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FDA Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor to speak at The Washington Conference

Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, Food and Drug Administration, will present the keynote address Wednesday, Sept. 10 at the Breakfast General Session of The Washington Conference.

Deputy Commissioner Taylor will provide an update on the FDA’s rulemaking for the Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA has proposed several rules under FSMA that could have significant impact on the fresh produce industry and the safety of our nation’s fresh produce.

"We look forward to hearing from Mike Taylor about FDA’s new supplemental proposals, as well as FDA’s vision going forward in FSMA implementation," said Tom Stenzel, United’s president and chief executive officer. "It’s a rare opportunity to hear directly from the FDA's lead food official and one of the highest food-safety authorities in the federal government about implementation of the complex FSMA law.”

Taylor's food-safety resume is distinguished, starting his FDA career in 1976 as a litigating attorney. He then served as FDA's deputy commissioner for policy from 1991 to 1994, overseeing FDA's policy development and rulemaking, including the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and issuance of new seafood safety rules.

From 1994 to 1996, he served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as administrator of the food safety and inspection service and acting under secretary for food safety. During that time, he spearheaded public health-oriented reform of the FSIS. From 2000 until his appointment as deputy commissioner for foods in July 2009, Taylor has worked in academic and research settings on the challenges facing the nation's food-safety system and ways to address them.

"United Fresh values ongoing dialogue and cooperation with FDA about FSMA implementation,” said Stenzel. “We appreciate hearing from Mike Taylor at The Washington Conference about FDA’s work to make the FSMA regulations workable and effective for the entire produce supply chain.”

Also on Sept. 10, conference attendees can participate in United’s Forum at FDA, where they will have the unique opportunity to meet with FDA officials and ask questions about FSMA and other regulatory issues that are affecting their produce operations.

For more information about The Washington Conference, Sept. 8-10, visit www.UnitedFresh.org/TWC or call 202-303-3400.

TransFresh introduces Tectrol Storage Solutions for fresh blueberries

TransFresh Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Chiquita Brands, has adapted its flagship technology, Tectrol Modified Atmosphere Packaging System, which is widely used to provide protection to strawberries in transit, to meet specific needs of the rapidly growing blueberry market.

"We had various shippers coming to us" asking to use the Tectrol system for pallets of blueberries to be kept in storage for two to four weeks, Rich Macleod, vice president of the TransFresh Pallet Division, said in an interview with The Produce News. "We said, 'Sure, it sounds like a great idea to us,'" and initially used the same system that is being used for strawberries. "But what we learned is that if you are going to store product in pallet bags and store it in an effective modified atmosphere, your technology must be much more precise, much more concise and much more stable."

Transfresh-Rich-MacleodRich MacleodRecognizing that simply using the same technology that works for strawberries in transit did not meet the needs of the blueberry industry, "we backed up and said, 'Time out! Let's take our blinders off," said Macleod. So the Tectrol team took a fresh look at the technology. "As soon as we did that, we started getting a series of creative ideas from my team," and specifically from Reilly Rhodes, TransFresh Tectrol business manager for fresh blueberries, who spearheaded the multi-year development project, as to how things could be done differently.

"It was an incredibly valuable lesson," Macleod said.

"To develop the unique Tectrol Storage Solution for fresh blueberries, TransFresh looked more closely at storage needs versus shipping needs," according to a TransFresh press release.

While the strawberry application required high-volume capability on the order of 300 pallets a day in a large facility, working in the range of 100 units a day in a blueberry facility would keep everybody "pretty happy," Macleod said. "That allowed us to modify our technology."

The "A-ha" moment, as Rhodes called it, came when the development team decided to try turning the pallet-sealing method quite literally on its head, according to the release.

Rather than pull a pallet bag over the top of the pallet and seal it with tape to a sheet of plastic placed under the stack of trays on the pallet, they tried inverting the bag and pulling it up around the pallet, then sealing it across the top, said Macleod. "As soon as we did that, our seal technology became virtually 100 percent effective."

Once the sealing system was redesigned, "we married the redesigned seal and bag with the Apio BreatheWay technology," Rhodes said in the release. Apio is a subsidiary of Landec Corp.

By having achieved precise control over the seal and then combining it with the predictable breathability of the BreatheWay membrane technology, "we have created a package that has a stable atmosphere" with stable, predictable levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, Macleod said. Blueberry customers who want to store pallets of blueberries "to manage the markets now have a tool that appears to be working beyond their wildest dreams.

