WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture audits that verify produce meet Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices will be modified to meet the new food-safety standards coming from the Food & Drug Administration, a top USDA official reassured the Fruit & Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee at a Sept. 29 meeting.
In July, new industry members were named to the federal committee that meets twice a year to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on a wide range of issues affecting the fruit and vegetable industry. Industry members represent a cross-section of the industry, including growers, shippers, wholesalers, importers and processors. The panel had not met since 2011, however, before its Sept. 29-30 meeting in Arlington, VA.
On Sept. 29, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo updated the group on USDA activities in the specialty crop sector.
The agency grades 30 billion pounds of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables and issues more than 500,000 certificates annually. GAP and GHP audits, which verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled and stored in the safest manner, minimize risk of microbial food safety hazard and build consumer trust, she said.
"I know there has been a lot of discussion lately about [the Food Safety Modernization Act] and what it will mean for growers and handlers. I want to assure you that AMS is working closely with FDA, and we will modify GAP/GHP as needed to ensure that they meet the requirements of the FSMA final rule," she said. "As part of our overall strategy to effectively meet your food-safety needs, AMS is also actively working toward being able to provide audits under the Global Food Safety Initiative umbrella."
Alonzo said USDA has worked to meet past recommendations from the committee, such as increasing industry outreach on the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. AMS has reached 2,600 industry members through seven PACA webinars in recent years.
As of this month, Alonzo said AMS has purchased more than $601 million of fruits, vegetables and specialty crops in FY 2014.
The new school lunch standards have translated to more purchases, she said.
"In fact, we purchased 20 percent more fruit and vegetable products in 2013 than in the previous year as a result of the new standards. And we'll continue working with your industry to make sure America's schoolchildren have access to the nutrition they need to thrive," she said.
In other news, USDA has awarded $110 million in FY 2014 grants this year, including $66 million through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. USDA also issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements totally more than $6.5 million in cost share programs for organic producers and handlers.
"The secretary and I believe that this committee is ready to hit the ground running," she said. "We are counting on you to discuss, develop, and provide recommendations that will support the entire sector."
The following members will serve on the committee from 2014-2016: Virginia Barnes of Barnes Farm in Hastings, FL; Richard Ha Jr. of Hamakua Springs Country Farms in Hilo, HI; Ricke Kress of Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, FL; Paul Newman of Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers/Columbia Valley Fruit in Wenatchee and Union Gap, WA; Robert Nolan of Deer Run Farms in Brookhaven, NY; Christopher Puentes of Interfresh Inc. in Orange, CA; Jennifer (Jin Ju) Wilder of Valley Fruit & Produce Co. in Los Angeles; Vaughn Koligian of Sun-Maid Growers of California in Kingsburg, CA; Diane Smith of the Michigan Apple Committee in Lansing, MI; Beth Knorr of Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy in Peninsula, OH; and Brent Roggie of the National Grape Cooperative Association in Westfield, NY, and Concord, MA.
These members will serve three-year terms from 2014 - 2017: Ben Burkett of B&B Farms in Petal, MS; Helen Dietrich of Ridgeview Orchards in Conklin, MI; Kristine Ellor of Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA; Richard Hanas of A. Duda & Sons Inc. in Oviedo, FL; James Alan Johnson of Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus, NM; Lorri Koster of Mann Packing Co. in Salinas, CA; Jorge Vazquez of Latin Specialties in Houston; Andy Shoemaker of Taylor Fresh Foods in Salinas, CA; David Yanda of Lakeside Foods in Manitowoc, WI; Tiffany Boaldin of Golden Eagle Casino-Kickapoo Tribe in Horton, KS; Thomas N. Williams of Spartan Nash in Edina, MN; Catherine Burns of the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, DE; Carlos Castaneda of Castaneda & Sons in Arroyo Grande, CA; and Roland McReynolds of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in Pittsboro, NC.
Texas-based MountainKing Potatoes has taken another step toward helping retailers boost impulse sales, reduce in-store labor and complement ad features with new, high-graphic display units including large bins for high-volume promotions, easy-to-install display wraps and smaller, yet attractive display-ready stack boxes.
"We've created a look that will certainly inspire creative retailer displays," John Pope, vice president sales and marketing at MountainKing, said in a press release. "We're excited to see how shoppers react."
The company's four new attention-getting display units are each designed with high-impact graphics touting the company's farm-fresh appeal while presenting ways shoppers can complete their meals with MountainKing.
The company's new 40x48-inch fresh bin with bold color graphics is large enough for 100 10-pound bags, 125 eight-pound bags or 200 five-pound bags. Sized over 13 square feet, MountainKing's new large bin display is perfect for high-volume promotions and eliminates the need for frequent restocking.
MountainKing's half-pallet grill bin entices shoppers with the look of a large, stainless steel backyard grill with steaks and potatoes cooking over an open flame. A spatula and apron are shown hanging from the grill to create a true depiction of a backyard cookout.
Perfect for display by the meat case, the half-pallet bin (sized 40x24-inches) holds 84 five-pound bags, 130 three-pound bags or 100 tray packs. The grill bin is particularly effective in southern and western areas where grilling is a year-round activity.
