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CO Health Department Wants Marijuana Edibles Ban, But Forced to Drop It

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) called Monday for a ban on marijuana edibles, including brownies, cookies, and most candies, but was quickly pulled back after public health officials said they did not realize that voter-approved Amendment 64 makes legal all forms of marijuana.

In a statement, the department said its recommendation for a ban was “just that” and that the public health agency does not represent Governor John Hickenlooper on the issue and did not run its desire to prohibit edibles past his office.

The move for a ban on edibles within his administration puts the Democratic governor in a dicey position. He did not campaign against Amendment 64 when it was on the ballot, but said he was against it.

Colorado’s booming marijuana industry has raised money for his reelection, but, in a recent debate, he advised other states to keep the lid on recreational pot. CDPHE made the recommendation for a ban on edibles at a meeting for marijuana industry stakeholders, probably causing many to wonder whether the governor was behind it.

According to the polls, Hickenlooper is essentially tied with former GOP Congressman Bob Beauprez, who has opposed recreational marijuana.

Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE chief medical officer, was left trying to explain what happened.

“Considering only the public health perspective, however, edibles pose a definite risk to children, and that’s why we recommended limiting marijuana-infused products to tinctures and lozenges,” Wolk said. He added that the department was trying to put together a recommendation “only in consideration of the public health challenges of underage marijuana ingestion. It does not account for the dynamics of the black market or the guidelines set forward by Amendment 64.”
By withdrawing its recommendation, CDPHE is being trumped by both politics and the language of Amendment 64, which made the Colorado Department of Revenue the only regulatory authority for marijuana under the voter-approved initiative that legalized recreational marijuana sales in Colorado beginning just 10 months ago.

It’s unlikely, however, that the revenue department would ever have accepted such a ban, both because it is apparently not allowed by the language of Amendment 64 and the fact that revenue’s marijuana enforcement unit has its own fix coming.

Erratic dosing levels for some edible marijuana products have been the source of both tragic and comedic incidents since recreational sales got underway in Colorado.

Revenue previously announced plans for February 2015 implementation of new packaging and other changes. Those changes include setting a THC level of 10 milligrams for each serving of edible marijuana, with the maximum for the entire product of 100 milligrams. The new regulations are supposed to address the packaging, labeling and portioning of edible marijuana products so that they have a distinctive look.

Edibles were reportedly a factor in two deaths early this year, in addition to numerous emergency room trips involving children. Some comic incidents have also occurred, such as a New York Times columnist who took some edible marijuana and apparently never found a way out of her Denver hotel room.

Food Safety News

PMA 2014: Wakefern wants its competitors to join Eat Brighter

Wakefern Food Corp. may be among the first retailers to sign on to the Eat Brighter movement, but it hopes its competitors follow suit.

“The big thought from my retail perspective is that normally we talk about being competitors — competing against the Costcos of the world, the Wegmans of the world, the Walmarts of the world. This is a program which I hope all of my competitors use,” Derrick Jenkins, Wakefern’s VP of produce and floral, said at the Eat Brighter Town Hall.

Eat Brighter branded products from suppliers. “This is not a program about item price. It’s about raising the consumption for all fruits and vegetables and really helping the future children of the world to eat healthy and live brighter.”

Eat Brighter functions over and above any marketing strategy Wakefern might have around produce, such as for organic or health and wellness.

“When you can captivate children’s minds and have them tell their parents, ‘I want to go to the produce department and buy produce,’ that’s a first in our industry. You do item and price all day long, you do sampling all day long, but to have them want to buy it and not have to worry about price, that’s a win for the growing industry and retailers around the world,” said Jenkins.

The retailer hopes Eat Brighter will help increase produce consumption in neighborhoods that sometimes lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We as a marketer and a retailer, we market in areas that are food deserts today and we’re trying to raise the constant awareness of eating healthy. And to have this tool as part of my toolkit and merchandising to go forward, I’m excited about it,” said Jenkins.

Wakefern’s ShopRite stores will take Eat Brighter beyond produce labels to talk about how food is cooked and prepared. Retail dietitians will also tap into the movement.

“It’s not just going to be a produce initiative. It’s going to be a whole store initiative,” said Jenkins.

Anyone with questions about joining the Eat Brighter movement is encouraged to contact Donna Bogia, PMA’s director of information and customer service.

Supermarket News

Service2Fruit wants a market share of 5-10% in main production countries

Walter Willems: “Foreign expansion is the biggest challenge”
Service2Fruit wants a market share of 5-10% in main production countries

The digital trading platform Service2Fruit started in mid 2011. In the first year 25 million kg of fruit was traded, 35 million kilos was traded in the next and this year the “automatised commissionaire” hopes to achieve around 50 million kilos. The biggest challenge is the foreign expansion, according to director Walter Willems. Service2Fruit currently already has locations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland and are looking into opening a location in Hungary at the end of the year. “In the end we are aiming for a market share of five to ten percent in every main top fruit production country.” 

The trading platform is transparent about the company model. When a buyer emerges, they pay the money into a safe account at Service2Trust. When the fruit is delivered and the transaction completed, the selling party is paid. Service2Fruit receives commission for every kilo of supplied product. This is one cent for buyer and seller in top fruit. In peel fruit it is half a cent and in industry fruit it is 0.25 cents. “We aren’t a trader, we are an independent moderator and do not buy anything ourselves. Users mediate themselves with the aid of our platform. We do our best to make a deal, as this means buyers and sellers are satisfied. If there are still discussions, we can play a mediating role. Our experience tends to be that parties can solve this in an adult manner,” says Walter.

After the start in 2011 Service2Fruit has had varied prices in different years. “Last year was the most difficult for the selling parties. In general the focus is on the sellers in an expensive market and on buyers when there are low prices. You can see that there is still a kind of fear, especially in the selling parties, but it is decreasing. The buyers are generally ready for online trading. Most of the suspicion towards us is from parties who do not supply added value. Traders who operate as a service supplier towards the customers in the market have no problem with us. Various supermarket suppliers use us as a preferred purchasing channel. If the trader doesn’t have added value, you notice buyers coming straight to us on the site.”

5/10% share
Willems is satisfied with the past years, but doesn’t want to get lazy. “We are working progressively, but are still a small player on the market. At the moment 70% of our traded volume still comes from the Netherlands, and 25% comes from Belgium. We want to move to a share in which we can take 5 to 10% of the market in the tone setting production countries. If we can realise that in a country like Poland, it’s different volumes. We can also see that the Eastern European countries are ready for it and pick it up well, albeit carefully. The expansion abroad is the biggest challenge. You have to deal with culture differences and it requires a considerable investment. But there isn’t a lot of difference in the way of thinking and doing in general between the sellers and buyers in the various countries.”

Walter Willems

Although there is interest from multiple sectors into the concept of Service2Fruit, the trading platform remains faithful to the agrarian sector. “We have traded stone and soft fruit too this year, but the focus is on top fruit. Before we enter new product groups, we want to have more body,” says Walter. “At the moment we aren’t in the centre of the trade and hardly any positions are being filled. Yet we have around ten to twenty auctions every day. The Russian boycott has no ill consequences for us. We even think it is working out quite well for us. The volumes keep coming and a lot of people are more likely to choose other markets or new initiatives.”

