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Meat Industry Has Beef with Media Over Cancer Scare


By Richard Thompson


Meat industry professionals are seeing red as media coverage of a recent World Health Organization report tying red meat consumption with colorectal cancer continues to confuse consumers. Media responses to the report have made mountains out of meatballs, creating confusion on what makes up a balanced diet for consumers, says Eric Mittenthal, Vice President of Public Affairs at North American Meat Institute, but will not, in the end, much affect the meat industry.

The report, headed by a panel from the International Agency Research on Cancer (IARC) and released by WHO, concluded that for large numbers of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance. Mittenthal, whose agency represents processors and meat packers throughout the country, sees that despite all of the sensational headlines used by the media, consumers and meat industry professionals are still finding the report’s results hard to swallow: “This confirms our position that the report was over-reaching and alarmist and the fact that the [IARC] panelists were not even unanimous about the findings supports [our position].”

According to Jeff Stier, Risk Analysis Director at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), the report confuses readers by not accurately explaining the difference between actual and theoretical risks. “Correlation is different than causation.” warns Stier, “Even if they are right, all they are alleging is that if you eat a lot of [processed meat] your whole life, you have a very slight increased risk for cancer. But if you’re eating that much meat anyway, you might be more concerned with cardiovascular disease, weight problems and diabetic issues. Not colorectal cancer.”

In the report, the experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, but Mittenthal and Stier dispute that finding as inaccurate and poorly worded.

Stier, whose job is to direct the risk analysis division of NCPPR and help translate information into good public policy, says that using the 18 percent without understanding the context is like saying that living near a NASA facility triples the chances someone will be hit by an errant spaceship. “It may be true, but doesn’t mean much,” says Stier.

“Our industry supplies consumers, and they are the bottom line, and it’s clear by how people are reacting to this that they are rolling their eyes. Most people take this information with a grain of salt – which, I’m sure, somehow can cause cancer too,” says Mittenthal.

While public affair officials like Mittenthal are concerned over the public relations impact of the study, industry professionals from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) and American Meat Sciences Association (AMSA) are branding the science behind the report as inaccurate and incomplete. Dr. Shalene McNeill, PhD., RD, Beef Checkoff Nutrition Scientist and Registered Dietician for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association observed the IARC process, “IARC…doesn’t always represent consensus in the scientific community. After seven days of deliberation…IARC was unable to reach a consensus agreement from a group of 22 experts in the field of cancer research, something that IARC… typically achieves.”

“We know that cancer risk is not about diet alone and the report simply adds to people’s confusion about cancer,” says Deidrea Mabry, MS, Director of Scientific Communications and Technical Programs for the American Meat Sciences Association (AMSA).

The IARC findings insinuate that for every 50 grams of processed meat (or about two pieces of bacon) comes an 18 percent increase of getting colorectal cancer, but the reality is more mundane, according to Stier. During a lifetime of eating 50 grams of processed meat a day, every day, a person has an estimated 18 percent increase of having colorectal cancer versus someone who didn’t follow the same diet (an actual individual risk increase of 1 or 2 percent over the course of their life). To put that in perspective, red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by IARC – consisting of air, aloe vera, coffee and wine, among others – that pose some level of theoretical hazard if used over-abundantly. McNeill explains, “The available scientific evidence simply does not support a causal relationship between red or processed meat and any type of cancer.”

Now that the WHO report is out, pro-meat agencies like NCPPR will continue to provide scientifically accurate information to consumers. “This is what I do for a living; stuffing toothpaste back in the tube,” says Stier.

As for national regulatory agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, no action is planned in response to the report or its findings. According to a press release by the FDA, the agency hasn’t had an opportunity to review the IARC monograph report and that IARC does not recommend regulations, legislation or public health interventions. On top of that, the NIH National Toxicology Program (NTP) report on Carcinogens has not looked at red or processed meats nor have those substances been nominated for review for the next edition.

Mabry seasons her concerns with prudence, “Consumers have seen beyond the sensational, and often inaccurate headlines….we know that cancer risk is not about diet alone and…it’s easy to get caught up in a report or a study.” According to Mabry, what’s most important is that consumers understand eating a healthy and well-balanced diet – including meat (both red and processed) – is supported by the strongest science available.

