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White House announces departure of Sam Kass

Sam Kass, executive director of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, is stepping down from his position at the White House as of the end of December. In addition to his role with Let’s Move!, Kass was the first-ever White House senior policy advisor on nutrition and personal chef to the First Family.

Kass will remain engaged with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative and the continuing effort to advance childhood nutrition. His successor will be named in the new year.

“Sam has been an integral part of Let’s Move! from its very beginning — from discussions about children’s health around my kitchen table in Chicago, to setting the strategic vision of a national campaign in the White House, to spearheading efforts with the private sector across the country,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a press release. “Sam leaves an extraordinary legacy of progress, including healthier food options in grocery store aisles, more nutritious school lunches and new efforts that have improved how healthy food is marketed to our kids. I wish Sam success in all his future endeavors, and I know he will continue to be a leader in the vitally important work to build a healthier country.” 

“From constructing our Kitchen Garden to brewing our own Honey Brown Ale, Sam has left an indelible mark on the White House,” President Obama said in the release. “And with the work he has done to inspire families and children across this country to lead healthier lives, Sam has made a real difference for our next generation. Over the years, Sam has grown from a close friend to a critical member of my team, and I am grateful for his outstanding work and look forward to seeing all that he will continue to achieve in the years ahead.”

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

Low prices for white Garlic

Low prices for white Garlic

Competition from other garlic-producing countries has led to low prices for France’s garlic exporters. The French garlic season began in July, and about a quarter of France’s production is exported.

“The market is very difficult,” said Nathalie Stephan of Condifrance. “The world market, and especially Spain, has very low prices.” French suppliers compete with Spain for the European market during the same time, so low prices for Spanish garlic means increased competition for French growers.

Condifrance sends their garlic to Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, and in addition to the garlic, they import supplies from Spain and Argentina. They ship white French garlic, purple germidour, pink French du Tarn and Pink Lautrec garlic. Despite the difficulties this year, Nathalie Stephan believes their season could get better.
“The future could be positive,” noted Nathalie, “if quality is good and prices become attractive for growers.”

For more information:
Nathalie Stephan

CondiFrance

Beaumont de Lomagne

Tel: +33 (0)6 73 70 39 85

Publication date: 12/9/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

White House Threatens to Veto House Ag Appropriations Bill

The Obama administration said on Tuesday it would likely veto the House agriculture appropriations bill, just as versions of the funding provisions are moving through both the House and Senate.

“The bill severely undermines key investments in financial oversight in a manner that would cripple Wall Street reform, and impedes implementation of statutorily-mandated financial regulations,” the statement of administration policy stated. “It also imposes harmful cuts in rural economic development, renewable energy development, nutrition programs, food safety, agricultural research, and international food aid. Investing in these areas is critical to the Nation’s economic growth, security, and global competitiveness. If the President were presented with H.R. 2410, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

The administration issued a few pages of reasons, including a handful related to food safety:

- The Administration urges the Congress to fund school meal equipment competitive grants, which would help school districts purchase the equipment needed to serve healthier meals, improve food safety, expand access to meals, and improve energy efficiency.
-The Administration opposes the funding level for FSIS. In addition to a nearly $ 10 million reduction from the President’s Budget request, the Committee bill forces FSIS to absorb $ 9 million in rental costs by not providing the necessary funding. These cuts will significantly impact USDA’s ability to adequately inspect food processing plants and prevent foodborne diseases from contaminating America’s meat, poultry, and egg product supply. Over 80 percent of FSIS’s employees are frontline inspectors and the Committee’s recommendation may require the agency to furlough. Decreased FSIS inspections will disrupt industry production.
-The Administration urges the House to include the requested $ 155 million to fully fund a high priority poultry biosafety and laboratory facility. State-of-the-art research facilities to replace USDA’s aging laboratory infrastructure are key to the Department’s ability to meet research challenges of the 21st Century.
-The Administration appreciates reinstatement of the Federal ban on horse slaughter and looks forward to working with the Congress to complete work on this important legislation.
-The Administration strongly supports robust funding for FDA to continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act and to modernize regulatory science to support medical product innovation. The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill provides $ 4.3 billion in total resources for FDA, which is $ 342 million below the President’s request, and does not include new proposed user fees. The Administration urges the Congress to enact new user fees proposed in the FY 2014 Budget, which would provide significant additional resources to enhance FDA regulatory capacity, as well as provide benefits to industry, advance the Nation’s food safety system, and continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. While the Administration appreciates the funding to continue the development of the FDA Life Sciences/Biodefense laboratory in White Oak, Maryland, the overall reductions in budget authority will limit FDA’s ability to oversee the safety and quality of Nation’s food and medical products and threaten the agency’s ability to improve and maintain FDA’s other critical facilities.