For more information:
Walter Willems
De Ooyen 15A
4191PB Geldermalsen
Tel: +31 885 321 300
Fax: +31 885 321 399
[email protected]

Publication date: 9/17/2014

Trade Association Wants FDA to Change and Reissue FSMA Transport Rule

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) wants the Food and Drug Administration to make significant changes to its proposed rule for sanitary food transportation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

In addition, the association is asking that FDA reissue language for parts of the rule like it plans to do with the produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, and Foreign Supplier Verification Program rules.

“Given the very significant nature of these regulations, we believe that a second opportunity for stakeholder comment is essential to ensure that the requirements in the final rule are practical, achievable and foster the safe transport and distribution of human and animal food,” read the NGFA comments submitted to FDA on July 30. “Further, we believe FDA has the ability and authority to re-propose the regulations and still comply with the court-ordered deadline to publish a final rule by March 31, 2016.”

FDA has informed Food Safety News that it does not currently have plans to re-release parts of the rule.

NGFA believes in the responsibility of rail carriers and truck transporters to provide clean conveyances and transportation equipment suitable for the type of human and animal food shipped, but it considers some of the proposed FSMA requirements to be excessive and could add unnecessary burdens and costs “without a commensurate improvement in product safety.”

Some of the changes the association requests include:

  • Identifying only the immediate previous haul in bulk trucks or rail cars, rather than the three previous ones.
  • Eliminating the requirement that electronic records be kept in order to comply with rules that “stipulate extensive computer validation.”
  • Doing away with the proposal to exempt shippers, carriers and receivers that have less than $ 500,000 in total annual sales.
  • Deleting the requirement for hand-washing facilities unless human contact with the food could cause it to become adulterated or unfit for human or animal consumption.
  • Clearer definitions for several terms. For example, they say “shipper” should only apply to the party that loads a shipment instead of brokers or third-party logistics operators.

NGFA also recommends that FDA develop guidance on good transportation practices, as well as user-friendly educational materials, pertaining to the safe transport of such products by farms.

In addition, the association wants additional exemptions to be provided for transfers of food between facilities owned by the same parent or corporate entity and for trucks and rail lines that transport the same type of food continually, such as shuttle trains and privately owned railcars that haul grains and oilseeds on a dedicated circuitous route.

The comments express support for various aspects of the proposed rule, including FDA’s tentative conclusion to exempt the transport of live food-producing animals from the regulation and the agency’s intent to provide flexibility to shippers, carriers and receivers concerning appropriate sanitary transportation practices (including not prescribing specific sanitation practices).

NGFA also supports the decision, given constrained U.S. transportation capacity and severe rail service disruptions, not to restrict access for human and animal food to certain classes or types of rail or truck conveyances or transportation equipment.

Food Safety News

Letter From The Editor: Public Wants to Know on Restaurants

Long time readers of this five-year old news service know that we’ve had our “issues” with the kid-glove treatment most state and federal agencies give the restaurant industry. Such treatment is not in the public interest nor ironically is it doing restaurants much good either.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, for example, still refers to the role of “Restaurant A” in a not-so-long-ago outbreak. Your scribes at Food Safety News identified the restaurant chain involved in that one as good old Taco Bell. This reluctance to name the chains involved extends to most foodborne illness investigations.

At USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), retail destinations for recalled meat are quickly identified and shared with the public. So recalled meat that goes to Kroger’s outlets is tracked and publicized in store-by-story detail, but not recalled meat that goes to the chain of Applebee restaurants.

Top food safety regulators in this country tend to share one problem. They are all so smart and educated that they need to over-think about problems that should just be outside their control. If they’d just let it be, it’s easy. Their job is to investigate and report, not get twisted up in whether this or that is fair.

I’ve used this comparison before, but I think it’s a good one and it’s one that I know to be true: All the facts about someone who is in a messy traffic accident in about any city in America with a honest police department must accept that all those facts become part of the public record. It makes no difference that you were the only one who wasn’t drinking, and it was not your fault. You are still part of the story.

Most cop shops got out of the censorship business for the routine stuff about 50 years ago. But we still have lawmakers and regulators trying to slice the edges off information about public health investigations. Others have said CDC, USDA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fall short in the transparency department because of the power of lobbyists and the like.

Personally, I wish that were true because then those of us on the transparency side could just get organized with bigger steaks or more expensive wine. But that’s not the primary motivator for top safety regulators. Most of them think public information should always be tied to advancing public health. But the public has other interests, too, and those almost always outweigh other considerations.

The public clearly wants and deserves current accurate information about restaurants. They want all sorts of  details, the times and dates. And then they will decide on their own.   And here’s where reality makes it’s entrance. The public is going to gather facts from the whatever sources are available. So if CDC and USDA don’t cough up the real facts, the public will find other sources to fill in for them.

I often find myself scrambling for some reliable source of local restaurant information when on the road. It’s often hard-to-impossible to find one with write-ups on the food that also include the establishment’s food safety reputation and history. Sometimes you can find restaurant inspection reports online, and sometimes you cannot. If a restaurant were part of a recent FDA, CDC, or USDA investigation, I’d like to know.

So when I returned from the South last week, a report from got my attention because it’s going to start a free food poisoning reporting service tracking food poisoning events. It might be an example of what I am talking about.

Dining Grades announced it’s “free and intuitive” restaurant food poisoning service is going to work this way:

• After selecting the restaurant, the user answers a limited number of questions about the event.
• Contact information, for corroboration by experts, is added.
• staff reviews the report.
• The report can be sent to the respective restaurant management team, the respective state or community health department.
• An alert is noted on the website/mobile devices for other diners.

“ is committed to improvement of food safety and enhancement of public health so with this announcement,” says Dr. Harlan A Stueven, founder of the website. “We are offering this service free to any public health department and healthcare providers.”

Dining Grades LLC was founded in 2010, and reportedly has thousands of users and ratings in all 50 states with a mission to promote food safety by increasing public awareness and formation of partnerships within the food industry.

Stueven says Dining Grades was designed by physicians and a health department inspector, and also offers restaurant patrons a tool to grade restaurants on cleanliness, satisfaction and recommendation. Dining Grades users who choose to become “Secret Diners” have an exclusive opportunity to grade a restaurant on cleanliness using a copyrighted demerit-based questionnaire that leads to a more comprehensive grade.

So I guess maybe the private sector is going to have to collect and provide all the restaurant information the public wants even if our government won’t participate. I don’t have enough experience with Dining Grades to make a recommendation, but it sure works here for illustrative purposes.

The irony for the restaurant industry is passing muster on this type of information servicer is likely to be more difficult than just dealing with some reaction to being named in a government food safety investigation.

I do like Dining Grades’ mission of helping the public make “informed dining choices” through their private “event” reporting and grading system. And as much as I like information provided by the dining public, I’d still like to see a restaurant’s entire public record online someplace before I see their menu.