Her words appear to have resonated with WHO and IARC as well, since at time of press, the agencies have started backpedaling on how the report was worded and subsequently reported on via a Twitter account. Sample tweets include: “The #cancer review on processed meat does not ask ppl to stop eating meat, but to reduce intake to lower cancer risk.” They even went as far as to say there was a “shortcoming” to the classification system that processed meats were placed in.

For McNeill, this report changes nothing to what everyone in and out of the industry has already known for years, “As a registered dietitian and mother, my advice hasn’t changed. Eat a balanced diet, which includes lean meats like beef, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and, please, don’t smoke.”


Olive Oil Industry Fights Label Fraud


By Lorrie Baumann

Olive oil industry experts are enlisting retailers to improve the quality of the olive oil assortment on their shelves and to educate consumers that the low-price olive oil they can buy on some retailers’ shelves isn’t a quality extra-virgin olive oil, regardless of what it says on the label. While it’s not necessarily easy for the average consumer to know if the olive oil they’re buying is truly a high-quality oil, it is very easy to identify a very cheap oil as a fraud, says David Neuman, CEO of Gaea North America, a subsidiary of Greek olive oil maker Gaea.

When you’re selling as a retailer a liter of extra-virgin olive oil for $7, that’s not possible. Organic extra-virgin olive oil being sold for $5.99 a liter. It isn’t possible. You can’t make it for that,” he said.

You could ask, how do they do it? How do they sell an EV for $4.99?” adds Alexandra Devarenne, Co Founder of Extra Virgin Alliance, a nonprofit trade association representing producers of extra virgin olive oil from around the world. “It’s not really an extra virgin olive oil,” she said.

The product in that bottle is very likely all olive oil, since the presence of other oils, such as canola or soybean oil, is easily detected. Although other oils can be mixed into olive oil and then sold as pure extra-virgin olive oil, the relative ease of detection and clear illegality has discouraged that particular fraud in U.S. retail, she says. The fraud that’s more often perpetrated on American retailers and consumers involves the adulteration of extra-virgin olive oil with lower grades of olive oil to produce a mixture of inferior oils that’s then labeled and sold as extra virgin. “That’s possible, and it’s undercutting the market for true extra virgin,” Devarenne said.

Widescale fraud is made possible because olive oil as a category is worth more than $1 billion a year in U.S. sales, and of that, more than 98 percent is imported, Neuman said. “With olive oils, there are a lot of foreign entities labeling things extra virgin that don’t meet the standards. The rest of the world is sending whatever they want to America. Grocers are selling what they need to to meet the demand,” he said.

That leaves the producers of genuine high-quality extra virgin olive oils – the kind that have been shown actually to have the health benefits and flavor that Americans are often seeking when they choose to buy olive oils, struggling to compete in a marketplace in which their oils, which have to sell at prices that reflect what it actually costs to produce them, sit on the shelf next to commodity-grade oils with much lower prices. Retailers are in a similar bind, according to Maria Reyes, Director, Vendor Management at KeHE Distributors. “It’s a business and we all have to make money including the retailers. There are a lot of oils out there and consumers are confused or simply don’t know the right olive oil to buy. The challenge is how we get the consumers to be educated about olive oil so that they are able to make the right decision as to what they’re buying off the shelf,” she said.

KeHE is getting more and more requests every year from over-stressed retailers who are asking for help with category reviews and product tastings, partly because they’re finding it more difficult to find the time to educate themselves about a product that’s often regarded as a commodity instead of as a specialty category like wine or cheese, Reyes says. “The challenge is that they’re requesting the information, they give us the time, and they listen,” she said, “But then, ‘How do we do this? How do all of us find the time to do this?’”

They think of olive oil as an everyday food, but it’s as technical as wine – it has a standard of identity; it’s regulated,” Neuman added. “But grocers generally just don’t have the time to investigate. One buyer may be buying half the center store. They sometimes do two reviews a year for each category. Plus, they go to trade shows, etc.”

