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Unclear whether Israeli peppers will see boost in Russia

Unclear whether Israeli peppers will see boost in Russia

The Russian ban on European goods has opened up a potential opportunity for Israeli pepper growers, who are not subject to Russia’s ban. But with the emerging dominance of Spanish peppers in the European market, many Israeli exporters have been focusing on the Russian market for years. With significant quantities of Israeli peppers already finding their way to Russia, it’s not clear if the recent ban on European goods will lead to an increased amount of peppers arriving in Russia from Israel.

“There are peppers right now in Israel, but they’re for the domestic market,” said Niva Ben Zion of Avniv. “In terms of whether there is enough to export to Russia, I’d say there are some peppers, but nothing like the quantities we’re familiar with during winter.” If Israeli exporters had known that the Russian market would not be open to European exporters right now, they might have planned for more volume available for export. But as no one could have foreseen the current situation, Israeli exporters can’t pounce on the present market.

As for the medium term, Niva Ben Zion is not sure the Russian market will become significantly more attractive for Israeli shippers, as that market has already become an important one for exporters.

“In general, we will keep going to the Russian market, as we have done for many years,” said Niva Ben Zion. “Everyone in Europe has preferred Spanish peppers for some time because they don’t have to pay duty on them, there are fewer transportation costs and there are fewer quality issues. We’ve found ourselves relying more on the Russian market, so I don’t see such a big change. There will be fewer peppers going to Russia from Spain, but I don’t know how much was going to Russia from Spain before.”

Lastly, in order for Israeli suppliers to take advantage of the situation, the prices in Russia would have to be sufficiently steep to justify foregoing the domestic market. Because the export season has yet to get into full swing, it’s not clear prices will be high enough to justify an increase over what already is typically sent to Russia.

“Europeans can still send mixed trucks with produce from countries not in the European Union to Russia, so those mixed trucks, which carry different kinds of produce from different countries, might now need more Israeli peppers instead of Spanish peppers,” said Niva Ben Zion. “But, in my estimation, I don’t think much will change.”

Publication date: 9/4/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Experts Debate Whether Food Safety Funding is Adequate

At the National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., this week, a panel of experts discussed the impact of funding deficits on food programs.

Martin Delgado, staff director of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for six years, spoke about how sequestration – the automatic across-the-board budget cuts in effect for most of 2013 – impacted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). He argued against the concept that FDA’s food safety work is not fully funded.

“We gave FDA an extra $ 40 million for food safety activities,” Delgado said. “When their budget came out for FY 2015, if you look at the numbers, they’ve only spent $ 7 million.”

He went on to say that, “There’s this notion out there that the Congress isn’t funding FDA or food safety-related activities at the level that people say it should be. I would say maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, but we know that, of the resources we’ve given them, they’re still trying to wrap their hands around what they should do with it.”

And, referring to the fact that the first major FSMA rule won’t be finalized until the FY 2016 budget, Delgado asked, “Why does FDA need money to implement FSMA when we don’t even know what FSMA is yet?”

However, other panelists countered that FDA needs more funding.

Included in the FY 2015 budget was a $ 263-million increase for FDA “to implement regulatory action.” Of the increase, $ 24 million was in budget authority, with an additional $ 229 million in proposed new users fees, which appear unlikely to go into effect.

When FSMA was approved in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that FDA would need an increase of more than $ 580 million to fund the expanded food safety activities. FDA has since revised that estimate to between $ 400 and $ 450 million.

“When you are looking at what they’re saying they need versus what they’ve gotten, it’s going to make it very difficult to implement,” said Barbara Kowalcyk, CEO and director of research for the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention. “From my perspective, FSMA is largely an unfunded mandate, and that’s going to … impact how successful it’s going to be.”

The American Frozen Food Institute’s (AFFI) director of government affairs, Kelly Pike Poulsen, also made the argument for more funding to fully implement FSMA.

However, she noted, user fees should not be on the table.

“If FDA does not receive additional funds, FSMA implementation, we do believe, may suffer,” Poulsen said. “We do believe that, with appropriate focus and prioritization, the FSMA rules can be implemented without placing additional financial burdens on the food and beverage industry.”

Her argument was that, unlike user fees tied to a faster review process for new drug applications, food companies wouldn’t derive a direct benefit.