Food Safety News

Insurance Carrier Wants Internationally Based Outbreak Considered a Single Event

Last year’s multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A virus infections linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey left behind more than 3,000 claims for illnesses caused by HAV-contaminated pomegranate arils and more than 25 lawsuits in state and federal courts.

Now one of the insurance carriers involved is asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for a ruling that could consider the foreign-born viral infections as one event for insurance purposes.

Such a ruling would allow Maryland Casualty Company, which sold insurance to Fallon Trading Company, to pay out no more than $ 2 million in damages. It was Fallon that purchased pomegranate arils that were HAV-contaminated from United Juice, a subsidiary of the Turkish fruit producer Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading.

In the U.S. District Court filing, Maryland Casualty is suing Fallon to limit the insurance company’s obligation to $ 2 million by arguing that the outbreak is a single event, much like a car accident.

The contaminated pomegranate arils ended up in Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a frozen juice product sold mostly by Costco stores. Fairview, OR-based Townsend recalled its product, as did Gresham, OR-based Scenic Fruit Company for Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.

Canada and Europe also experienced earlier outbreaks in 2012 where the Turkish pomegranate seeds were the suspected source.

In the court filing, attorneys for Maryland Casualty say Fallon “contends” the policy limit is $ 4 million. However, William Marler of the food safety law firm of Marler Clark says it actually might be $ 8 million. Marler, who represents most of the HAV victims, said his firm might intervene in the insurance dispute.

Marler, who is also publisher of Food Safety News, writes about the issue in his personal blog under this subhead: “Yet another reason to hate insurance companies.”

Food Safety News

Stewart Parnell Wants to Keep One Particular Email Under Court Seal

Defense attorneys have long known that damaging email traffic from their clients could be very useful to the prosecution in the upcoming criminal trial involving former executives of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

But there is one particular email, now under seal, that Stewart Parnell has managed to keep from the public for most of the past year and that he now wants to keep from the jury. Defense attorneys and government prosecutors have decided to draw their lines in the sand over this one email that Parnell says “is highly prejudicial” to his case.

Parnell wants this email kept under seal by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia and away from the jury in the coming trial of PCA executives.

The former president of the now-defunct peanut processing company and two other defendants are scheduled for a July 14 jury trial. They are charged with a total of 76 federal felonies, including fraud and conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce.

Federal prosecutors want to use the email as evidence at trial, and, in a recent “response in opposition,” they say that Parnell has not come up with a good reason to keep the email away from the public.

“Defendant Stewart Parnell has failed to show good cause why the document should be sealed,” argues K. Alan Dasher, assistant U.S. District Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “The courts have consistently held that it is presumed that court proceedings and judicial documents should be open and accessible to the public.”

Dasher also quotes from findings of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that a “public right of access” is critical to the operation of the federal courts. Just as civil and criminal cases should be tried in public, Dasher says there is a common law right of access to the court’s public records.

While accepting that right of access is not absolute, Dasher says the “desire” of a party to seal documents “is immaterial.” Sealing documents, he adds, requires a “showing of good cause.”

“Defendant Stewart Parnell asserts as the sole ground for sealing the document that it is highly prejudicial,” Dasher writes. “That is an insufficient reason to overcome the strong presumption in favor of public access.”

The sealed email is known as 404(b) evidence, defined in the Federal Rules of Evidence as that which involves a crime, wrong or other act that may have never resulted in an arrest, prosecution, or conviction and may not even be criminal. Among the reasons 404(b) evidence may be admissible are: motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, and absence of mistake or accident.

Parnell’s many caustic emails were one of the early ways the public came to learn about how PCA’s business practices might have contributed to the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak that was linked to the company’s products.

His “turn them loose” email was first disclosed five years ago by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. A staffer’s email had asked Parnell what to do with peanut products initially found to be contaminated, and that was his reply.

Another email Parnell might like to keep under seal was his response to his 2007 quality assurance manager, who emailed the boss to ask for permission to purchase from overseas a $ 600 piece of used equipment for PCA’s lab for microbiological testing.

“Can you guarantee it will work and we will not get screwed — GET IT, ” Parnell’s reply email stated. “These lab tests and COA’s are fucking breaking me/us.” (COAs are Certificates of Analysis used by PCA to guarantee customer requirements were being met.)

In addition to wanting to keep the one email sealed, attorneys for Parnell have asked federal Judge W. Louis Sands to ban any mention of illnesses or deaths resulting from the Salmonella outbreak and allow an expert witness to testify at trial that their client suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Parnell is being tried with his brother Michael, former PCA vice president and peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, who was the company’s quality assurance manager. About 700 illnesses and nine deaths were blamed on the outbreak by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food Safety News

Government Wants to Keep Argument Going Over Parnell’s Expert Witness

Knowledge is a powerful thing, especially where it comes into play in a federal criminal case.

A new dispute has erupted between government and defense lawyers in the pre-trial proceedings involving former Peanut Corporation of America chief executive Stewart Parnell’s all-over knowledge.

Government prosecutors say Parnell’s defense attorneys have misstated the law regarding whether knowledge is an essential element of any of the offenses charged, and that they should get a “surreply” or sort of a legal do-over, in their arguments against allowing an expert witness at trial.

Defense attorneys say that a surreply is not necessary and point to nearly seven hours of testimony, a 197-page hearing transcript and 193 pages of exhibits as enough.

“In total, the government, not the defendant, has created 433 pages of argument and evidence on this issue for the defendant and this court to review,” E. Scott Austin, Parnell’s lead attorney says. “If the government has not yet had the opportunity to make its argument on this issue clear, then one would be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario where the government could make its argument,” he added.

The pre-trial issue is whether Dr. Joseph C. Conley, Jr., the neuropsychologist who claims Parnell suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should be allowed to testify as an expert at trial. That  jury trial, scheduled to get underway this summer, is supposed to decide whether Parnell is guilty or not guilty of 72 federal felony charges stemming from an investigation into the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter and peanut paste from PCA plants in Georgia and Texas.

Charges include conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, introduction of misbranded food into instate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, instate shipments fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

The outbreak involved 700 illnesses and nine deaths.

Government attorneys want to make additional arguments over the expert witness issues because they claim Parnell’s attorneys committed a “misstatement of law” by saying for the first time that “knowledge is not an essential element” of any of the offenses charged against Parnell. They filed a motion with U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands asking to brief the issue because it had not been raised earlier by the defense. The motion states that knowledge is a required element for most of the crimes of which Parnell stands accused.

In response to the government motion, Austin says that prosecutors are  incorrect and take arguments on Parnell’s behalf “out of context of the overarching legal and factual setting ….”

Austin states, “Parnell’s defense is not that he was incapable or unable to obtain the knowledge required to commit a criminal offense (including conspiracy), but rather that he never formed the intent required to be guilty of a criminal offense. And, as stated in his Reply, knowledge as an essential element of a crime is significantly different that factual knowledge that may make it more likely or not that a defendant formed a criminal intent, the issue surrounding Dr. Conley’s testimony.”

