By Lucas Witman
After receiving thousands of comments (including 15,000 unique responses to the Proposed Produce Safety Rule alone), the Food and Drug Administration recently released its Supplemental Proposed Rules for the pending Food Safety Modernization Act, and many stakeholders are still dissatisfied with how the Act is developing.
FSMA, first signed into law in 2011, was created as a mechanism for preventing foodborne illness in the United States by modernizing the regulatory framework under which both domestic and foreign food companies operating in this country are required to conform. The Act covers the establishment of mandatory preventive control standards and produce safety standards for food facilities, the mitigation of the risk of intentional contamination of the food supply and the maintenance of food importer accountability. Although lawmakers originally intended FSMA to be fully implemented just a couple of years after it was established, deadlines have been pushed back several times, and public commenting on the Act is ongoing.
After further consideration, and in response to comments it received from the public, the FDA has announced Supplemental Proposed Rules for FSMA in four key areas, including changes to the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, Preventive Controls for Human Foods, Produce Safety and Preventive Controls for Animal Food rules.
According to Clay Detlefsen, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Council for the International Dairy Foods Association, the most substantial of all FSMA rules for his industry is the Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food. Detlefsen calls the rule “HACCP on steroids,” referring to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system with which food companies are currently required to comply. The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule mandates that every food facility implement a written food safety plan that details how that facility is working to eliminate potential food hazards.
The FDA received 8,000 comments on the original Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food, and as a result, it is offering several alterations. According to the FDA, one of the most frequent comments it received regarding this rule concerned the fact that farms that pack and hold their own Raw Agricultural Commodities and food facilities that simply hold RACs for other farms are erroneously subject to the same food hazard requirements. Under the new Supplemental Proposed Rules, farms and facilities that hold RACs for other farms are not subject to the Preventive Controls Rule. In addition, the FDA has amended its definition of a “very small business,” to mean a business that has less than $1 million in total annual sales of human food, increasing the number of businesses that are exempt from complying with the Preventive Controls Rule.
For the first time, under the Supplemental Proposed Rules, the FDA is creating guidelines for a risk-based requirement for a written supplier verification program, with risks determined through appropriate activities, such as onsite auditing or sampling and testing. The FDA said that public comment generally demonstrated support for including a provision in FSMA that would require food companies to document and verify the safety of their domestic suppliers when potential hazards exist.
Regarding changes to the Proposed Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Program, the original FSMA language was criticized for requiring domestic companies to conduct in-person audits of foreign facilities, a process that could be burdensome to many companies as well as difficult to implement at foreign facilities that might find themselves immediately host to a cavalcade of foreign inspectors. “Consumer groups want the boots on the ground in every facility,” said Detlefsen. “I frequently made the argument to the Food and Drug Administration – if that foreign supplier is supplying 500 importers, what’s it going to look like as far as how many people are going to have to go to that facility?”
In the Act’s new language, the importer will be tasked with determining appropriate verification activities and the frequency of such verification based on a risk evaluation. Possible verification activities may include annual onsite auditing, but it may also involve remote sampling and testing or some other activity. The one exception to this would be if the foreign supplier is controlling a known serious hazard, in which case annual onsite auditing will be mandatory.
Another criticism Detlefsen and others have of the original Proposed Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Program concerns the fact that importers are tasked with controlling hazards at the level of the supplier. Detlefsen likens this requirement to a grocery store being required to document the safety of the food one’s customers are preparing. “If we were talking about ground beef, and the supplier was Safeway, and I was the customer, Safeway would have to come to me at least annually and get paperwork that basically said yeah, Clay Detlefsen – he’s cooking those burgers just fine,” he said. “That would be controlling the hazard. I think this is totally bizarre, and it’s going to cause a lot of friction.” The revised rule is more nuanced, requiring importers to consider risks on a case-by-case basis in determining appropriate supplier verification activities.
