Custom Produce Sales issues recall of ‘Fat Boy’ brand cucumbers

Custom Produce Sales, based in  Parlier, CA, is voluntarily recalling all cucumbers sold under the “Fat Boy” label starting Aug. 1, 2015 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella and are covered by an ongoing recall. No other “Fat Boy” products are covered by this recall.  Unlabeled cucumbers packed into a black reusable plastic container and were sold in Nevada, as of Aug. 1, 2015, are also covered by this recall.

Custom Produce is currently working with health authorities on this recall, which is associated with an outbreak of Salmonella Poona, with 341 illnesses, including two deaths, being reporting in as many as 30 states. Custom Produce has contacted all customers who may have received this product.

“Fat Boy” cucumbers were produced in Baja California and distributed in the states of California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. These cucumbers are shipped in a black, green, red and craft colored carton that reads “Fat Boy Fresh Produce.” This variety is often referred to as a “Slicer” or “American” cucumber. It has a dark green color, is typically seven to 10 inches long with a diameter of 1.75 to 2.5 inches.

Consumers who have purchased “Fat Boy” brand cucumbers are urged not to consume them and to return them to the place of purchase or to dispose of them. Consumers with questions may contact Custom Produce by visiting the company website at  or by calling the company at 559/254-5860.

Fat Boy cucumbers were packed into the following:

  • Cucumber Carton 24’s Fat Boy Label
  • Cucumber Carton Super Select Fat Boy Label
  • Cucumber Carton 6 count Fat Boy Label
  • Cucumber Carton 5 # Fat Boy Label
  • Possible Fat Boy Lot Codes: 93968, 94506, 94550, 94522, 94513, 93991
  • Reusable Plastic Containers (RPC):
  • Lot Code:  (01) 1 0851821 22000 2 (10) 99
  • Item #552678329

Calif. Navel crop up from last year

California's upcoming Navel crop is expected to be 86 million 40 pound cartons, according to the CASS 2015-16 California Navel Orange Objective Measurement Report released Sept. 11. Of those cartons, 83 million are projected to be produced in the three-county Central Valley region comprising District 1 and represents an 8.5 percent increase over the 76 million cartons harvested last year.citmu The varieties forecast in this report include conventional, organic, and specialty Navel oranges.

The Agricultural Statistic Service conducts the crop survey and generates its projections based on random sampling of the number of fruit per tree, fruit size, combined with historical information and then using statistical formulas to produce the estimate.  In this year's survey the fruit count per tree in District 1 is 412, up 19 percent from the previous year, and 18.5 percent above the five-year average set of 336 fruit per tree.  The average Sept. 1 fruit diameter was 2.248, which is above the five-year average diameter of 2.230.  The estimate is calculated on 2,000 fewer acres than last year.

Growers, packinghouse fieldmen and shippers that California Citrus Mutual spoke with generally believed that the crop was at least the same as last year and probably bigger. Fruit size was reported to be larger, and fruit set — especially on late varieties — is better in most groves. The improved fruit size is attributed to timely rainfall and good growing conditions following petal fall last spring. Early rains this fall could result in additional growth that would equate to more cartons.

The external quality is very good and the extended periods of high temperatures this summer have increased Brix, so flavor is expected to be excellent this season. The crop is maturing well, with harvest expected to begin in early October.

CCM said the industry response to the report is that the estimate is a reasonable starting point with the acreage number as the big variable. Thousands of acres have been removed during the current drought. The 2,000-acre reduction used by CASS is probably conservative, in which case the crop will come in below this estimate.

PMA’s Gorny welcomes changes to newly released FSMA rule

WASHINGTON — The Food & Drug Administration has released the first final rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act — preventive control final rules for human and animal food — that better clarify for growers who’s in and who’s out of having to draft food-safety plans.

After three years of touring farms, holding public meetings and asking for comments, on Sept. 10 FDA released the human food regulation that requires food facilities, starting September 2016, to identify and minimize hazards and maintain written plans on each step in the food safety process.

“We’ve been working with states, food companies, farmers and consumers to create smart, practical and meaningful rules,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “And we have made a firm commitment to provide guidance, technical assistance and training to advance a food safety culture that puts prevention first.”

One issue during the debate was FDA’s definition of farm, and trade associations argued the agency missed the mark in earlier versions of the rule.

But Jim Gorny, vice president of food safety and technology at the Produce Marketing Association, said the latest final rule more accurately reflects the way the produce industry operates.

There’s more activities categorized as growing, harvesting and packing that can be conducted on farms “without triggering or being caught up in the preventive controls,” he said. Food safety controls on farms will be covered under the first federal produce safety rule due out next month.