Parnell and three other former executives of the peanut processing company were indicted in February 2013 on a total of 76 federal felony counts. All four defendants are free on bail and to assist in their own defense.

Stewart Parnell’s brother, Michael Parnell, PCAs former vice president and peanut broker; Samuel Lightsey, PCA’s Georgia plant manager, and Mary Wilkerson, the quality control manger, are the other three defendants. The three have been on the sidelines while Sands, the trial judge, conducted pre-trial “Daubert” proceedings over Conley’s status.

Expert witness proceedings are named for “Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,” a precedent-setting case on expert witnesses.

Other important dates leading up to the trial include:

April: Hearing for other pre-trial motions is April 30.

May: Deadline of May 20 for government and defense attorneys to file any start-of-trial motions known as “in limine.”

June: Responses to motions in limine will be due June 9, and replies must be turned in by June 19. A June 24 pre-trial hearing will be held for Sands to hear arguments on the start-of-trial motions. Sands wants the attorneys to meet regarding exhibits on June 25.

July: Attorneys must propose voir dire questions for the jury and jury instructions by July 7. If all of this stays on the tracks, the jury trial will begin on July 14.

Food Safety News

Second Defense Attorney Wants Out of Hearing Over Whether Stewart Parnell Might Have ‘ADHD’

A lawyer for a second defendant in the fraud and conspiracy case against four Peanut Corporation of America (PCA)  executives wants permission to skip the March 13 “Daubert” hearing in U.S. District Court in Albany, GA.  Four defendants, including brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell and two former PCA managers, are scheduled to go on trial for a total of 76 federal felony counts on July 14. The March 13 preliminary hearing is to hear arguments on whether certain expert witness testimony should be permitted at trial.

If permitted to testify at trial as an expert witness, Dr. Joseph C. Conley Jr. will say Stewart Parnell, the now defunct PCA’s chief executive officer, suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a diagnosis that theoretically could limit his culpability at trial and shift more blame to others.  Parnell’s attorney could argue their client’s ADHD condition made it impossible for him to direct all the decisions involved in the complex criminal complaint.

But, so far two of the other three defendants say they are not interested in what happens at the March 13 hearing. First, the attorney for Michael Parnell, the former PCA vice president and peanut broker, begged off because he is having knee surgery.  Attorney Edward D. Tolley already has the court’s permission to be off the case from Feb. 26 too March 31 for the knee surgery and a rehabilitation period. He is sending an associate from Athens, GA-based law firm of Cook Noell Tolley & Bates, LLP, to the March 13 to cover on behalf of Michael Parnell.

A second principal defense attorney, James W. Parkman, III, now also wants out of the March 13 hearing. Parkman, who practices out of Birmingham, says “none of the issues being presented at said hearing pertain to our defendant, Samuel Lightsey.”  His client was the manager of the PCA peanut processing plant at Blakely, GA, which was the center of the 2008-09 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that sickened more than 700 nationwide and was blamed for nine deaths.

In his recently filed motion with the court, Parkman says unless excused he will have to ask for a continuance for the “Daubert” hearing because of schedule conflicts.  U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands has not yet ruled on Parkman’s motion.

It was a year ago this month that federal prosecutors unsealed lengthy criminal indictments against the Parnell brothers, Lightsey and Mary Wilkerson, for a total of 76 felony counts. Wilkerson was quality control manager for the Blakely plant.  The federal jury trial has already been delayed to July 14, from a hoped for start date of Feb. 10 due to lawyer schedule conflicts.   Most of the delay was due to Parkman’s role as a defense attorney in a recent Oklahoma murder case.

The “Daubert” hearing must stay on schedule to give Sands time to rule on any expert witnesses for the jury trial to start in July. Such prior to trial proceedings were named for the plaintiff in the 1993 case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.

All four defendants were released on bail after their arrests to await trail and assist in their own defenses. They were charged after a four year FBI investigation following the deadly outbreak.   The illnesses were linked to peanut butter and peanut paste manufactured by PCA at both Blakely, GA. and Plainview, TX. The jury is expected to hear evidence that the company shipped product it knew to be contaminated.

The outbreak forced the company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, and its butters and pastes were so widely used that its practices also resulted in the largest multi-product recalls for a single ingredient in history and cost downstream companies millions of dollars.

To make the July start date for the jury trial work, Sands has signed a scheduling order with these dates and deadlines:

  • March: Hold the March 13 “Daubert” hearing and impose March 21 as the deadline for all preliminary motions.
  • April: Deadline of April 10 to respond to motions, with an April 30 hearing on motions that are filed.
  • May: Deadline of May 20 for government and defense attorneys to file any start of trial motions known as “in limine.”
  • June: Responses to motions in limine will be due June 9, and replies must be turned in by June 19. A June 24 pre-trial hearing will be held for Sands to hear arguments on the start of trial motions. Sands wants the attorneys to meet regarding exhibits on June 25.
  • July: Attorneys must propose voir dire questions for the jury and jury instructions by July 7. If all of this stays on the tracks, the jury trial will begin on July 14.

In addition to Stewart Parnell’s potential ADHD defense, there are some other pre-trial issues that have gone unresolved. The Parnell brothers continue to want their trials separated from one another. And Wilkerson, who is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, has repeatedly complained to the government over discovery issues.

Food Safety News

United Fresh Services wants to take banana sector to a higher level

Niels Borgers: “We see our future as an independent service supplier”
United Fresh Services wants to take banana sector to a higher level

In July last year Niels Borgers started a new banana ripening company: United Fresh Services. Since January this year he has been running the company with his brother in law Tim Priem. The independent banana ripener is located in the Agrarisch Logistiek Handelscentrum in Ijsselmuiden, and has been operational since mid November. “We see possibilities to bring the banana sector to a higher level by way of a better real-time availability of chain information,” says Niels.

Dedicated partner
His father’s name, Hans Borgers, is irrevocably linked to bananas. Now that Niels has started his own ripening company, it seems the apple does not fall far from the tree. “I have every faith in the future. A conventional market like the fruit and vegetable sector could use some young entrepreneurs,” says Niels. “United Fresh Services is purely a lending ripener. In the past banana ripeners mainly used margins with their own trade, but I believe this trading mentality is decreasing, and more work is done based on set prices. I see the future of our business as a ‘dedicated partner’ in the market. Retailers want a centralised approach and United Fresh Service can offer this.” 

Niels is closely following the development that retailers such as Morrisons and Edeka ripen more themselves. “But the question is whether this will happen in Holland. The general preference here is that the ripener is a reasonable distance from the DC. The retail scene is also so competitive that I wonder whether people want a huge investment in a ripener. A retailer mainly focusses on the consumer. This focus determines the culture of an organisation. United Fresh Services is good at ripening and all aspects surrounding it. I think it would be more obvious to choose a ‘dedicated’ partner in this situation instead of doing everything in the chain yourself. United Fresh Services sees more in collaboration. The retailer can provide the purchasing themselves and outsources the other tasks to other parties. The unique support in importing, ripening, packaging, stock management and export completes the services. This means we provide the full picture for customers.”