They’d like retailers to regard olive oil as a category more similar to wine, for which many specialty markets have a sommelier who has invested a significant amount of time to learn about the products their store is selling. But short of that, they’d like to see grocery retailers supporting their buyers in gaining some training about olive oils. “Anyone who cares enough to learn can learn. It’s not necessary for a buyer to go to multiple trainings to make a big difference. It’s enough to want to learn and to taste and to seek out people who are experienced,” Devarenne said. “You may not become an expert taster – that takes years – but you can become a competent taster pretty quickly.”

It’s not super-easy, but it’s also not rocket science,” she added. “And it really is important. Otherwise, you’re just at the mercy of the person who comes in and says it was done the way his grandfather did it, and then you taste the product, and if you know nothing, then you still know nothing. Do the same research you’d put into other purchases. We need to convince people that there’s information out there, and there’s good unbiased information out there. They just have to care enough to look for it.”

The investment is worthwhile for retailers because specialty food consumers are looking for premium products. Americans are not using a lot of olive oil now, especially in comparison to consumers in European olive-oil producing countries, but as they learn more about the value of high-quality oils and their range of flavors and varieties, there’s a lot of room for American consumption to increase, according to Neuman. “There’s nothing else in the grocery story that costs $17 per unit and drives a 40 percent to 50 percent gross margin,” he said. “Retailers win when they’re selling a better product at a higher price. The producers win because we can afford to pay farmers premium prices. And the specialty consumer wants to be taught how to use good product…. There is a lot of room for premium brands.”


Holy See Food, Lidia Cooks!


By Richard Thompson

We were cleaning our aprons when he just comes in to have coffee. We were planning the dinner and he just walks in. Really, it was like he floated in,” recalls Lidia Bastianich, award-winning chef of Felidia and meal curator for the Pope.

Bastianich gets giddy and, in her sweet Italian accent, recounts the time that the People’s Pope walked into her kitchen and took a coffee break with her and her staff. “He talked to us about family – in Italian of course – for nearly 15 minutes. It was extraordinary, but beautiful because he addressed each one of us and asked us to pray for him.” she says.

For Bastianich, who is a devout Catholic, the pope’s surprise visit to her kitchen resonated on a personal and professional level. “He makes people feel important in his life. From somebody of his magnitude…it’s big,” Bastianich says.

HolySeeFoodimage3 For anyone wondering if the Pope likes cream or sugar in his coffee, he doesn’t. “For me, cooking for the Pope is special because…I am proud to give back through what is most dear to me on this Earth: food and my family,” she says.

Bastianich worked alongside Angelo Vivolo and a team of executive chefs that included Bastianich’s children to carefully curate a meal plan that would embody a homeliness for the spiritual leader. “For me, food – comfort food – is home, and I wanted [the pope] to feel welcome and feel like he was right at home,” says Bastianich.

Initially aiming to create a series of dishes reminiscent of Pope Francis’s background, Bastianich instead moved to lighter fare such as squash and other vegetables, rice and fresh fish to accommodate his diet better. “I wanted him to feel like he was in his mother’s kitchen. We were going to show off American beef – a whole rack – for Argentinian beef meals, but we were told he wanted to eat light, so I cooked more seasonal fare like rice dishes… He loves risotto with some olive oil, lemon and parsley,” she says.

HolySeeFoodimage1The first meal that would grace the pope’s plate was Caprese di Astice e Burrata (Heirloom tomatoes, house-made Burrata and steamed Maine lobster) followed by Brodo di Cappone con Anolini (Capon soup with Grana Padano raviolini) and veal medallions ‘Boscaiola’, porcini, corn and fresh tomato – known as Medaglioni di Vitello alla Boscaiola. For dessert, Sobetto di Uva Fragola con Torta degli Angeli – Concord grape sorbetto with angel food cake.

While the pope follows a very specific diet, Bastianich’s capon soup was such a hit with His Holiness that he had leftovers the next day. “It was really done from the heart…I made a big pot of capon soup and fed it to him twice. One day with lots of vegetables and one day with lots of rice,” says Bastianich.