Public health groups have not expressed concerns about the House proposal. As Food Safety News reported, some interests even praised the committee for giving FDA a $ 27 million increase.

Food Safety News

Using genetic screening to improve Korean white wheat

Visiting scientist Dae Wook Kim hopes to develop a line of Korean wheat that does not sprout when exposed to wet harvest conditions, thanks to genetic screening techniques he learned at South Dakota State University.

He is working with molecular biologist Jai Rohila of the biology and microbiology department through a two-year project sponsored by the National Institute of Crop Science in Suwaon, South Korea. It is part of his country’s effort to increase wheat production.

Korean farmers raise white winter wheat, planting in October and harvesting in June; however, the country’s rainy season begins in June, explained Kim. If the rains hit before the crop has been harvested, the grain begins to sprout in the head.

Korean white winter wheat is particularly susceptible to preharvest sprouting, according to Kim. Preharvest sprouting reduces the quality of the grain and the yield, added Rohila.

Last summer, SDSU spring wheat breeder Karl Glover provided Kim with 40 lines of South Dakota wheat — half tolerant and half susceptible to preharvest sprouting. Kim compared these lines to determine which genes and proteins account for tolerance.

When Kim returned in July for his second three-month stay, he brought seeds from two Korean lines — Sukang, which has more sprouting tolerance, and Baegjoong, which is susceptible.

Looking at both lines, he identified 33 proteins that are differentially expressed in the tolerant cultivar. Kim will quantify the gene expression levels from Glover’s newest lines that are resistant to preharvest sprouting and compare those results with the list of differentially expressed proteins from the Korean cultivars.

If the same proteins are differentially expressed in Glover’s varieties, Kim will validate the genes he identified as important to tolerance in his Korean varieties.

“If it is related to tolerance, the same gene should be in other tolerant varieties.” Kim added. “At that level, we know the gene is expressed in the same way.”

His work at SDSU will decrease the time it takes to improve preharvest sprouting tolerance in Korean white wheat.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by South Dakota State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

White House Calls for Action Plan to Address Antibiotic Resistance

The White House announced Thursday its plan to make the issue of antibiotic resistance a national priority.

In addition to the release of the much-anticipated President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on antibiotic resistance requested by President Obama last year, there are three related developments.

These include an Executive Order (EO) establishing an interagency task force for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the release of the administration’s National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, and a $ 20-million prize, co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, for developing rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for identifying highly resistant bacterial infections.

“Controlling the development and spread of antibiotic resistance is a top national security and public health priority for this administration,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and assistant to the president, during a call with reporters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year.  Estimates of annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the U.S. economy vary but have ranged as high as $ 20 billion in excess direct health care costs and even higher if you count lost productivity from sick days and hospitalizations.

The interagency task force will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services and must submit an action plan to the president by February 2015 that implements the national strategy and addresses PCAST’s recommendations.

The PCAST report recommends steps to improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increase the longevity of current and new antibiotics, and increase the developments of new antibiotics.

When it comes to antibiotics use on farms, the report states that, “The benefits of antibiotic use in animal agriculture, however, must be weighed carefully against the serious potential risks to human health posed by antibiotic resistance.”

