FDA weighs in on GMO Arctic apples and Innate potatoes

WASHINGTON — Just weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture deregulated two varieties of genetically engineered Arctic apples, the Food & Drug Administration announced that Arctic apples are safe for consumption, along with six varieties of Innate potatoes genetically engineered to lower the potential for acrylamide and black spot bruising.

Based on company documents, FDA found that food and feed from the GMO crops are not “materially” different in safety, nutrition, composition or any other traits from apples or potatoes on today’s market.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties are genetically engineered to reduce levels of enzymes that can cause browning. Last month, USDA cleared the way for the company to grow and propagate the trees and the company said it would begin test marketing the products as early as 2016.

The U.S. apple industry is not a fan of the GMO varieties and says consumers will make the ultimate choice in the marketplace.

UDSA also cleared J.R. Simplot Co.’s Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes for commercial planting in 2014. These products are genetically engineered to lower the levels of asparagine and reducing-sugars, thus lower the potential for acrylamide during heating, and to lower the level of endogenous enzymes that reduce the potential for black spot bruising.

“The potato industry supports a strong regulatory and food-safety review for new technologies before they enter the market place," said Steve Holton of the National Potato Council. "The FDA announcement concludes a thorough review of this new potato variety. We have confidence in the conclusions of that review. Our industry is committed to providing consumers a range of choices in varieties and characteristics of potatoes consistent with their preferences including genetically modified or non-genetically modified.”

Potato growers have been looking for an answer to concerns about acrylamide in french fries, though it’s unclear whether the new technology would disrupt trade or be on McDonald’s menu as the fast-food giant announced last year it had no plans to source GMO potatoes.

Consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest said there’s no reason the GMO potatoes and apples would pose any food-safety or environmental risk, but said the process for reviewing these new crops is flawed.

“What has happened in the case of these two products is a voluntary consultation ‘encouraged’ by the FDA,” said CSPI Biotechnology Director Gregory Jaffe. “No regulatory process should have to rely on the voluntary acquiescence by the regulated party.”

Jaffe called on Congress to pass legislation that would require new biotech crops to undergo a mandatory approval process before foods made from those crops reach the marketplace.

Mission promotes Bertels to VP of marketing

Mission Produce Inc. has promoted Robb Bertels to vice president of marketing. Bertels has been with Mission for two years, serving as director of strategic marketing for the Oxnard, CA-based global avocado supplier.

Bertels has been involved in the produce industry for over 25 years, including stints with agriculture-based advertising agencies.

Bertels will replace Dave Austin, who is retiring as marketing director after 18 years at Mission Produce. 

"Dave will certainly be missed," Ross Wileman, Mission’s senior vice president of special initiatives, said in a press release. "He was instrumental in Mission’s growth across North America and was a key figure in the implementation of Mission’s Ripe Program.”

Bertels will report to Brian Miller, senior vice president of sales and marketing, as the company further develops its sales and marketing efforts.

“Over the past two years Robb has had in-depth involvement with all phases of Mission Produce’s global operations, and is ready to lead our marketing efforts both domestically and around the world," Miller said in the press release. "His background with the produce industry, marketing communications and brand strategy will strengthen our approach as the company continues to grow.”

“Brian is putting together a team that will help take Mission to the next level, and Robb will work with closely with him and Ron Araiza, our VP of sales, as we continue to build our business around the world,” Steve Barnard, Mission’s president and chief executive officer, said in the release.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved with Mission Produce, and avocados,” said Bertels. "We’re in a period of unprecedented growth in the category, and Mission is leading the way. Our new facilities in Oxnard and Peru put us in an outstanding position now, as well position us for future growth. Mission is a great company, and I’m very happy to be involved in our future.”

Sold out Viva Fresh show set to kick off with local flair and flavor

The Viva Fresh Produce Expo is set to kick off with a sold out show that is embracing the sights, sounds and electric buzz of the host city Austin, TX.

Up-and-coming musicians and local award-winning chefs will delight high-profile buyers and grower-shippers from throughout Texas, Mexico, and neighboring southwestern U.S. states.

During the expo opening reception, three chefs, from the Texas International Produce Associations’ home base in McAllen, will feature their own signature specialties.

Adam Cavazos and Jesse Castellon from their restaurant Spork alongside Larry Delgado who owns two restaurants, House. Wine. & Bistro and SALT, will all be serving up a range of tasty menu items from food trucks, which are iconographic of the Austin city scene.

“For a first-year show, it’s unbelievable that the show floor, golf tournament and the hotel are all sold out and we have a waiting list,” Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association, said in a press release. “We’re looking forward to launching our inaugural show with some wonderful Texas-style country music and delicious food.”

Three chefs from the Hilton staff have partnered with expo members to create a unique menu that will feature not only the produce grown in the Southwest, Texas and Mexico, but will also resemble traditional southwest cuisine.

Their dishes will be featured at the Tex-Mex luncheon on Friday, March 27, and at the Expo Hall Luncheon on Saturday, March 28. Each chef, Mark Dayanandan (Executive Chef), Paul Parr (Sous Chef) and Sean Durkin (Banquet Chef) brings years of culinary experience and are excited for the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to work.

On the music front, the Cody Bryan Band, quoted by Billboard Magazine as “One of the rising stars in the Texas music scene,” will play at the Viva Fresh Expo’s Welcome reception on Friday, March 27 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Foxy building up to We Love Broccoli Day with St. Broccoli Day

This year the Nunes Co. Inc. and Foxy Produce kept the green theme going after St. Patrick's Day with 'St. Broccoli Day' on March 18, which will lead up to National We Love Broccoli Day on Sunday, March 22.stbr The company is still celebrating St. Broccoli Day at www.StBroccoli.com, which presents an amusing origin story of St. Broccoli, as well as a variety of recipes.

Broccoli contains the highest amount of uber detox antioxidant, glucoraphanin, shown to increase the elimination of carcinogens in the body by 61 percent, according to a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Similarly, new organic BroccoLeaf — the leaves of broccoli — contains antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are powerful detoxifiers.

"When it comes to good nutrition, no one can or should be a saint every day," registered dietitian Ashley Koff said in a press release. "With spring breaking through, the day right after St. Patrick's Day is a great one to start spring cleaning your body. I always recommend organic broccoli and BroccoLeaf to my patients. No detox effort is as effective without it."

Koff will host a live Facebook chat on March 22 from 3–4 p.m. at www.Facebook.com/FoxyProduce, where she'll offer nutrition advice and suggest unique ways broccoli and organic BroccoLeaf can be prepared.

Colemans supports Half Your Plate campaign

All Coleman locations joined the Canadian Produce Marketing Association March 19 to celebrate the new Half Your Plate campaign designed to boost fruit and vegetable consumption among Canadians.colemans

Colemans locations across the Newfoundland province opened their doors to school kids to learn more about the campaign and speak with registered dietitians at select stores about the benefits of eating more fresh produce.

Half Your Plate is a new healthy living initiative that empowers Canadians of all ages to eat more fruits and veggies to improve their health. The program was developed in cooperation with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Public Health Association.

Half Your Plate is a simple concept that focuses on practical ways to add a variety of fruits and veggies to every meal and snack. The program is fun, practical and informative while providing tips on how to prepare fruits and veggies for meals and snacks at home, at school, at work, eating out or on the go. For more information visit www.halfyourplate.ca.