Each morning started at 6:45 am with the pope coming down for a breakfast that consisted of a medley of frittatas, all kinds of yogurts, honeys and cereals and fruits of every type, recalls Bastianich, “He was rather simple on the breakfasts he liked and was very undemanding of everything, but he loved his coffee.”

The pope never did business at the table – maybe with the exception of light scheduling – and didn’t stray from his routine of mangoes and pineapple, Melba toast and some jam, despite the abundance of jams, baked goods, crepes and freshly squeezed juices that were available. “Saturday was the last breakfast…and he greeted everyone’s family before eating,” Bastianich says. “It was very moving.”

Bastianich relied on her own personal garden to provide many of the ingredients in the vegetable-inspired lunch that was prepared for Pope Francis. Insalata Cotta e Cruda con la Nostra Ricotta, cooked and raw vegetable salad with Felidia’s ricotta, comprised a veritable cornucopia of Bastianich’s private vegetable reserve. “Whatever I had in my garden is what I made with…beautiful squash, string beans, beets, sage, basil, parsley, tomatoes….” she says, “We wanted the pope to feel the love of home.”

Next came the Risotto con Porcini e Tartufi (Risotto with porcini, summer truffles and Grana Padano Riserva) followed by Pere ed uva al forno con Gelato alla Vaniglia, roasted pears and grapes with vanilla gelato, for dessert.

HolySeeFoodimage5For dinner, Bastianich focused the four-course meal of fresh striped bass, tuna and vegetables. The Tutto Tonno is tuna tartare made with a semi carpaccio preserve and tonnato sauce that was followed by the Cacio e Pere, pear and pecorino filled ravioli, aged pecorino and crushed black pepper. The main dish of the evening was Bastianich’s signature Felidia dish, Spigola Striata al forno con Olio d’oliva e Limone, which is whole roasted striped bass, late summer vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and lemon. The dessert was a specially made apple crostata with local honey ice cream. “I think the focus is on the ingredients – the goodness of the ingredients. When making traditional Italian, stick to traditional Italian products. I always say, ‘Follow the recipe…don’t be dominated by it,’” says Bastianich.

Bastianich tempers any pride in who she serves with the humility that the Holy Father carries with him to the masses. “Food is not a luxury,” she says with the inflection of an Italian matriarch, when asked why cooking for Pope Francis meant so much to her. “Food nourishes us all in about the same way.”

Amen to that.


Oregon Cherry Growers’ New Pouches Spotlight Maraschinos

Grower-owned cooperative Oregon Cherry Growers, known for perfecting the original maraschino cherry and debuting the first line of maraschinos made with non-GMO certified Fairtrade® cane sugar, is unveiling its latest innovation – this time in packaging. The cooperative’s popular Royal Harvest™ Bordeaux-Style Maraschinos and The Royal Cherry® Maraschinos, featuring hand-picked cherries grown in the Northwest, are now available in stand-up pouches at select retailers across the country, liquor stores in Oregon and on

The no-mess, convenient and re-sealable stand-up pouches are the first to market in the maraschino category, and feature transparent packaging for product visibility. As with all Oregon Cherry Growers products, the cherries are of the highest quality and freshness standards.

“We take great pride in delivering the products our customers are looking for, and we know convenient packaging is an increasingly important factor,” said Tim Ramsey, Oregon Cherry Growers President and CEO. “We have had great response to the new pouches so far and expect them to be popular with people looking to enhance their cocktail experience or liven up their desserts.”

The pouches are available in three varieties:

· Royal Harvest Bordeaux-Style Maraschino Cherries, which are rich and dark in color, free of preservatives, made with natural ingredients and sweetened with Non-GMO certified Fairtrade® cane sugar. Available in 8- and 4-ounce sizes.

· Royal Harvest Nature’s Maraschino Cherries, which are ruby red cherries, free of preservatives, made with all natural ingredients and sweetened with Non-GMO certified Fairtrade cane sugar to retain that “just picked” cherry taste. Available in the 4-ounce pouch.

· The Royal Cherry Maraschinos are Oregon Cherry Growers’ traditional maraschino cherries with stems. Available in 8- and 4-ounce sizes.