Its recommendation for limiting the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is to support FDA’s new Guidances 209 and 213:

  • FDA should proceed vigorously with the implementation of these guidances, including completing its rulemaking to update the language of the Veterinary Feed Directive.
  • USDA, through its Cooperative Extension Service, should establish and lead a national education and stewardship program to assist farmers, ranchers, and animal agriculture producers across the United States in complying with these FDA guidances.
  • FDA should assess progress by monitoring changes in total sales of antibiotics in animal agriculture and, where possible, in usage of such antibiotics; and by developing and undertaking studies to assess whether decreases are observed in antibiotic resistance among farm animals.

“If the FDA guidances are not effective in mitigating the risk of antibiotic resistance associated with antibiotic use in animal agriculture, FDA should take additional measures to protect human health,” the report added.

It also recommended that alternatives to antibiotics in agriculture be developed.

“The national strategy correctly recommends improved tracking of antibiotic use and resistance in human medicine and agriculture,” said Allan Coukell, senior director of drugs and medical devices at The Pew Charitable Trusts. ”The administration has already taken steps to phase out these drugs for growth promotion in livestock. It is essential now to ensure that antibiotic use in animals is really reduced and that these important drugs are administered only in medically appropriate ways under the supervision of a veterinarian.”

Some consumer advocate groups such as Keep Antibiotics Working were frustrated that the report didn’t include “more effective” actions.

“While the Council rightly acknowledges the seriousness of antibiotic resistance and its link to antibiotic overuse, their recommendations related to animal agriculture fall dangerously short,” read a statement from the coalition. “Instead of recommending that FDA move to address overuse of antibiotics for disease prevention and the farming practices that create the need for them, the report recommends a wait and see attitude on reducing antibiotic use in food animals.”

Food Safety News

C&S looking to acquire Associated Wholesalers, White Rose

C&S Wholesale Grocers has entered into an agreement in which it will acquire substantially all of Associated Wholesalers Inc.’s assets, including its White Rose distribution business. Under terms of the agreement, C&S will serve as the “stalking horse bidder” in a court-supervised auction process. Accordingly, the agreement is subject to higher and otherwise better offers, among other conditions.

To facilitate the transaction process and provide for an orderly sale, AWI and its subsidiaries, including White Rose, filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

AWI and White Rose are expected to continue operating in the normal course during the sale process.

“We believe that the asset purchase agreement with C&S is in the best interest of AWI and its stakeholders,” Joyce Fasula and Mike Rothwell, chairman and vice-chairman of the AWI board of directors, respectively, said in a press release. “After conducting a thorough process, which included the exploration of a range of alternatives and reaching out to multiple interested parties, we determined the best course of action for AWI was to enter this agreement with C&S and to undertake the court-supervised sale process.”

“As we move through this transaction process, we will continue to focus on serving our customers,” Matt Saunders, president and chief executive officer of AWI, said in the release. “We also intend to work closely with our suppliers and the winning bidder to help ensure that our customers continue to receive the level of service they expect.”

“The addition of AWI and White Rose would expand C&S’s footprint and enhance our significant capabilities in servicing independent grocers,” Rick Cohen, chairman and CEO of C&S, said in the release. “AWI and White Rose have a terrific customer base, and their distribution capabilities are a natural complement to our existing portfolio. We believe we are strongly positioned to provide all of their customers with the goods and services they need to successfully run and even grow their businesses.”

In conjunction with the proposed transaction, AWI has received a commitment for “debtor in possession” financing to support its continued operations during the pendency of the sale process. C&S has also made a commitment to participate in the “debtor in possession” financing package. AWI has filed a number of customary motions seeking court authorization to continue to support its business operations during the transaction process, including the continued payment of employee wages, salaries and health benefits without interruption. AWI has also asked for authority to continue existing customer programs and intends to pay suppliers in full under normal terms for goods and services provided after the filing date of Sept. 9.