For example, packing blueberries in clamshells would have forced farmers into the food processing rule, but not anymore, he said. Activities such as fumigating grapes or field coring remain under the farm definition.

Another change in the final rule recognizes off-farm produce packing operations fall under the farm definition.

“FDA did a really good job of listening to people,” Gorny said. “Today, we all know who’s covered and who’s not.”

In the next few weeks, PMA plans to educate members on the new rules while it anxiously awaits guidance documents that will spell out the rules in more detail.

In the meantime, PMA continues to advocate on Congress to fully fund FSMA implementation, and oppose industry user fees to pick up the shortfall. Underfunded border inspections or state agencies could create confusion and hold up perishable products at the border, he warned.

IPC leveraging success to extend Idaho brand

SUN VALLEY, ID — With the local movement gaining steam, Idaho Potato Commission President Frank Muir championed locale over local at the annual Idaho Grower Shipper Association Convention, held here Sept. 2-4.

“The Idaho brand is critical. Locale beats local,” Muir stated.

His bold statement was backed by a series of poll results. Just a few of the results showed an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents to an IPC survey equate Idaho with potatoes. Among the growing Hispanic target, 79 percent of respondents know the Idaho brand.

The Idaho potato brand is strong and growing for several reasons, according to Muir. A few of them include the big Idaho potato truck, football, men shopping more, growing social media programs and nutrition education.

The Big Idaho Potato truck has been a huge success for Idaho potatoes. It isn’t a new idea, but people have had a lot of fun wondering if the giant potato is real and calling in during a recent campaign to help find the truck, as well as taking photos and posting to social media.

The theme of finding the truck will kickoff again during the college football season, with the popular characters Mark Coombs, a potato farmer, and his dog Otis in their red and white Studebaker truck.

The IPC has leveraged “A Big Helping” campaign to the popularity of the big Idaho potato truck. The commission supports local causes by working with communities they visit with the truck. The IPC contacts local media ahead of time to help build awareness of a local cause and donate up to $500 to the cause.

In addition to the big Idaho potato truck, the IPC has sponsored the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Muir said he was excited upon learning that the location for the bowl, Boise State Bronco Stadium, has been renamed Albertson’s Stadium. The bowl game has leveraged $2.8 million in media value to an average TV audience of 2.2 million.

The IPC is also working with ESPN’s Heather Cox from Idaho. She is a growing presence with ESPN and proudly promotes her home state. She is also in the new big Idaho potato truck commercial running during the college football season.

Muir also highlighted that men are getting more involved in shopping, especially during football season. He said this is good for Idaho potatoes, since men love potatoes.

The IPC is also growing its social media campaign and has received two blogger awards. One of the presenters stated, “IPC gets it.” The commission has received 1.5 million views on the IPC YouTube channel, which has included a video contest returning this year. The commission’s website has also been completely revamped, incorporating its social media campaigns.

Finally, the Potato Lover’s Month has become so popular that it has been extended to eight weeks. It is the largest produce contest in retail, Muir stated. Falling on the heels of the Famous Idaho Potato bowl, the in-store produce contest helps to extend the Idaho Potato brand.

United Fresh backs new truck safety bill that could boost produce shipping capacity

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) introduced a bill Sept. 10 that would give states the option to increase truck-weight limits to 91,000 pounds for six-axle trucks traveling on federal highways.

Ribble, who introduced the bill during a morning press conference Thursday, said he hopes to add his weight limit language to the must-pass highway reauthorization bill that expires at the end of September.

The Safe, Flexible & Efficient Trucking Act would add 11,000 pounds to the current 80,000-pound maximum standard that’s been in place since 1982. The bill would allow for heavier trucks equipped with a sixth axle designed to improve weight distribution and braking capacity.

It would move more goods in a safe manner and move these trucks off county and city roads and onto the interstate system, the Wisconsin congressman said.

By relying on the 91,000-pound limit, rather than an earlier bill’s 97,000-pound limit, there would be no one-time costs for construction of interstate bridges. It increases capacity nationwide at a time when freight tonnage is expected to increase over the next decade, Ribble added.

Along with several other industry groups, the produce industry praised the new legislation that would give states the flexibility to move more perishables in an efficient manner.

Due to the current weight limits, growers are forced to ship loads of fruits and vegetables in trucks that are not full, resulting in increased costs for the industry, Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, said during today’s press conference.

This bill could reduce the cost of shipping fruits and vegetables to consumers.

“The specialty crop industry is committed to doing all we can to ensure the measure is included in the transpiration reauthorization package to be considered by the House in the next few weeks and ultimately signed into law by the president,” Guenther said.

Changing the truck weight limits will be one of the priorities for Capitol Hill visits when United Fresh members attend the Washington Public Policy Conference on Sept. 28-30, he said.