“The big advantage of this service is that we retain our independence. We talk to both buyers, suppliers and producers and are not tied to one retailer. Using this concept, a supermarket can easily do business with a country like Ecuador, after which we take the rest off their hands,” says Niels. “We aren’t as involved in the actual banana price, because we mostly work with service contracts. In this way the quality bananas find their way to the consumer, through supermarkets, markets, wholesalers, the food service sector and the processing industry.”

According to Niels the young company distinguishes itself through its transparency. “United Fresh Services is a service provider and can show how much it will cost per service. If you need it to cost less, you can go somewhere else, who makes up for it with their trading profit, but we won’t be a part of that. We are also in a central location, at which we have a good logistic service supply with Wezenburg Transport. It’s all saved mileage. A large part of Germany is also very accessible from this location. We have also invested greatly in our automation, with a hyper modern ripening system. What is unique to this is that it isn’t related to the cool technical installer, but to an independent software party, which means we hope to keep ahead with the latest innovations.”

Niels also sees possibilities for ripening kiwis, mangos and avocados in the future. “I have a background in bananas, but the tests with installations have already proven that other exotics can also be ripened in it. But regardless of ripening developments, it is important to us that we continue to think with the customer. The only threat to us that I can think of is losing our independence, for instance if we are the owner of the product besides being a service provider. As an independent service provider United Fresh Services can serve everyone, whether they be retail, wholesale or food service!”

For more information:
Niels Borgers
Tim Priem
United Fresh Services B.V.
Spoorstraat 26
8271 RH, IJsselmuiden
Tel +31 38 337 27 10
Fax +31 38 337 27 19
[email protected]

Publication date: 1/31/2014

CDC Wants to Survey Some Local and State Food Safety Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is requesting approval to evaluate local and state food safety programs (FSPs), according to a proposal posted to the Federal Register on Friday, Jan. 17.

“The current tight fiscal environment faced by U.S. health departments has led to a significant reduction in funding for public health programs, such as food safety,” reads the proposal. “For example, 57 percent of local health departments reduced or eliminated at least one public health program during 2011.”

CDC is requesting a two-year approval from the Office of Management and Budget to survey a representative sample of local and state health departments implementing FSPs in the U.S. The agency wants to know about food safety activities, workforce capacity and competency, financial resources, community health and demographics.

The data collected will help CDC better understand the relationship between funding and the programs’ effectiveness.

The agency has been able to gather insight into the status of FSPs partnered with the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net), but there’s a lack of such information on the national level. There are more than 3,000 state and local health departments in the country, and it’s unknown how many would participate in the voluntary survey.

Food Safety News

Chile wants same relationship with Norway and Switzerland that South Africa has with Britain

Chile wants same relationship with Norway and Switzerland that South Africa has with Britain

Chile is already working on entry to Norway and Switzerland. A study by the Chilean government describes the possibilities that apples and berries have in Switzerland and Norway. The Chilean government backs exporters to become the leading apple and stonefruit supplier in these countries, just like South Africa is in the UK.

The agreement between Chile and the four EFTA countries (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein) opens new possibilities to become a leading supplier of fruits.

Chilean exporters believe that these markets are virgins in the consumption of these fruits in summer and winter, and understand that they have room to develop.

The tariff reductions between Chile and EFTA countries allow the South American country to be more competitive in the market of fruit and agricultural products, in general.

Apples, with exports above 5.5million Euro, rank fourth in the Top Ten products that Chile exports to these destinations. Ranking fifth, but about to be outranked by other products, are fresh grapes with 3.6 million Euro.

Among the Top Ten, with sales below the two million Euro but slowly increasing their presence, are raspberries and fresh oranges.

Chile has already analysed both markets and knows that Norway has much more potential for the export of apples while Switzerland has a better potential for the export of raspberries and berries. The Chilean government has already submitted this information to exporters and, in 2015, will begin to design specific actions for Norway and Switzerland.

Source: fyh

Publication date: 1/22/2014

Primarily, Levarht wants to be director of the chain

Primarily, Levarht wants to be director of the chainLevarht in Aalsmeer has been importing and exporting fruit and vegetables to and from all over the world for eighty years. Nowadays the company is much more than a trader. It is moving away from this role and growing towards becoming a director in the trade. CEO Frank Pijpers and commercial manager Claas van Os speak open heartedly about their mission and ideas. “We are convinced that we can do this together with the grower and retailer.”

CEO Frank Pijpers and commercial mananger Claas van Os

What does Levarht do exactly?
Frank: “Traditionally, we are known mainly as an importer of melons and export of greenhouse vegetables, but we do far more than this. Our main goal is to serve the retailer as quickly as possible. To achieve this, we collaborate closely with the source, the grower. Together with our Dutch and Belgian growers of Van Nature we market a high quality and varied assortment. We have our own production in New Zealand, Costa Rica and Mexico, among others. Why? Because what we do from Holland, we can’t do all year round. And our goal is to execute the process from the grower as well as possible, and to do this all year round.”

What are your main sales areas?

Claas: “As far as markets are concerned we have a good spread. Besides the domestic market, we supply Europe and various overseas markets. Whereas many Dutch companies are mainly focused on Germany, we do not do much there at all. For us, Holland, Belgium, England, Scandinavia and of course the overseas markets are our main sales areas.”

Do you consciously seek out the shade, so that you don’t have to compete with colleagues?

Frank: “No, because in the end, we do business with Scandinavia and England two, and there are a lot of exporters there too. So it’d not like we’re avoiding competition.”
Claas: “Everyone is everywhere. But what we have been doing in recent years, is placing ourselves in the market differently. We have really started to focus on added value. I think this has contributed to our continual growth.”

The big office in Aalsmeer

In what way have you placed yourselves in the market differently?
Claas: “A number of years ago we asked ourselves who we wanted to be as a company. The main points that came forward were partnership and trust. We are a very open organisation and through this openness we link a lot of cultivation straight to specific customers or market. The growers know our customers and markets. Sometimes you need special varieties for the overseas sales markets. Because we are brave enough to be the director of the chain, we include both the grower and the final user very closely. In the market you often see a lot of holding back: cultivation and trade do not trust each other. But our way works well.”

Does this mean that you have become more of a director than a trader?
Frank: “As a trader you are too dependent on what happens every day. We consciously look at what we need, where we are going to get it from and where it has to go. The retailer wants us to supply them with a fresh product and do so all year round. What products can we best do this with, what do we not have enough off, how do we fill that in? By having more awareness you can tell the retailer
the story too.”

Part of the packing area

But does this mean that the company is specialised only in a certain amount of products and cannot offer the full range?
Frank: “On the contrary. On one side, we are very good at a number of core products, but besides this we are also good at working widely. In the Middle East for instance, we work with a retailer to whom we supply between eighty and one hundred different products, six days a week. Meanwhile, many people still link us to Dutch greenhouse vegetables. But we are more than our greenhouse vegetables and are setting up more and more direct importing lines. This means you have to make sure you have the right source, which are certified and understand what the market wants.