Donna Garren, vice president of AFFI’s regulatory and technical affairs department, chimed in from the audience, calling user fees “an additional tax without an additional benefit.”

And, despite multiple requests for how the additional revenue from such fees would be spent, “They have no plan,” Garren said.

While FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg refers to “working with industry” on user fees, Poulsen said FDA is not actually giving industry “enough of a plan.”

Kowalcyk also addressed the consequences of a lack of funding for FSIS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Food Safety Office.

FSIS’ budget declined by $ 9 million in the FY 2015 budget, but “80 percent … goes to salaries and benefits, another 15 percent goes to travel for inspections and investigations,” she said. “It’s a pretty lean budget. If you’re cutting money from FSIS’ budget, you’re cutting positions.”

Kowalcyk referenced the equivalency granted to China for poultry processing and wondered, in an increasingly global food supply, “How are we then going to be able to address the import issue?” in the face of budget cuts.

“That’s just one example of many where it’s going to be difficult for us to keep up,” she said.

CDC is often overlooked when it comes to funding food safety programs, Kowalcyk said, but “epidemiology really drives prevention and risk-based decision-making.”

CDC’s food safety budget in 2014 was $ 40 million. “Half of that went to the states and $ 15 million of that went to competitive grants,” Kowalcyk said.

She added that funding for research is important both for new innovations and for developing the next generation of the food safety workforce who are trained by researchers at academic institutions.

The FY 2015 request proposes an additional $ 10 million for CDC’s food safety work, but when asked about the prospect of additional money for food safety research in light of a budget with only minimal increases, Kowalcyk said she’s not optimistic.

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

New Mexico Judge to Decide Friday Whether to Continue TRO on Horse Slaughter

After day-long testimony very similar to last October’s hearing examiner proceedings for a state ground water discharge permit, a state judge said Monday that he would issue an order Friday on whether to lift a temporary restraining order and allow Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, to start slaughtering horses.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson continued his temporary restraining order against Valley Meat’s startup of processing horsemeat for export under USDA inspection.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is using a civil lawsuit in an attempt to block Valley Meat from becoming the first USDA-inspected horse slaughter operation since 2007.

A hearing officer for the New Mexico Department of the Environment has already recommended denial of a discharge permit for Valley Meat that the company needed to avoid having to collect and haul the blood and other slaughtering wastes.

The civil lawsuit says Valley Meat’s plans would violate state water quality and food safety laws. State officials testified both last October and yesterday that the company’s former beef processing operation repeatedly violated state water quality regulations.

Wilson also heard testimony from a Colorado veterinarian on the potential for horses having drug residues. Dr. Randy Parker said there is no evidence that 120 days in a feed lot would make the meat safe from drug residue.

Blair Dunn, Valley Meat’s attorney, challenged much of the testimony and said the company is working with the Department of Environment to ensure that it operates legally. Valley Meat is expected to challenge the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the discharge permit be denied, and Ryan Flynn, the state’s Secretary of the Environment, will make the final decision.

Food Safety News

New Mexico Judge to Decide Friday Whether to Continue TRO on Horse Slaughter

After day-long testimony very similar to last October’s hearing examiner proceedings for a state ground water discharge permit, a state judge said Monday that he would issue an order Friday on whether to lift a temporary restraining order and allow Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, to start slaughtering horses.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson continued his temporary restraining order against Valley Meat’s startup of processing horsemeat for export under USDA inspection.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is using a civil lawsuit in an attempt to block Valley Meat from becoming the first USDA-inspected horse slaughter operation since 2007.

A hearing officer for the New Mexico Department of the Environment has already recommended denial of a discharge permit for Valley Meat that the company needed to avoid having to collect and haul the blood and other slaughtering wastes.

The civil lawsuit says Valley Meat’s plans would violate state water quality and food safety laws. State officials testified both last October and yesterday that the company’s former beef processing operation repeatedly violated state water quality regulations.

Wilson also heard testimony from a Colorado veterinarian on the potential for horses having drug residues. Dr. Randy Parker said there is no evidence that 120 days in a feed lot would make the meat safe from drug residue.

Blair Dunn, Valley Meat’s attorney, challenged much of the testimony and said the company is working with the Department of Environment to ensure that it operates legally. Valley Meat is expected to challenge the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the discharge permit be denied, and Ryan Flynn, the state’s Secretary of the Environment, will make the final decision.

Food Safety News