The proposed transaction is subject to, among other things, higher and otherwise better offers to purchase any or substantially all of AWI’s assets, court approval, antitrust approval, any other such approvals as may be required by law, and other customary conditions. Given these conditions, there can be no assurance that the proposed transaction will be consummated.

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

C&S looking to acquire Associated Wholesalers, White Rose

C&S Wholesale Grocers has entered into an agreement in which it will acquire substantially all of Associated Wholesalers Inc.’s assets, including its White Rose distribution business. Under terms of the agreement, C&S will serve as the “stalking horse bidder” in a court-supervised auction process. Accordingly, the agreement is subject to higher and otherwise better offers, among other conditions.

To facilitate the transaction process and provide for an orderly sale, AWI and its subsidiaries, including White Rose, filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

AWI and White Rose are expected to continue operating in the normal course during the sale process.

“We believe that the asset purchase agreement with C&S is in the best interest of AWI and its stakeholders,” Joyce Fasula and Mike Rothwell, chairman and vice-chairman of the AWI board of directors, respectively, said in a press release. “After conducting a thorough process, which included the exploration of a range of alternatives and reaching out to multiple interested parties, we determined the best course of action for AWI was to enter this agreement with C&S and to undertake the court-supervised sale process.”

“As we move through this transaction process, we will continue to focus on serving our customers,” Matt Saunders, president and chief executive officer of AWI, said in the release. “We also intend to work closely with our suppliers and the winning bidder to help ensure that our customers continue to receive the level of service they expect.”

“The addition of AWI and White Rose would expand C&S’s footprint and enhance our significant capabilities in servicing independent grocers,” Rick Cohen, chairman and CEO of C&S, said in the release. “AWI and White Rose have a terrific customer base, and their distribution capabilities are a natural complement to our existing portfolio. We believe we are strongly positioned to provide all of their customers with the goods and services they need to successfully run and even grow their businesses.”

In conjunction with the proposed transaction, AWI has received a commitment for “debtor in possession” financing to support its continued operations during the pendency of the sale process. C&S has also made a commitment to participate in the “debtor in possession” financing package. AWI has filed a number of customary motions seeking court authorization to continue to support its business operations during the transaction process, including the continued payment of employee wages, salaries and health benefits without interruption. AWI has also asked for authority to continue existing customer programs and intends to pay suppliers in full under normal terms for goods and services provided after the filing date of Sept. 9.

The proposed transaction is subject to, among other things, higher and otherwise better offers to purchase any or substantially all of AWI’s assets, court approval, antitrust approval, any other such approvals as may be required by law, and other customary conditions. Given these conditions, there can be no assurance that the proposed transaction will be consummated.

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

Breaking: C&S bids to acquire AWI, White Rose in Chapter 11

Associated Wholesalers Inc. said Tuesday that it had entered into an agreement with C&S Wholesale Grocers whereby C&S would be the “stalking horse” bidder in an auction of AWI and its subsidiaries in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The offer is subject to potentially higher or better offers. AWI and its subsidiaries on Tuesday filed Chapter 11 petitions in Delaware, which the companies said would allow for an orderly sale. 

AWI, a cooperative wholesaler based in Robsonia, Pa., earlier this year said it would seek to sell its White Rose subsidiary, a voluntary wholesaler based in Carteret, N.J. but subsequently said it was negotiations to sell the entire company. AWI and White Rose are expected to continue operating in the normal course during the sale process.

“We believe that the asset purchase agreement with C&S is in the best interest of AWI and its stakeholders,” said Joyce Fasula and Mike Rothwell, chairman and vice-chairman of the AWI board, respectively. “After conducting a thorough process, which included the exploration of a range of alternatives and reaching out to multiple interested parties, we determined the best course of action for AWI was to enter this agreement with C&S and to undertake the court-supervised sale process.”

“The addition of AWI and White Rose would expand C&S’s footprint and enhance our significant capabilities in servicing independent grocers,” said Rick Cohen, chairman and CEO of C&S, based in Keene, N.H. “AWI and White Rose have a terrific customer base, and their distribution capabilities are a natural complement to our existing portfolio. We believe we are strongly positioned to provide all of their customers with the goods and services they need to successfully run and even grow their businesses.”