Is it correct that you mainly work with yearly programmes to keep as much calm in the chain as possible?
Claas: “We do want a streamlined process. We also want the grower to be able to make money and draw as many activities for specific customers or markets as possible.”
Frank: “It’s not like we’re already there, but it does give us peace of mind and control within the whole chain. and of course there are always retailers who prefer weekly of seasonal programmes.”

Do you say goodbye to retailers like that?
Frank: “Well, you learn from it. First of all you look to see whether you can fill in the collaboration in a different way. Of course, we continue to play into the specific needs and possibilities of our buyers. In the end it’s about all three of you winning!”
Claas: “What is happening more and more, especially among retailers, is that they let you know at what level the consumer price should be. When you can make a one on one deal with the grower and the retailer for an entire season, you can take out so much messing around. By making good deals about various varieties or a certain packaging, you are shortening the chain. And this means by definition a better and fresher product. We have gained a lot of new retailers as customers. But there is also a better product.”

Private label Take a Pep

What are your thoughts on private label?
Claas: “There is a trend towards private labels. We too work with a lot of private labels. For instance, beans from Kenya are processed and packaged locally under their label for certain retailers. We do the same from Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand and the Middle East. It extends your collaboration with your growers and retailers. When you have the cultivation to the point that you can supply the customers own label, you can really offer a lot of added value. It also takes a lot of costs from the chain. You can put this profit back into a better product and cultivation.”
Frank: “You have to try and add as much value as you can close to the source.”

But are your growers so market orientated that they want to offer their products in every packaging?
Frank: “See, we know that we are better off offering two packagings than ten. So too much fragmentation doesn’t work. You also have to give it time and give the growers a lot of attention and guide them.”
Claas: “This movement from retail to the source started years ago. You can argue about it all you like, but the retailer needs this. We are able to help our growers with this development. The result is that they have understanding and flexibility. But we remain rational. In the end no one wants twenty different packagings. It has to make sense.”

Are you not afraid you will become superfluous if the grower has direct contact with the buyer?
Frank: “No, because we are convinced that if we continue to offer enough added value as a director the retailer will not sit down to arrange everything with the growers themselves.”
Claas: “We have committed ourselves to supplying that added value. The core that we believe it’s about, is trust, partnership and knowing exactly what the customer needs. So that you can play into this from the source. As long as we keep doing what we do well and supply a good and fresh product, we are not superfluous.”

Is it as easy to confront the grower with the retailer abroad as it is in Holland?
Claas: “That depends on the growers. It isn’t so much linked to the country as to the specific grower’s way of thinking. There are growers who are ready for it and therefore can switch more easily and there are growers who want to, but are not quite ready for it. Together we will find the middle way to make is possible. But the will is there. You can see that abroad too. We have proven that it is important to build something with both the grower and the retailer. we need to think outside of the box and outside of the distrust of each other. We all have the same goal, which is bringing a fantastic product to the market and making money.”

You have been suppliers of a number of large retailers from all over the world for years. How did you manage that?

Claas: “I think it’s mainly because we are a very good director for the chain, who looks at the needs of the customers and isn’t afraid to enter a partnership.”
Frank: “It comes down to how you do your job. And you bet that we aren’t judged any different from another supplier. But as long as we keep doing well, which means that we can offer the right products for the right price, if we continue to supply them. We realise that the demands are very high but you know what it’s all about? We’re dedicated.”

Does the retail not just look at the price?

Claas: “I don’t agree with that. Retailers want the best value for their money. But our growers also have to make money. Because we are open to including the grower in the demands from our retailers, as much as possible can be supplied directly.This way costs are taken out of the chain and you can make sure that you make the required price level and supply the freshest product according to all parties’ desired price. A big advantage of this customer group is that they make a very good prediction. This is because they are very steady and choose continuity of the relationship. People can say what they want about retail, but they stick to their predictions and are 100% predictable. This means you can base your chain on this. But you have to include the grower in it. And we do.”

For more information, please visit:

Publication date: 12/19/2013

FDA Wants Hydrocodone Drugs Reclassified

Oct. 24, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration intends to recommend to the Department of Health and Human Services that hydrocodone combination products like Vicodin be reclassified to a more restrictive schedule.

“FDA has been challenged with determining how to balance the need to ensure continued access to those patients who rely on continuous pain relief while addressing the ongoing concerns about abuse and misuse,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement.


Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.

Under the Controlled Substances Act controlled substances are organized in to one of five schedules based on the potential for abuse and medical use.

FDA plans to submit its formal recommendation to HHS by early December that hydrocodone products be moved from Schedule III (drugs deemed to have less potential for abuse) to Schedule II (drugs with high potential for abuse).

“We anticipate that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will concur with our recommendation,” Woodock said.

Read more: FDA Requires Opioid Label Changes

The FDA’s plan comes weeks after it announced required labeling changes to oxycodone and other extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics, which may reduce the number of patients for whom these painkillers are appropriately prescribed.

FDA also requires that the box warning on extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics place greater emphasis on the risks of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death.

“FDA has decided to change the labeling to help prescribers better understand the risks of prescribing extended-release long-acting opioid analgesics and to more clearly describe the patient population in whom these drugs should be used,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg during a press conference, last month.

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Supermarket News

Animal Ag Group Wants to Talk Antibiotic Resistance

In both 2011 and 2012, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture held symposia on antibiotic use in food animals that may have calmed the industry but did little to dial back the movement to strictly regulate animal drug use.

For 2013, they are taking a new tack by inviting their critics to join them in Kansas City, MO, from Nov. 12 to 14 for the third symposium entitled, “Bridging the Gap Between Animal Health and Human Health.”

And they’ve even brought in a bit of an outsider as symposium moderator – Dr. Richard Raymond, former USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Nebraska’s former chief medical officer. The country doctor who became one of the nation’s top food-safety officials is on record trying to point the antibiotic debate to those drugs used by both humans and animals.

While it is often reported that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in animal agriculture, “Doc” Raymond argues that statistics like that are silly because weighing drugs by the pound taken by humans and animals really means you are comparing the needs of a 2,500-pound bull with pneumonia to a newborn baby with the same problem. He says he wants to get down to specifics and deal with the complexity of antibiotic resistance.

The human health threat of antibiotic resistance received major attention last month when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on the specific threats of 18 resistant microorganisms.

CDC estimates that 2 million human illnesses result annually from antibiotic-resistant infections. Separately, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) figures that about 22 percent of that number is associated with foodborne illnesses.

In the report, CDC supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) voluntary guidelines calling for the phasing out of antibiotics in animal growth. Consumer groups such as CSPI want FDA and USDA to instruct veterinarians specifically on how to control pathogens in the food supply.

The 13-year old NIAA brings producers, veterinarians and scientists from government and industry together to work on solutions to challenges to animal agriculture. Raymond told Food Safety News it’s important that others with concerns about antibiotic resistance are welcomed to the Kansas City symposium.

Registration for the event, being held at the Kansas City Airport Marriott, is now open at the NIAA website.