The development of the Tectrol Storage Solution for fresh blueberries was "a multi-year research and development," according to the release. It resulted in "a sealed package system with adjustable oxygen transfer rates that react dynamically to changes in temperature and berry respiration for more reliable fresh blueberry storage."

"What's remarkable about the Tectrol Storage Solution for fresh blueberries is that the innovative zip-sealed pallet system combined with the patented breathable membrane allows just the right amount of oxygen transfer needed by the fruit, resulting in greater atmosphere control than previously possible and a virtually fool-proof packaging operation," Macleod said in the release. "Customers who may have struggled in the past to meet the specific atmosphere needs of fresh blueberries are now finding they have a new solution available with higher consistency and a more stable atmosphere for greater storage reliability."

Macleod further commented that customers may now have much more confidence in their storage solutions by being able to more effectively match supplies with market demand. TransFresh expects that its new storage solution can be adapted to other commodities such as fresh cherries and grapes.

"Domestic markets have sold 15 percent more blueberries this year than last and represent a fast-growing berry segment," according to the release. "As these markets have grown, the demand for a more effective storage solution has accelerated. Because blueberries are grown in a variety of countries and districts, and varieties tend to have steep production peaks, the ability to hold blueberries in modified or controlled atmosphere conditions helps to smooth out the bumps in market supply and demand. A pallet-sized atmosphere package such as the Tectrol Storage Solution gives suppliers the flexibility to market a quality product through the peaks and valleys of the distribution system."

 

Del Monte announces 'Fresh Fan Fuel' social media promotion

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. will be hosting the “Fresh Fan Fuel” social media promotion to encourage healthy and fresh choices for fall games and tailgates. The promotion will give Del Monte fans the opportunity to win one of eight tailgating prize packages, just in time for football season.

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When visiting the Fresh Fan Fuel website, consumers will be prompted to upload a photo that represents a healthy tailgating or game-day experience. Consumers will invite friends on Facebook to vote for their submitted photo to increase their chances at winning the grand prize. Users will also be encouraged to use the hashtag “#freshfanfuel” on their Twitter and Instagram posts to share their submission and promotion.

“The Fresh Fan Fuel promotion is intended to encourage consumers to choose healthier alternatives for their tailgates or football parties,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing North America for Del Monte. “Del Monte products can play multiple roles at a tailgate. Our delicious Guac can be served as a dip with veggies or as a condiment. Easy to serve fresh cut fruit and veggie trays are great alternatives to chips or cookies. And our whole produce items such as our famous Del Monte Gold® pineapple, bananas, and avocados can be thrown on the grill for a delicious treat.”

The Ultimate Fan Package (the grand prize package) will consist of $100.00 to purchase Del Monte fresh products, two tickets to a regular football season game of the winner’s choice, a television professional football package, fan gear, a portable gas grill, a cooler, two tailgating chairs, a bag toss game, and a professional football. Runner-up and weekly prizes comprised of various tailgating items will also be distributed to lucky participants.

The four-week Fresh Fan Fuel promotion begins Aug. 18 and ends Sept. 12.

For more information about Del Monte’s Fresh Fan Fuel, contact your local Del Monte Fresh Produce representative or visit www.delmontefreshfanfuel.com to enter.

 

New York apple growers geared up for a second fabulous crop

"We convened on a conference call with our members across the state on July 25," Julia Stewart, spokesperson for the New York Apple Association headquartered in Fishers, NY, told The Produce News. They forecasted then that crop would be 30 million bushels, just slightly above our average of 29.5 million but not as high as our 2013 crop which was estimated at 32 million."

Stewart added that this season's crop could get even larger as the apples tend to get bigger when the weather is as great as New York's has been throughout this growing season.

"We have indeed had another fabulous year of growing conditions," she emphasized. "The spring weather conditions were perfect for pollinating, and we've had just the right amount of rain. Lots of sunny days and cooler nights that apples love have also blessed our crop. It's looking like a textbook crop at this point, and that will give us great crops for two-years running, for which we are extremely grateful."

mcintosh 300-web A New York-grown Mcintosh apple. (Photo courtesy of New York Apple Association)Stewart also explained that because of new plantings in New York, consumers will have an abundant supply of their favorite New York apples, from Honeycrisp to Galas and even the state's homegrown McIntosh, among many others.