In conjunction with the proposed transaction, AWI has received a commitment for “debtor in possession” financing to support its continued operations during the pendency of the sale process. C&S has also made a commitment to participate in the financing package.

AWI has filed a number of customary motions seeking court authorization to continue to support its business operations during the transaction process, including the continued payment of employee wages, salaries and health benefits without interruption. AWI has also asked for authority to continue existing customer programs and intends to pay suppliers in full under normal terms for goods and services provided after the filing date.

Supermarket News

White House Releases Spring 2014 Regulatory Plan

The White House has released its “Current Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions” for Spring 2014.

When Food Safety News reported on the Fall 2013 agenda, we told you about the food safety issues in development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. All of the key regulations we highlighted then have pushed passed the schedule set last fall.

The Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection final rule, which had been expected in April, is now scheduled for July.

The June date for the final rule for labeling mechanically tenderized beef products has been pushed to September, along with a proposed rule to require companies to report the distribution and sales information for antimicrobial active ingredients used in food-producing animals.

The proposed rule for updating the nutritional and ingredient information on pet food labels is now expected in October.

Final action on adding nutrition labeling to restaurant menus had been expected in February, but is now planned for June. So is regulation on calorie labeling for food in vending machines.

And a list of pathogens with the potential to pose a serious threat to public health (including Acinetobacter species, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter species, Clostridium difficile and Vibrio cholera) has inched past its expected date in June but is still required to be published by July 9.

Here’s a refresher of what’s planned for the Food Safety Modernization Act:

Rule RIN / Link Next Action Date Final Rule Deadline
Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls 0910-AG36 Re-proposed Language August 2014 Aug. 30, 2015
Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals 0910-AG10 Re-proposed Language August 2014 Aug. 30, 2015
Produce Safety Regulation 0910-AG35 Re-proposed Language August 2014 October 31, 2015
Foreign Supplier Verification Program 0910-AG64 Re-proposed Language August 2014 October 31, 2015
Accreditation of Third Parties To Conduct Food Safety Audits and For Other Related Purposes 0910-AG66 Final Rule October 31, 2015
Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food 0910-AG98 End of comment period May 31, 2014 March 31, 2016
Focused Mitigation Strategies To Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration 0910-AG63 Final Rule May 31, 2016
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Amendments to Reportable Food Registry (RFR Requirements) 0910-AG97 ANPRM Comment Period End June 9, 2014 N/A

 

The following is a list of other food safety issues addressed in the agenda:

Agency Agenda Stage of Rulemaking Title RIN Date of Action
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Food Labeling; Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels 0910-AF22 June 2, 2014
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed At One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain RACCs 0910-AF23 June 2, 2014
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented, Hydrolyzed, or Distilled Foods 0910-AH00 Sept. 2014
HHS/FDA Final Rule Stage Veterinary Feed Directive 0910-AG95 April 2015
HHS/FDA Proposed Rule Stage Registration of Food Facilities: Amendments to Food Facility Registration Requirements 0910-AG69 Sept. 2014
USDA/APHIS Final Rule Stage Importation of Poultry and Poultry Products From Regions Affected With Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza 0579-AC36 Sept. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Product Labeling: Use of the Voluntary Claim “Natural” on the Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products 0583-AD30 July 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Records to be Kept by Official Establishments and Retail Stores That Grind Raw Beef Products 0583-AD46 July 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Public Information; Communications With Federal Agencies, State and Foreign Government Officials, and International Organizations 0583-AD50 Dec. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Addition of Namibia to the List of Countries Eligible to Export Meat Products to the United States 0583-AD51 Dec. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Affirmation of Interim Final Rule With Amendments: Control of Listeria Monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products 0583-AD53 Aug. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Veal Calves 0583-AD54 Aug. 2014
USDA/FSIS Proposed Rule Stage Change in Accredited Lab Fees 0583-AD55 Sept. 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Mandatory Inspection of Certain Fish, Including Catfish and Catfish Products 0583-AD36 Dec. 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Electronic Imported Product Inspection Application and Certification of Imported Product and Foreign Establishments; Amendments to Facilitate the Public Health Information System (PHIS) 0583-AD39 May 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Electronic Export Application and Certification as a Reimbursable Service and Flexibility in the Requirements for Official Export Inspection Marks, Devices, and Certificates 0583-AD41 Sept. 2014
USDA/FSIS Final Rule Stage Common or Usual Name for Raw Meat and Poultry Products Containing Added Solutions 0583-AD43 July 2014