Food Safety News

Ohio Senator Wants USDA’s Poultry Inspectors Assigned to China; Charges ‘Labeling Gap’

American consumers need USDA “on station” to inspect chicken processing as it occurs in China, and a “labeling gap” is putting U.S. food safety at risk, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) suggests in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Brown also raised numerous questions with Vilsack about Chinese chicken processors being approved to process chicken raised in the U.S., Canada or Chile and then export the cooked chicken back here.

Since the news leaked (just before USDA announced it on Aug. 30) that four Chinese chicken processors are being green-lighted for exporting cooked chicken to the U.S., it’s become one of this nation’s hotter discussion topics.

“Given the well-documented shortcomings of the Chinese food safety system, we shouldn’t allow unmarked meat into our markets that is processed in Chinese facilities that are not subject to food safety inspections,” Brown stated in a press release accompanying his letter to Vilsack. “This action could endanger the health and safety of American consumers and potentially undermines confidence in our nation’s food safety standards.”

Meat and poultry imported to the U.S. is subject to inspection by the foreign country, which must maintain a food-safety inspection system that is equivalent to USDA’s. “Equivalence” was originally established in 2006 for the People’s Republic of China’s food-safety inspection system for processed poultry after a two-year review by a USDA audit team.

At that time, however, no imports of Chinese chicken were allowed. The difference with the latest review is that it opens the door to U.S. imports of processed (cooked) chicken from China, but the poultry could not be raised or slaughtered in China nor would any raw chicken imports be allowed.

It means that China would be allowed to process poultry from the U.S., Canada or Chile, which could then be exported as cooked product back to the U.S.

Brown last waded into food safety when one of his constituents lost a puppy to contaminated chicken jerky made in China.

Here’s his list of questions for Vilsack:

  • When will the first Chinese-processed poultry shipments reach U.S. ports of entry?
  • Is it true that poultry processed in China would be labeled upon reaching our shores and possibly subject to re-inspection, but regulatory exemptions for processed poultry and meats allow labeling to be removed before these products are purchased by American consumers? If so, how might the labeling gap be remedied by USDA?
  • What additional regulatory or labeling steps might USDA take to ensure that American consumers are given all currently available information regarding supply chain safety and country of origin of their meat products (processed and unprocessed)?
  • Has USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service requested that it be able to station its inspectors in Chinese poultry facilities when products destined for export to the U.S. are processed? If not, why not?
  • Will there be intensified port-of-entry inspection of products imported from China under the provisions of the Aug. 30, 2013, FSIS announcement? If so, please identify those measures and the agency responsible for implementation.
  • Is USDA or FSIS also currently working toward approving the shipment of Chinese-origin poultry and other meats (processed or unprocessed) to the U.S.? If so, what is the status of that effort?
  • What, if any, further regulatory or administrative steps are required before the FSIS decision on processing poultry in China is fully implemented?
  • Which U.S, Canadian or Chilean poultry slaughter facilities have been identified by USDA that will ship raw poultry to China for further processing?

Brown is not the only lawmaker attempting to shake USDA’s tree after it opened the door to importing Chinese-processed chicken.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) says that Chinese food-safety regulations are “terrible.” She says there is no way USDA can keep chickens raised and slaughtered in China from being processed for export, and she fears the country’s use of illegal antibiotics and its ongoing problems with various strains of bird flu.

Food Safety News will publish Vilsack’s responses when they become available.

Food Safety News

Federal Government Wants to Skip Preliminaries in Horse Slaughter Challenge

Government attorneys representing USDA’s top three food safety officials say it’s time to end the court battle that has temporarily banned horse slaughter in the U.S. They’ve asked the U.S. District Court in New Mexico to move immediately to an expedited hearing and ruling on the merits of the case.

This would eliminate the next step that had been anticipated in the case – a hearing on whether to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction. They had already won a temporary restraining order.

And, in another motion, Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant U.S. attorney general, has asked the court for permission to file a so-called “surreply” to respond “to Plaintiff’s numerous accusations that Federal Defendants and the United States have acted in bad faith in opposing Plaintiffs’ motion to modify the temporary restraining order and objections to Magistrate Judge Scott’s imposition of a bond requirement ….”

In his request, Dreher cites a dozen specific instances where the plaintiffs, led by the Humane Society of the United States, made accusations that he claims are “unfounded and untrue, and easily refuted. In one, the Plaintiff’s say the U.S. hopes to divert funds from ‘important animal rescue and sheltering’ and ‘other public interest cases challenging federal agency abuses.’

“Since the sole focus of the Plaintiff’s reply brief is to make new accusations that attack the motivations and integrity of the United States, Federal Defendants should be afforded the opportunity to set the record straight by filing a surreply,” Dreher’s motion continues.

The federal defendants are U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Administrator Al Almanza.

They were sued by HSUS and other animal and horse protection groups for giving “grants of inspection” to two small horse meatpacking plants, one in Iowa and the other in New Mexico, that planned to open during the first week of August. However, a federal judge in New Mexico issued a temporarily restraining order on Aug. 2 stopping both companies from going forward.

While winning the temporary retaining order, the plaintiffs have strenuously objected to the bond imposed on them by a federal magistrate. The bond, almost $ 500,000 a month, is intended to reimburse the horse-slaughter companies if the plaintiffs lose the case.

The assistant AG says an expedited hearing on the merits will reduce the “burden and exposure” of both the plaintiffs and the two companies.

While a hearing on the preliminary injunction was promised within 30 days of the Aug. 2 temporary restraining order, a date has not yet been made public.

Food Safety News

Veiling Borgloon wants to merge with Veiling BelOrta

Collective turnover of 400 million Euro
Veiling Borgloon wants to merge with Veiling BelOrta

Collaborations and mergers in the Belgian fruit and vegetable sector have been following one and another in rapid succession recently. The latest merger was at the beginning of this year, when it was announced that the Mechelse Veilingen and Coöbra merged into BelOrta. Now a declaration of intention has been signed by BelOrta, the largest cooperative vegetable auction in Europe, and fruit auction Borgloon. If all goes according to plan, and 75% of the growers agree to this, the merger will be completed at the end of this year. “A historical moment,” declares Jos Craemers, director of Veiling Borgloon.

100% input

Although BelOrta indicated that consolidation was their main aim at the beginning of the year, their growth does not seem to have stopped this year. “We certainly want to grow step by step, but this went a little faster than expected,” says Filip Fontaine, one of BelOrta’s directors. BelOrta’s other director, Chris de Pooter adds: “We are only seven months into a merger, but when an opportunity arises and the time is right, we have to push through. But we are only talking to one party, and this is stated in the merger declaration. Of course, we don’t know what will happen next year. Everything happens gradually. We are now focussing 100% on making this merger succeed. Two years ago, we never thought that we would be doing this. As far as market share is concerned, we can strengthen each other, in fruit as well as vegetables.”