Suggested retail prices are $3.69 for a 4-ounce pouch and $4.69 for the 8-ounce, available immediately in eight pack cases.

OTA Export Promotion Investment Yields High Returns for Organic

By the time Andy Wright displayed his organic barbecue sauces at the big Anuga Food Show in Germany this fall, he’d already participated in two other international organic promotion events coordinated by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) during the year, and this novice in the export market had learned quite a bit. Wright put his new knowledge to the test in Germany, and he left Anuga with almost 50 solid business leads.

“This wouldn’t have happened without OTA,” said Wright, Owner of the Minnesota-based Acme Organics and maker of the organic Triple Crown BBQ sauce.  “OTA not only gave us a platform to show our products to an international audience, but it also connected us to the right people, the decision makers, and that was huge.”

From those leads in Anuga, Wright is now in the process of closing on three deals to sell his barbecue sauce in SwedenSwitzerland and Australia. Wright notes that the initial contracts aren’t enormous, but that “for a small company, a little bit can create a lot.”

A little bit can create a lot. A solid investment can yield significant results. For more than 15 years in its role as an official cooperator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP),  OTA has been investing in the promotion of American organic agricultural products in global markets and connecting buyers and sellers in order to reap a good return for organic and create new organic customers around the world.

This hard work has not gone unnoticed by USDA. This week the agency awarded $889,393 to OTA in MAP funds for export promotion activities in 2016, an 11 percent increase from the association’s 2015 funding. Plans are well underway at OTA headquarters on how to leverage that money to enable the biggest return on investment for American organic stakeholders.

“We thank USDA for recognizing the tremendous value and opportunities that our export promotion programs are creating for the organic industry, and for enabling us through its generous funding to continue this work,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “Our analysis shows that for every dollar we spent in promotion activities this year, over $36 in projected organic sales were created. These new sales not only help organic grow, but they create jobs, boost incomes, and contribute in a positive way to our communities.”

Returns for organic, and beyond

A case in point: Jeff and Peggy Sutton founded To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. in rural Alabama. They have participated in OTA’s export activities for three years now, and Jeff said as a direct result of that involvement, they are beginning to sell their products in the UK, South KoreaMexico and Japan, and are getting business inquiries every day from all over the world. As demand and sales for their sprouted organic grains and flours have grown, their business has evolved from two part-time employees less than a decade ago to a projected payroll of 45 by the end of next year.

“We’re building a new 26,000-square-foot facility, and this will allow us to quintuple our production capacity.  We now employ 30 folks, but we’ll be pushing 45 employees within the next year,” said Sutton. “Our involvement with OTA’s export activities has been a tremendous asset in helping us get started in the export market and creating these opportunities for growth.”

OTA’s export promotion programs in 2015 spanned three continents and included strategic participation and showcasing of American organic products in the biggest food shows in Europe and Asia, sponsoring an Organic Day  in Japan, exploring potential opportunities in the Middle East, representing the U.S. organic industry at the World’s Fair in Milan, connecting foreign buyers with U.S. organic suppliers at major trade shows in America, and commissioning a landmark study on organic trade to provide organic stakeholders with the most up-to-date information on the global market.

In 2016, OTA will build on its activities to bring more information about market conditions and opportunities to new and first-time organic exporters, to display and introduce organic products to buyers, and to help first-time exporters connect with qualified global buyers.

  • In Germany, OTA will lead a contingent of 14 American organic companies at the BioFach World Organic Trade Fair, the world’s leading organic food show. OTA will showcase U.S. organic in its pavilion, and will lead educational seminars on organic.
  • In South Korea, OTA will return to the huge Seoul Hotel and Food show, and will also conduct an in-country promotion to increase consumer awareness for U.S. organic products.
  • In Taiwan and then in Switzerland, OTA will lead trade missions to showcase American organic to the local markets.
  • In Paris, OTA will participate in SIAL, the world’s largest food innovation exhibition, which attracts some 6,500 exhibitors from 104 countries.
  • In Japan, OTA will showcase American organic at the first ever Organic Lifestyle Forum. The forum will include dozens of educational sessions on organic and highlight market opportunities in Asia’s most important organic market.
  • In the U.S., OTA will host international buyers at Natural Products Export West to connect with U.S. organic producers, and will also lead an organic tour of East Coast organic farms and operations for key media from the EU, Japan and the Middle East to provide a hands-on organic learning experience.
  • Worldwide, OTA will conduct a thorough evaluation of its export activities to ensure that participants are benefitting as much as possible from the activities.

