that make the biggest difference for all of us. Our people really enjoyed meeting their peers from other companies and found the exchange of information and ideas to be very worthwhile. I think we’re going to end up bringing more people to FMI Connect in the future.


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As FMI, under the leadership of Leslie Sarasin, expands its vision of FMI Connect and its partnerships with other trade organizations, the show provides all food retailers with the one place to go see and hear what’s happening. This year, FMI partnered with United Fresh, Interbev Beverages and PPMI. In 2015, Sabor Latino, Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence (WISE), and the National Supermarket Association will also be part of the show. The efficiency and cost effectiveness of one annual trade show for our entire industry makes all kinds of sense.

Speaking for many at FMI, we strongly encourage retailer participation; for many it is a real eye opener. For our trade partners it is the place to show your moves. Please make plans to join us in Chicago, June 9-11, 2015.

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Applebee’s Changes Suppliers in Minnesota as E. coli Investigation Continues

Following reports that its franchise locations in Minnesota may be connected to an outbreak of E. coli O111, the Applebee’s restaurant chain announced Thursday that it has “changed suppliers” in the state.

When asked by Food Safety News, Applebee’s spokesman declined to specify exactly what supplies would be sourced from the new supplier. He also would not name the new or the previous supplier.

Sometime before the July 14 announcement of 13 E. coli O111 illnesses in Minnesota, Applebee’s locations in Minnesota stopped serving the Oriental Chicken Salad menu item, as well as related ingredients served with other products. The move suggested that at least some case patients had consumed the salad.

At least 13 people in Minnesota have fallen ill in the outbreak, with seven of them having eaten at Applebee’s. Because the other six cases have no apparent connection to Applebee’s, Minnesota health officials believe the outbreak has been caused by a “widely distributed food item” and may not necessarily have been served at Applebee’s.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the outbreak investigation also included two additional cases in two unnamed states. Officials declined to reveal those states until the investigation could positively connect them to the outbreak in Minnesota.

On Thursday, investigators in Minnesota were still working to determine which food product might have caused the illnesses, said Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Michael Schommer. Until then, they weren’t showing their cards in terms of any additional information.

“In epidemiological investigations, the gold standard is to find a sample of the food product with the outbreak pathogen in it,” Schommer said. “The majority of cases ate at Applebee’s, and while that information is certainly helpful to the investigation, we haven’t yet found the gold standard.”

Food Safety News

Dairy suppliers sue Trader Joe’s

Two dairy suppliers have filed suit against Trader Joe’s, saying the specialty retailer dropped them as suppliers then coerced other vendors to stop working with them.

The case, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Natural Dairy Products and Dairy Smart Inc., alleges that Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s coerced product suppliers and manufacturers to get companies to cancel contracts with NDP and Dairy Smart. Grievances in the complaint include intentional interference with contractual relations; unjust enrichment; breach of contract; and acting in bad faith.

“Our clients helped build Trader Joe’s ice cream products which generated tremendous revenues for the grocer,” attorney Ricardo Echeverria said in a statement. “Once TJ’s decided it would be more profitable doing business without Natural Dairy Products and Dairy Smart they purposefully railroaded their business relationships.”

A Trader Joe’s spokeswoman said the company does not comment on lawsuits.

NDP as a company had been doing business with TJ’s since 2005 and with its principals for more than 30 years, attorneys for the plaintiffs said. NDP helped Trader Joe’s obtain better products from ice cream manufacturers. Dairy Smart acted as a broker for TJ’s for dairy products including yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and butter. Trader Joe’s stopped doing business with these companies in March of 2013.

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Supermarket News

Gap between kiwi seasons bodes well for European suppliers

Ready-to-eat kiwifruit is a niche market
Gap between kiwi seasons bodes well for European suppliers

With lower than expected New Zealand kiwi exports and a Chile export season that will likely be delayed, Europe’s kiwi shippers are hoping to take advantage of the period between when New Zealand season ends and the Chilean season begins. “We have been selling okay because it’s been a short supply season,” said Marc Peyres of Blue Whale in France. “New Zealand finished early everywhere and Chile won’t start early, so there’s more space for European fruit.”