Exports from New York growers are down due to the European Union's decision last spring to ban apples from import that are treated with the pesticide, diphenylamine, also called DPA. Further research is ongoing on this issue.

"Our export business is only about 10 percent of our crop, so that is not a significant issue for us," said Stewart. "We continue to examine our options and continually look for new markets. Exports are a beautiful thing in general because they help to relieve the pressure from the domestic market."

Although she clearly states that no one is a soothsayer when it comes to apple crop projections, she does believe that the national crop will be big for no other reason than no area has reported having bad weather.

"We did have a late bloom in New York due to the cold winter and cool spring, but thanks to the great summer we're now right on schedule," she pointed out.

One of the major issues that apple growers -- as well as just about every other fresh fruit and vegetable producers -- are faced with today is the critical labor shortage. Stewart stressed that it is getting harder and harder every year to find an adequate labor force.

"As our crop size increases, the problem just worsens," she said. "Something must be done about this problem in our country. Unfortunately, what Congress looks at as a political issue is a business survival issue to produce professionals, their families and their staffs of all levels. We rely on workers to bring in our crops.

"Immigration reform is absolutely critical for our industry," she continued. "Consumers have the right to expect safe food that is grown in sustainable ways. American producers are forced to do this, and then we have to compete with countries that do not have these restrictions. We cannot possibly continue to compete in such a market."

New York's good news is that harvest was underway statewide on August 15. Stewart said that growers will continue to pick apples until the first snowfalls or in early November, wrapping up with the McIntosh.

On the public relations front, the NYAA is again strong in its media outreach initiatives.

"Our consumer media outreach program is an aggressive one," said Stewart. "The goal that remains in the forefront is to put New York apples at the very top of consumers' minds from the very start of our harvest and throughout the rest of the year."

The NYAA's new website, www.nyapplecountry.com, provides virtually everything that anyone -- consumers and the trade alike -- would want to know about New York apples. Visitors will find apple history, varieties and their suggested uses, a plethora of fabulous recipes, nutritional information and much more.

"We asked consumers what they wanted available on our website and we put it all right up front to give them easy access to it," said Stewart. "The home page has a locator map where consumers can enter a zip code and find a pick-your-own or farmers market nearby. Information on all of our varieties, including heirloom apples, is on the site, and all of the information is searchable in numerous ways. We are also asking consumers to send recipes and photos for us to post, which is really helping us to build buzz for the site."

The NYAA's consulting dietician, Linda Quinn, is booking appearances on morning and daytime television shows to talk about the crop and the nutritional benefits of apples. She will also appear at the New York State Fair Aug. 21-Sept. 1.

NYAA also supports numerous fundraisers and special events every year. One of its fundraisers using apples and apple cider raises money for cancer research in the state. It is also one of the sponsors of the ING New York Marathon in November every year, and it hands an apple to every person who reaches the finish line.

"And we are certainly out there strong spreading the buy local message in New York and surround states," said Stewart. "New York grows more apples than any state east of the Mississippi River, and our goal is to get people to eat more of them."

 

California Giant announces executive director for blueberry division

To facilitate growth and expansion in the blueberry market, California Giant Berry Farms has promoted Nader Musleh to executive director-blueberry division.

Musleh will take on full responsibility for the profitability of the company-wide blueberry and non-strawberry division, working with senior management to develop the strategy and vision necessary to grow the business both domestically and internationally.   

NMuslehweb Musleh plans to expand the geographical reach to continue to build the year-round supply of berries to meet sales needs and increase market share. He will manage the existing Bush Berry sales team, including Jerry Connery the bush berry category manager and Evan Pence, blueberry operations manager for North America.

“I will be moving my family here in January and even though it is a big change for all of us, we are excited about the new opportunity ahead and I look forward to expanding our berry program,” Musleh said. 

Previously, Musleh was based in Chile and served as the general manager for the company’s South American operations. He has relocated to the corporate offices in Watsonville, CA, effective August 12.

“Nader has proven to be a leader in the development of the company’s blueberry program," said Bill Moncovich, president and chief executive officer. "We understand this is a big move for him and his family and are very pleased he will take a larger leadership role within the company as we take this program to the next level."

Musleh has been with California Giant Berry Farms for four years. He is married to Susan and has a 3-year-old daughter, Isabella.