“It is not easy to get into the export market,” said Monique Marez, Associate Director of International Trade for OTA. “Our mission is to help open the doors and remove some of the barriers for American organic businesses, and to educate international buyers and consumers on the integrity, diversity and quality of U.S. organic products. There are huge opportunities for the U.S. organic sector throughout the world, and we are invested in helping the industry build relationships and brand awareness so they can take advantage of these opportunities.”

OTA’s membership represents about 85 percent of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by OTA are open to the entire organic industry, not just OTA members. OTA provides further assistance to U.S. organic exporters with its online U.S. Organic Export Directory.

Italy a Partner Country for 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show

As part of Italy’s “Extraordinary Italian Taste” campaign, aimed to promote authentic Italian food in the United StatesItaly will become the first-ever partner country of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco next year.

Under the “Extraordinary Italian Taste” banner, food companies from most Italian regions will present their best in pasta, cheese, olive oil and cured meats to buyers looking to bring more specialty food from Italy to U.S. consumers.

“There is a noticeable change in consumer trends,” said Maurizio ForteItaly’s Trade Commissioner in the U.S. “Americans are increasingly enjoying authentic Italian food, the Mediterranean diet, which is tastier and healthier. We now need to take advantage of this trend. It’s the right time to go full speed ahead.”

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Italian food exports have climbed 24 percent in the first nine months of 2015, with products such as Italian olive oil, cheese and pasta ranking as number one in their individual sector.

“Food from Italy has long set the standards for excellence in the U.S.,” said Ann Daw, President of the Specialty Food Association. “Our partnership will further raise awareness of the authenticity, taste and quality of Italian food. Together we are changing the way consumers eat.”

The Italian Trade Agency enjoys a long-standing partnership with the Specialty Food Association as well as the key Italian food and wine shows, such as Vinitaly, Cibus and Tuttofood. Italy has long been the largest international exhibitor at the Fancy Food shows.

FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Salmon

By Lorrie Baumann

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a New Animal Drug Application for the production, sale, and consumption of AquAdvantage® Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that has been genetically enhanced by biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.  to reach market size in less time than conventional farmed Atlantic salmon. The approval has drawn immediate denunciations from environmental and consumer advocacy groups.

Ronald L. Stotish, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty, commented, “AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.  Using land-based aquaculture systems, this rich source of protein and other nutrients can be farmed close to major consumer markets in a more sustainable manner.”

The U.S. currently imports over 90 percent of all the seafood, and, more specifically, over 95 percent of the Atlantic salmon consumed in the country.  AquAdvantage Salmon will offer the opportunity for an economically viable domestic aquaculture industry while providing consumers a fresh and delicious product, the company says. “The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee encourages Americans to eat a wide variety of seafood—including wild caught and farmed—as part of a healthy diet rich in healthy fatty acids. However, this must occur in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.  FDA’s approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon is an important step in this direction,” said Jack A. Bobo, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Intrexon, AquaBounty’s parent company.

Environmental groups are taking issue with both AquaBounty’s claim that its product is environmentally responsible and the idea that Americans are willing to eat it. A New York Times telephone poll conducted in January 2013 found that three quarters of those polled said that they would not eat genetically modified fish and two thirds would not eat genetically modified meat. “Despite FDA’s flawed and irresponsible approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption, it’s clear that there is no place in the U.S. market for genetically engineered salmon.” said Lisa Archer, Food and Technology Program Director at Friends of the Earth, which claims that more than 60 grocery store chains representing more than 9,000 stores across the U.S. have made commitments to not sell the GMO salmon, including Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Aldi and others. “People don’t want to eat it and grocery stores are refusing to sell it.”