 

Food Safety News

School nutrition, white potato amendments get green light at Senate Committee markup

TGF-FruitImageWASHINGTON — A Senate committee voted May 22 on a compromise amendment that would help schools adjust to new nutrition standards but without allowing schools to opt out of the new standards that require more fruits and vegetables in school meals.

The latest vote comes just two days after a House subcommittee voted to grant the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture authority to hand out waivers if schools can demonstrate hardship in meeting the revamped nutrition standards. The issue has become a powder keg on Capitol Hill during the debate over USDA’s fiscal 2015 spending measure.

Spearheaded by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the amendment would require technical changes on sodium contained in the federally supported meals, require a report on the acceptable range whole grain products and come up with a plan to provide schools with training and technical assistance.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) advocated for waivers to directly help schools that cannot meet the standards. Harkin said he would not support “blanket waivers,” prompting Hoeven to agree to the compromise amendment at this time. The bill still has to be considered by the full Senate next week.

“We commend the Senate Appropriations Committee for its sensible resolution of debate over implementation of the 2012 school meal regulations,” Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement released after the vote.

“Now that a sensible, bipartisan solution has prevailed in the Senate, we encourage all players to step back from the debate and come together to better help schools meet these simple fruit and vegetable standards,” Stenzel said. “The fresh produce industry stands ready to support the School Nutrition Association and all of its members in implementing the fruit and vegetable requirements.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee also voted to add white potatoes to the supplemental feeding package supplied to Women, Infants and Children recipients, an amendment offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Collins said the nutritious commodity had been unfairly excluded.

As part of a compromise, the amendment would not allow vegetables with added sugars, fats or oils from being purchased with WIC vouchers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to conduct an evaluation of the nutrient value of all fresh fruits and vegetables to determine what should be in the package.

Harkin adamantly opposed the amendment, saying this would be the first time in the WIC’s 40-year history that Congress had overruled experts on the recommended food package, and that white potatoes should be excluded until USDA completes its report.

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

School nutrition, white potato amendments get green light at Senate Committee markup

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee voted May 22 on a compromise amendment that would help schools adjust to new nutrition standards but without allowing schools to opt out of the new standards that require more fruits and vegetables in school meals.

The latest vote comes just two days after a House subcommittee voted to grant the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture authority to hand out waivers if schools can demonstrate hardship in meeting the revamped nutrition standards. The issue has become a powder keg on Capitol Hill during the debate over USDA’s fiscal 2015 spending measure.

Spearheaded by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the amendment would require technical changes on sodium contained in the federally supported meals, require a report on the acceptable range whole grain products and come up with a plan to provide schools with training and technical assistance.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) advocated for waivers to directly help schools that cannot meet the standards. Harkin said he would not support “blanket waivers,” prompting Hoeven to agree to the compromise amendment at this time. The bill still has to be considered by the full Senate next week.

“We commend the Senate Appropriations Committee for its sensible resolution of debate over implementation of the 2012 school meal regulations,” Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement released after the vote.

“Now that a sensible, bipartisan solution has prevailed in the Senate, we encourage all players to step back from the debate and come together to better help schools meet these simple fruit and vegetable standards,” Stenzel said. “The fresh produce industry stands ready to support the School Nutrition Association and all of its members in implementing the fruit and vegetable requirements.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee also voted to add white potatoes to the supplemental feeding package supplied to Women, Infants and Children recipients, an amendment offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Collins said the nutritious commodity had been unfairly excluded.