 
While there’s good demand and movement has been going along at a good pace because of a gap in the market, Peyres noted that there are still a few months left in the season, so they have to keep on their toes. “I believe it’s been one of the best seasons in the last 10 years as far as prices for growers,” said Peyres. “But we have to be careful until the end, because if we don’t move enough volume until the end, then it’s not very good.” He stressed the importance of the local market and the need to move lots of fruit domestically in order to finish strong.

Ready-to-eat kiwifruit
With regards to ready-to-eat kiwifruit, Marc notes that there is a niche market of top end retail, who is asking for that. However the main consumers just buy the kiwifruit in the supermarket and let it ripen in the fruit bowl. ”The disadvantage of ready-to-eat is that the consumer is forced to eat it within 1 or 2 days and may end up with throwing the fruit away.”
 
PSA
Also a concern was the growing presence of PSA worldwide. While new techniques have made it easier to deal with the disease, it’s just one of the concerns growers today have to deal with. “It’s still a battle, but we have to work at it, and if done properly, we can continue in spite of PSA,” said Peyres. “We feel better about the situation than we did a few years ago, but we still have to consider what comes next.”
 
He feels that future solutions lie in new varieties, both because those new varieties could be disease-resistant and because they could offer new marketing opportunities. For that reason, he has good feelings about the new Sun Gold variety coming out of New Zealand. “I have a feeling green kiwi consumption has stabilized,” said Peyres. “So further developing kiwi consumption will bring something new.”
 
For more information:
Marc Peyres
Blue Whale
Tel +33 5.63.21.56.56
[email protected]
www.blue-whale.com

Publication date: 2/27/2014
Author: Carlos Nunez
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Wegmans to Require GAP Audits for All Produce Suppliers

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans Food Markets will require all produce farms that supply its stores to pass a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) inspection beginning Sept. 30.


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The retailer started mandating GAP inspections for high-risk crops like spinach and melons in 2008 and has phased in the requirement for other produce suppliers since. Most suppliers already have passed a GAP audit, Wegmans said in a statement.

“These audits are the best way we have to know that a grower is following practices to minimize the chance of pathogens getting into the food supply,” Bill Pool, food safety manager for produce, said in a press release. “We all want to keep earning our customers’ trust in the safety of the fresh foods we offer.”

Wegmans said several hundred growers have participated in the retailer’s food safety education training sessions since 2005.

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“Some of the smaller local growers we work with didn’t have the same resources, so it took them longer,” said Pool. “We’ve partnered with research universities and held training sessions to help educate smaller growers. Food safety concerns apply to farms of all sizes, and it doesn’t really matter if the farm is conventional or organic. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with.”

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Why Suppliers Lag Retailers on Clustering

TGF-FruitImageHere’s a sure-fire way to achieve perfect collaboration between retailers and suppliers. Give each the exact same business models and goals. No problem, right? Wrong. That scenario will never work, because partners are far too different in structure and operations. That’s why alignment is the best option, despite the inevitable hurdles. A case in point involves segmentation and clustering. Manufacturers are often daunted by the complex clustering models retailers use to …

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Volume feeders give suppliers tips at Monterey conference

A chefs panel made up of three representatives from the volume feed sector of foodservice discussed how produce suppliers can make their jobs easier at the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference in Monterey, July 26-28.

Stefano Cordova, senior vice president of food and beverage innovation for the Au Bon Pain chain, discussed how the use of produce has increased tremendously on his company’s menu over the last few years. He said the firm has gone from 22 produce items to 57. Produce, he said, is a great item to work with it because it is a multi-colored work of art without the chef having to do anything to it. “The produce does the work for us,” he said.