Tater Town stack boxes, display-ready boxes featuring MountainKing's Steak House Bakers, are ideal for secondary display locations and lower-volume stores. Stacked 4x4 on quarter and full pallets, each stack holds 64 three-pound bags, 96 roaster bags or 96 tray packs.
Also now available from MountainKing are new, high-graphic display wraps, ideal for suggesting the pairing of potatoes with seafood and other dishes. Four new wraps are available for Steak House Roasters, Steak House Bakers, Crawfish Reds and Seafood Market Reds.
According to the company, the display wraps have elevated sales of three-pound Seafood Red and four-pack sales by 53 percent. The easy-to-use wraps can be installed by store personnel or MountainKing's merchandising representatives.
MountainKing Potatoes is a leading grower of high-flavor potato varieties. Currently, about 1 million U.S. households enjoy MountainKing products every week, according to the company.
For the third consecutive year, the Produce for Better Health Foundation will host over 20 supermarket dietitians for a three-day educational and networking program, coinciding with PMA's Fresh Summit Oct. 17-19 in Anaheim, CA.
The program enables the supermarket dietitians to explore the tradeshow floor — an outstanding learning experience in and of itself — and will include various learning opportunities focused on shoppers' attitudes and behaviors about fruits and vegetables, marketing tips and tools to increase consumption, an avocado and lime grove tour, hosted by the California Avocado Commission, grocery store tours and several networking opportunities.
"Several supermarkets, as well as fruit and vegetable marketers, are identifying ways to maximize dietitians' knowledge and their in-store presence and this ROI will continue to increase over time," Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of PBH, said in a press release. "PBH's understanding of consumers, notably moms and primary household shoppers, combined with the strong relationship we have with supermarket dietitians, ideally positions PBH to provide programs like this and to unite members of the fruit and vegetable industry with these professionals."
Dietitians from Ahold USA, Balls Foods, Brookshire Brothers, Buy for Less, Cobron's, Dierbergs Markets, Festival Foods, Loblaws, Marsh Supermarkets, Meijer, Mrs. Green's Natural Market, Northgate Gonzalez Market, PCC Natural Markets, Redner's Warehouse Markets, Schnuck Markets, SpartanNash, Target Corp. and The Kroger Co. will attend.
PBH is pleased to recognize the sponsors of the 2014 program:
Ten years ago, Monterey Mushrooms renamed its scholastic achievement program the Carl Victor Fields Scholarship Awards in honor of the late Carl Fields, recognizing his passionate dedication and commitment to helping our youth.
Since that time, the program has continued its work awarding scholarships to the dependent children of Monterey employees so that this school year of 2014-15, Monterey will be awarding $204,000 to 136 dependent students of Monterey employees.This brings the total scholarship monies awarded since the program's inception in 1992, to over $2.23 million.
"As we look back on the beginning of this program to the present, we are gratified to see the many tangible rewards and benefits achieved through helping the children of our employees attain their scholastic goals," Shah Kazemi, president of Monterey Mushrooms, said in a press release. "I know Carl would be pleased with the program's success."
And successes are many. All of Monterey's facilities have seen multiple instances of dependent students entering and completing two- and four-year programs in fields such as science, business, physics, engineering and targeted technical training.
Of note, the Loudon, TN, facility has four students, including Juan Cahue, who are currently pursuing degrees in the medical field; Joe Cuevas and Juan Medina have graduated and are now employed as a mechanic and an air-conditioning specialist, respectively; and Clarke Tajte from Monterey's Orlando, FL, facility has graduated with plans to pursue a higher degree in her field of pharmacology. There are similar success stories throughout all of Monterey's 10 facilities.
Scholarship applications were received from Monterey's multi-site facilities located throughout North America and awards are based on academic achievement, financial need and future potential. The awards are made for one year at a time for a total of four years if the student continues to meet the criteria of the program.
A longtime PMA Fresh Summit exhibitor, Frieda's Specialty Produce challenges this year's attendees to "Eat One Fruit A Day That Scares You," and to try jackfruit, the scary-looking fruit that smells and tastes amazing.
Samples of jackfruit will be available at Frieda's booth (No. 2830) both days of the PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA, on Oct. 18-19.
"Jackfruit is a definite showstopper of tropical fruits," Karen Caplan, president and chief executive officer of Los Alamitos, CA-based Frieda's, said in a press release. "It has the impressive size and a unique fragrance that reminds you of Juicy Fruit gum, and these succulent pods of sweet, yellow flesh that taste like all of your favorite tropical fruits in one perfect bite."
Jackfruit is the world's largest tree fruit. As the fruit ripens, the exterior turns yellow and becomes fragrant. When eaten fresh, the yellow flesh has hints of mango, banana and melon. Unripe fruit is often used as a meat substitute in curries, tacos and sandwiches. The seeds are also edible once boiled or roasted. NPR called Jackfruit "the ginormous fruit to feed the world" for its versatility.
Frieda's also will display other "scary fruits" such as organic finger limes, Buddha's Hands, Kiwano, cherimoya, Mandarinquats and Mangosteens.