Historical moment
On the 29th of July the press conference with both auctions took place. “Today may be a historical day for these companies,” said president Pierre Vrancken of Veiling Borgloon. “Months ago we received the offer from BelOrta to discuss things together. In the Board of Directors meeting we had spoken about the future and a possible strengthening. Both company’s Board of Directors sat down together and there was also contact between the managements. After long discussions we worked on a declaration of intent together and told the management to finalise it.” 

New concept

Jos Craemers then illustrated the declaration of intention and the presentation was named: ‘The best of two worlds in a new concept’. He indicated that the policies of both auctions can be seamlessly integrated, that they have the same thoughts on the most important matters and that product bundling is the main goal. “When the merger is complete, the name BelOrta will be kept. The market share of the product that we will market under BelOrta in the future looks good compared to the other Belgian auctions. For tomatoes for instance the market share is 67%, for chicory 69%, 89% for asparagus and 97% for aubergines. The market share in strawberries will be 22%. In the future we will market a third of the Belgian pear production, a quarter of the apple production and 60% of the soft fruit.”

The future market shares

Not export ourselves
“We have heard that our customers don’t have much time and want to receive the products quickly. One-stop-shopping is not an uncommon concept in our sector. We are focussed on Belgian retail and Belgian export trade, in which both auctions have built up a striking position. We work exclusively through the existing Belgian export trade, and do not want to export ourselves. Because, and I speak for both parties, we do not want to come into competition with our own customers.”

“As far as clock sales are concerned, BelOrta and Borgloon clearly have the same strategic vision. The clock remains the central item for the price formation of the products, supported, of course, by mediation. For the growers it’s important that we keep the family feeling. This is our basic principle: the grower is not a number, they have a name.”

Flandria and Eburon
“We have the oldest fruit quality label in Flanders: Eburon,” continues Jos Craemers. ”We can and will place this brand under the umbrella of Flandria, the best known brand in Europe for fruit and vegetables. All doors open to Flandria nowadays and Eburan will profit from this from now on. With a collective 400 million Euro turnover we have economies of scale and can speak of a dominant position on the market. For growers this will bring a 20 to 40% reduction in cost price and strengthen their liquidation position. GMO is also an important item. The goal of GMO is to create collaborations between growers unions, so we’re making history today. Other things that will be worked out in the future include organic production. We are both strong parties who found each other. Two financially healthy business with mutual respect.”

Other fruit auctions

There have been talks between the BFV, Veiling Haspengouw and Veiling Borgloon in the past. According to president Pierre Vracken there is a huge difference in mentality between the various Belgian fruit auctions. Jos Creamers: “These conversations were mainly about the problems around the Jonagold, but some of our colleagues interpreted this differently. We never said that we were getting together. Today, it’s all about the presentation of a brand new concept and we want to sketch out the complementarity and advantages of this. As Veiling Borgloon we took the lead and hope that this will be an inspiration for the whole sector. It’s a good decision for everyone.”  

From left to right: Jos Craemers (Director of Veiling Borgloon), Chris de Pooter (Director of BelOrta), Pierre Vrancken, (President of Veiling Borgloon) Johan Creten (Vice-president of Veiling Borgloon) and Filip Fontaine (Director of BelOrta)

75% of the growers must approve of merger
The merger committee has now been set up and step by step the various matters considering the merger are being taken care of. Chris de Pooter: “A lot has to be done, and at the end of it there will be a merger report with all the details. We expect there to an extraordinary General Assembly in December, at which the growers will have the last word. We want to have this group of people behind us and 75% have to approve of the merger, or the plan will fall through. If everything goes according to plan the merger will be finalised at the end of 2013.”

Publication date: 7/30/2013

Government Wants Hartford to Produce ‘PCA Tapes’

Government attorneys want to know what The Hartford Insurance Company knew about the Peanut Corporation of America’s distribution of peanut products that were contaminated with deadly Salmonella.

Hartford wrote general liability and property insurance for the now defunct PCA, and Food Safety News has learned that the same Grand Jury that indicted four former executives of the company on 76 federal criminal courts also issued a broad subpoena to Hartford.

Now U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands has ordered the transfer of that Jan. 19, 2012 subpoena of Hartford and consideration of pleadings surrounding it transferred to his court where he is presiding over the criminal proceedings against the former peanut executives.

And government attorneys are picking up where they left off before the Grand Jury in demanding an order to compel Hartford to comply with the subpoena and produce recorded conversations and other related documents. Attorneys for Hartford insist that what they’ve withheld from the government is protected by attorney-client privilege.

To be sure, Hartford attorneys have turned over numerous documents to the government. But while the Grand Jury met in secret, the company found itself in a bit of a bind.

“We believe that the claim file documents contain privileged information,” wrote Hartford attorney Kristen S. Burns. “Hartford is unable to waive the privilege on behalf of the insured, PCA, and we have an obligation to our insured to not release documents for which PCA may be entitled to assert a privilege.”

“You have requested that we not disclose the existence of the subpoena to anyone, and we have complied with this request, “ Burns added. “If you would like us to forward the claim file documents to PCA for privilege review we would be happy to do so. Without PCA’s consent we cannot produce these documents and must preserve the privilege on our insured’s behalf.”

Thus began an exchange of letters between the government’s and Hartford’s attorneys that continue throughout 2011 and into 2012.

In November 2011, attorney Roy V. Creasy, the trustee in the bankruptcy case that would bring an end to PCA, signed a letter for all of the company’s corporate entities waiving attorney-client and work product protections.

But Creasy had no authority to waive privileges for officers, directors, or employees, according to James E. Rocap, III, another Hartford attorney. His Feb. 27, 2012 letter to K. Alan Dasher, the assistant U.S. Attorney in Albany, GA, discloses that Hartford is in possession of a recorded telephone conversation involving former PCA executive Stewart Parnell, employee Daniel Kilgore, and a Hartford employee taking claim information.

In the letter, Rocap told Dasher he would not provide the tape recordings because they are covered by attorney-client privilege and work product protection. He and Justice Department attorneys continued to exchange letters into mid-2012, including such mundane discussions as to how privilege logs should be kept.

The Grand Jury moved on with the indictments in early 2013. In addition, Kilgore pleaded guilty and is likely to become a government witness when the criminal case goes to a jury in October.

Dasher’s team of government attorneys including the U.S. Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch has come roaring back in a 22-page motion on the Hartford subpoena now that it has been transferred to Sands’ court.

“Based upon information available to it, the government does not believe that attorney-client privilege or work product exists for many of the communications redacted or withheld by Hartford, particularly the recorded conversations,” says the motion. “To the government’s knowledge, there were no attorneys involved with many of these conversations, including recorded conversations.”

The motion says the conversations “were not made in confidence and for the purposes of seeking legal advice, nor were they created in anticipation of litigation.”

Furthermore, Hartford asserts these privileges on behalf of its clients, a now-bankrupt corporation, despite the fact that the corporation has waived all privileges over pre-bankruptcy communications through its bankruptcy trustee.”

Among the other arguments it makes, Dasher’s team says the courts have never recognized an insured-insurer privilege, Hartford hasn’t met the burden of proving he communications are privileged, and attorney-clients privileges are not suppose to extend to others.

Food Safety News