Cordova, however, said quality is the most important element of any fresh produce item and there has to be a great deal of trust and collaboration between the produce supplier and the foodservice operator. He said many produce items are served in their rawest forms and there obviously cannot be any issues related to food safety or any other problems that would reflect badly on the restaurant chain. He likes working with branded product where the supplier has the same risk and motivation to provide top-quality products.

This executive chef reminded the audience that most food trends start at the restaurant level so he urged the supplier community to bring him new ideas.

Speaking to the same theme was Darryl Mickler, senior director of culinary innovation and the executive chef at the Chili’s Grill & Bar chain. He took the audience through the menu development steps at Chili’s, which can be a time-consuming process. From the planting of an idea, his culinary staff has to develop recipes that need to be tasted and tested and test marketed, and analyzed and re-analyzed before they ever hit total menu inclusion.

However, Mickler said he loves innovation and urged the audience to let him know early in the development stage when a new or better item is coming down the pike. He said planting the seed early is a great idea because it does take a while to germinate, but the results can be great.

He said produce is finding a home on restaurant menus because it offers freshness and flavor, two sought-after components of any dish. For example, he said Chili’s recently switched to the use of fresh avocados, which involved increased costs that will not be recouped via increased pricing but does add to the value the menu offers.

He revealed that the chain’s top customers — both millennials and health-conscious boomers — are looking for fresher and healthier menu items, and that’s driving Chili’s menu changes.

The final chef panelist was Rafi Taherian, executive director of Yale Dining, where more than 11,000 university students are fed every day. Because these students are the nation’s future leaders, this executive chef wants their college dining experiences to be memorable. He runs nine retail foodservice venues for undergraduates as well as four graduate dining halls and one golf course restaurant.

Taherian went down a list of his top 10 needs that started with flavor at the top and ended with versatility. In between are such produce-friendly attributes as color, texture and nutritional density. Many of his needs point to the increased use of fresh produce and that is the mission he has been on for the past four years. He increased the use of produce more than 10 percent this past year. A bit disconcerting to him was that his food costs took a big jump also, which he said he needs to examine. In the previous three years, increasing the use of fresh produce had not seen an inordinate jump in his food costs.

The increase in produce use, Taherian said is directly related to his goal of increasing the percentage of plant-based menu items and “seducing” his customers with taste.

While his costs did go up, the Yale dining halls have also registered an off-the-charts increase in customer satisfaction this past year. Though pleased with the big jump, Taherian quipped that continuing to get such high marks is unsustainable because “20 percent of the students wake up every morning hating everybody,” including the food they eat.

Amy Myrdal Miller of the Culinary Institute of America was the moderator of the panel and revealed that one of the top initiatives of CIA is to add more produce items to menus. She said a panel of chefs looks at menu priorities and their top three over the last several years have been to reduce sodium, increase the use of produce and improve carbohydrate quality with the use of more grains.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

FDA Issues FSMA Rules on Foreign Suppliers

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration released two proposed rules as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act that deal with food imported into the United States.

The foreign supplier verification programs rule requires importers to have a plan for verifying their suppliers are following the same food safety standards as U.S. growers/producers that were outlined in the earlier produce safety and preventive controls FSMA rules.

“FDA will be able to audit the importer’s plan and can stop imports from coming in if we find the plan to be inadequate or its implementation to be inadequate. It really boils down to expecting our importers to know their supplier, to know the food and its potential hazards that they’re bringing into the country, and to verify that preventive steps have been taken to minimize those hazards,” Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a media call.

A second rule outlines the accreditation process for third-party auditors, which are currently used in certain circumstances to monitor high-risk farms and as part of the voluntary qualified importer program. FDA officials said third-party audits are likely to expand in order to enforce the FSMA rules.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg noted that the U.S. imports food from about 150 countries. Imports account for about 15% of the total food supply, as well as 50% of fresh fruit and 20% of fresh vegetables.

The current import procedures allow the FDA to inspect just 2% of the food that enters the U.S. and analytically test only a small portion of that.