As part of a compromise, the amendment would not allow vegetables with added sugars, fats or oils from being purchased with WIC vouchers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to conduct an evaluation of the nutrient value of all fresh fruits and vegetables to determine what should be in the package.

Harkin adamantly opposed the amendment, saying this would be the first time in the WIC’s 40-year history that Congress had overruled experts on the recommended food package, and that white potatoes should be excluded until USDA completes its report.

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

USDA’s revised WIC packages exclude white potatoes despite protests

WASHINGTON — A final rule that revises the food package for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) recipients includes fresh fruits and vegetables, but the ban on fresh white potatoes continues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to publish the final WIC rule March 3 after receiving more than 7,000 letters on its 2007 interim measure, many of whom voiced support for adding whole grains and fruits and vegetables to the revised WIC package.

Under the final rule, WIC women can receive cash vouchers of $ 10 per month and their children $ 8 per month for fruit and vegetable purchases.

But USDA is not allowing white potatoes, mixed vegetables containing white potatoes, noodles, and nuts or sauce packets. Canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables can be purchased with the vouchers. Fruit or vegetable must be listed as the first ingredient in WIC-eligible processed fruits and vegetables, and frozen fruits may not contain added fats, oils, salt or added sugars.

“The restriction of white potatoes, as recommended by the [Institute of Medicine], is based on data indicating that consumption of starchy vegetables meets or exceeds recommended amounts, and food intake data showing that white potatoes are the most widely used vegetable,” the interim rule said. “The department recognizes that white potatoes can be a healthful part of one’s diet. However, WIC food packages are carefully designed to address the supplemental nutritional needs of a specific population.”

The National Potato Council, which has been working with Congress to lift the ban, issued a statement in response to USDA’s decision.

“We are disappointed that USDA has chosen to ignore the latest nutritional science and consumption data in its final WIC rule,” the NPC said in a press statement. “When USDA revised the WIC program to include all fresh fruits and vegetables – except fresh white potatoes – it relied on an IOM report that looked at consumption data from the mid-1990s. However, much has changed over the past two decades, and the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consumption data from its National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey demonstrate that today’s women and children are falling well short of their consumption targets for starchy vegetables.”

The final WIC changes are just one of several food policy reforms rolled out by the White House the last week of February as part of the four-year anniversary of the Let’s Move! initiative.

First Lady Michelle Obama also announced new food marketing guidelines for schools and new Nutrition Facts panel changes to food labels.

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

White House Says FDA Inspections Were ‘Sharply Curtailed’ During Shutdown

Routine inspections of domestic and international food facilities by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were “sharply curtailed” during the 16-day government shutdown in October, according to a report released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Thursday afternoon.

Although the agency continued inspections where there was imminent threat to health or life, the report states, furloughing 45 percent of FDA employees delayed nearly 500 food and feed domestic inspections and kept approximately 355 state inspectors under contract from the FDA from conducting food safety inspections.

The FDA also cut back examination, sampling, and laboratory analysis of imported products during the shutdown, but the OMB report did not estimate by how much.

The report also neglected to address how the shutdown impacted the team working on foodborne illnesses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it did note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was unable to inspect about 1,200 hazardous waste facilities, chemical facilities and drinking water systems.

Across the government, OMB estimates that the shutdown will cost the economy between $ 2 billion and $ 6 billion.

“I think it’s a good thing to have these estimates of the damage that’s been done, but it doesn’t cover the risk to the public from the lost safety inspections,” said David Plunkett, a food safety attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We’ve got people who claim to be fiscal conservatives in Congress and they flushed millions of dollars down the toilet during this shutdown and risked the lives and safety of Americans.

“Public health was put on the backburner.”

Food Safety News

Retail White Paper: Focus on Fulfillment Excellence

Aug. 26, 2013  | Supermarket News

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