Carla’s Pasta Launches in Big Y Markets

Carla’s Pasta’s new line of frozen, ready-to-eat pastas and pestos will be launched at all 64 Big Y locations starting this month. Big Y® is a family owned and family oriented retail food company headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“We could not be happier or more proud to launch our best in class pasta products with the best in class grocery chain like Big Y,” said Sandro Squatrito, Vice President of Business Development for Carla’s Pasta. “To this day, we make everything the way that Mom always did, just a bit more of it.” Carla’s Pasta is made at a state of the art production facility in South Windsor, Connecticut. The company has about 165 employees.

The Carla’s Pasta product line at Big Y includes Cheese Ravioli, Cheese Tortellini, Gluten Free Penne and Six Cheese Sacchettini, which come in a revolutionary microwave bag that has been over a decade in development. The line also includes microwavable steam bag meals, which include Mac & Cheese, Six Cheese Ravioli with Marinara, Tortellini Alfredo and Buttered Noodles. In addition to the microwavable line, which is ready in minutes, they have a line of frozen specialty raviolis in clam shell packaging which include Spinach & Egg Striped Cheese Ravioli, Tomato & Egg Striped Ravioli, Tuscan Style Vegetable Ravioli, Sage & Egg Striped Butternut Squash Ravioli, Spicy Italian Sausage Ravioli, Shrimp Scampi Ravioli, Vegan Ravioli and Gorgonzola Pacchetti. In addition to the eight year round flavors, Carla’s Pasta has a seasonal rotation program of four specialty ravioli flavors; fall’s flavor is Pumpkin Ravioli. The product line also includes four varieties of pestos: Basil PestoBasil Pesto with Pine Nuts, Sundried Tomato Pesto and Wild Mushroom Pesto. In addition to the four current pesto offerings, Carla’s Pasta is working on introducing Kale Pesto, which will be coming soon.

Thanksgiving Menus Getting a Free-From Overhaul

There is a growing trend among American consumers, as well as in global markets, toward the avoidance of a host of specific food ingredients and components. The ingredients not found in our foods are scrutinized just as much as the ingredients that are included. The result is an influx of recipes and food products aimed at providing American’s with the gluten-free, non-GMO, sugar-free, dairy-free, fat-free, and various other free-from alternatives they seek, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid.”

Even iconic family recipes and culinary sacred turkeys—err, sacred cows—that have a longstanding tradition at our dinner tables during special occasions such as Thanksgiving are receiving a free-from overhaul in many homes nationwide.

“America is in the midst of a free-from food movement. Organic, free-range, heritage turkey and other poultry. Gluten-free cornbread dressing. Lactose-free mac and cheese. Desserts and cranberry sauces made from sweeteners with a low risk for GMOs such as cane sugar, agave, and maple syrup. These are all within the realm of what we can now expect to potentially cook or be served during our holiday meals,” says David Sprinkle, Research Director, Packaged Facts.

Survey data published in “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid” reveal that 44 percent of U.S. adults somewhat or strongly agree that food restrictions, food allergies, or foods/ingredients they avoid play an important role in what they eat. There are, of course, consumers who have to avoid certain foods due to allergies and sensitivities or specific health problems, such as celiac disease, diabetes, or lactose intolerance. But then there are those consumers who choose to avoid certain foods and food ingredients. Main motivations behind the trend towards elective food avoidance include:

  • Dealing with perceived health problems, e.g., “wheat belly”
  • Preventive health and wellness measures, e.g., maintaining proper weight, pre-natal care, avoiding acne, etc.
  • Supporting political, social, and/or environmental positions
  • Following dietary parameters of a religion
  • Peer pressure

Likewise, there are cases in which people aren’t intentional avoiders, but don’t consume certain specific foods or ingredients because they don’t have access to them in the first place. Inuits living in the Arctic region, for example, have limited access to plant-based carbohydrates.

The food avoidance trend can also be viewed in a larger social context of people wanting to simplify their lives, or to have fewer intrusions from outside forces such as big government and big industry. In some instances, this is driven by a nostalgia for less complicated times, either remembered or imagined. In other instances, the desire for simplicity is forward-looking, not focused on re-creating the past as much as on trying to control a future that seems to be heading in the wrong direction.

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