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“Without question, it’s important that food imported into the U.S. must meet the same level of public health protection as food produced domestically,” said Hamburg.

As with the two earlier rules, there are exemptions for smaller firms. Importers with less than $ 500,000 in sales will only need to obtain written assurances from suppliers that they are following food safety protocols rather than perform on-site inspections.

FDA officials reiterated the need for more financial resources to implement and enforce FSMA rules, but noted the significant funding increases for FSMA in the President’s 2014 budget request.

There will be a 120-day comment period for the two new proposed rules. In addition, FDA is again extending the comment period for the produce safety and preventive controls rules for an additional 60 days so stakeholders will have a chance to review all the rules together.

Read more: FDA Must Finalize FSMA Rules by 2015

Industry groups expressed support for the release of the two rules on imports but remained cautious about the rules’ specifics.

“The release and the coordinated comment periods of these proposals are evidence that FDA is listening to industry’s needs,” Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of Produce Marketing Association said in a statement. 

“Initially, we don’t see any surprises in FDA’s draft rules on imported foods and third-party auditor accreditation,” said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at United Fresh in a statement. “However, it’s important that we thoughtfully review them in a line-by-line fashion, including analysis of their interaction with other FSMA draft rules, to ensure they advance food safety and are workable for the industry.”

A judge ruled last month that FDA must release all FSMA rules by Nov. 30, and issue the final rules by June 30, 2015.

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FDA Issues FSMA Rules on Foreign Suppliers

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration released two proposed rules as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act that deal with food imported into the United States.

The foreign supplier verification programs rule requires importers to have a plan for verifying their suppliers are following the same food safety standards as U.S. growers/producers that were outlined in the earlier produce safety and preventive controls FSMA rules.

“FDA will be able to audit the importer’s plan and can stop imports from coming in if we find the plan to be inadequate or its implementation to be inadequate. It really boils down to expecting our importers to know their supplier, to know the food and its potential hazards that they’re bringing into the country, and to verify that preventive steps have been taken to minimize those hazards,” Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a media call.

A second rule outlines the accreditation process for third-party auditors, which are currently used in certain circumstances to monitor high-risk farms and as part of the voluntary qualified importer program. FDA officials said third-party audits are likely to expand in order to enforce the FSMA rules.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg noted that the U.S. imports food from about 150 countries. Imports account for about 15% of the total food supply, as well as 50% of fresh fruit and 20% of fresh vegetables.

The current import procedures allow the FDA to inspect just 2% of the food that enters the U.S. and analytically test only a small portion of that.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


“Without question, it’s important that food imported into the U.S. must meet the same level of public health protection as food produced domestically,” said Hamburg.

As with the two earlier rules, there are exemptions for smaller firms. Importers with less than $ 500,000 in sales will only need to obtain written assurances from suppliers that they are following food safety protocols rather than perform on-site inspections.

FDA officials reiterated the need for more financial resources to implement and enforce FSMA rules, but noted the significant funding increases for FSMA in the President’s 2014 budget request.

There will be a 120-day comment period for the two new proposed rules. In addition, FDA is again extending the comment period for the produce safety and preventive controls rules for an additional 60 days so stakeholders will have a chance to review all the rules together.

Read more: FDA Must Finalize FSMA Rules by 2015

Industry groups expressed support for the release of the two rules on imports but remained cautious about the rules’ specifics.

“The release and the coordinated comment periods of these proposals are evidence that FDA is listening to industry’s needs,” Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of Produce Marketing Association said in a statement. 

“Initially, we don’t see any surprises in FDA’s draft rules on imported foods and third-party auditor accreditation,” said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at United Fresh in a statement. “However, it’s important that we thoughtfully review them in a line-by-line fashion, including analysis of their interaction with other FSMA draft rules, to ensure they advance food safety and are workable for the industry.”

A judge ruled last month that FDA must release all FSMA rules by Nov. 30, and issue the final rules by June 30, 2015.

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