The lion’s share of FSMA public commentary centered on the Proposed Produce Safety Rule, where interested parties focused their criticisms on the microbial quality standards for agricultural water and the use of raw manure in agriculture. Regarding agricultural water, the original FSMA rules stated that farmers must demonstrate through extensive testing that water being used contains a statistical mean of no more than 126 Colony Forming Units of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water. In addition, the maximum allowable concentration in a single sample was limited to 235 CFU per 100 milliliters. After consideration, the FDA has revised these figures. The statistical mean requirement remains unchanged, but the single sample maximum allowable concentration requirement has been scrapped in favor of a new statistical threshold requirement whereby the mean average of the upper 10 percent of samples cannot exceed 410 CFUs per 100 milliliters.
The FDA has also amended its original requirement that farms test agricultural surface water every seven days during growing season, instead creating a tiered testing model. A farm will have to create a baseline through repeated testing over an initial two-year period, but after that, the farm will simply be required to fill out an annual verification survey to demonstrate safe water quality. The baseline must be reestablished through further testing every ten years.
The FDA’s treatment of how raw manure is to be used in agriculture has been a contentious piece of FSMA negotiations, with the agency clearly demonstrating a preference for the use of compost in agriculture over the use of manure. Under the original FSMA rules, farms would be required to wait a minimum of 9 months to harvest crops after raw manure had been applied to the field. Under the Supplemental Proposed Rules, however, FDA officials have admitted that more scientific testing is necessary before such a rule can be established. Officials have pledged to defer any decision on the 9-month interval issue until a comprehensive scientific study is conducted – a process that could take as much as five years.
“We’re going to try collectively across the produce community to address these concerns, and I think there is agreement across the board that composting is the way to go, but there are limitations to composting,” said Samir Assar, Director of the Produce Safety Staff in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Stay tuned now. We are currently working on a framework, and we hope at some point soon we will be able to provide that framework.”
The deadlines for the final FSMA rules are now staggered throughout the second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016. On August 30, 2015, the FDA is scheduled to publish its final Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. On October 31, 2015 the final Produce Safety and Foreign Supplier Verification Program Rules will be announced. The final Third-Party Accreditation rule is scheduled for March 31, 2016. And the Sanitary Transport Rule will be finalized on May 31, 2016. Larger farms and food companies will be required to comply with these rules within one year after they are published, but small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) would not be required to be in compliance for two years. Very small businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenues for food sales will be subject to modified preventive controls requirements and will not be required to comply with FSMA for three years.
For those companies hoping to begin preparations to be in compliance with FSMA rules, the task is currently somewhat complicated due to fluctuating requirements and the lack of a specific framework for demonstrating compliance. According to FSMA rules, preventive controls must be implemented by “qualified individuals,” but critics argue that this requirement itself presents a conundrum.
“[Qualified individuals] don’t exist,” said Dennis D’Amico, Assistant Professor in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut. “We don’t have a training yet, so we have nothing to compare it to. Right now, there are no qualified individuals, by definition, because it has to be related to a standardized, accepted, recognized curriculum. And we don’t have that yet.”
D’Amico is currently working with both the FDA and the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health as part of the newly created Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, an organization tasked with creating training materials and courses that will educate people on how to implement FSMA rules in U.S. food production operations. When completed, the FSPCA curriculum will be publicly available online for use by anyone. The agency will also create FSPCA certificates, identifying those who go through the necessary training as “qualified individuals.”
“The Alliance, as it exists, is supposed to serve as a hub for preventive controls knowledge – a place where you guys can turn to with your questions. It’s also supposed to be a direct link between FDA and industry. So you don’t have to call the FDA. You can go right to the Alliance members,” said D’Amico. “We’re also charged with coming up with guidance for major industry sectors. The idea is to come up with industry-specific … hazards you should be looking for: These are some preventive controls that are common. This is how we verify those.”
D’Amico argues that even for smaller companies that do not have to comply with FSMA rules for several years or which may be exempt from certain rules altogether, it makes sense to think about getting into compliance as soon as possible. “Market demands are now requiring these types of plans anyway, so, although you might be exempt from the government, your market may demand it. Case in point: Whole Foods’ new push for third party audits is just one example. There’s going to be many markets that are going to have demands for food safety plans,” he said. “You also have to remember that FDA maintains the power to withdraw exemptions. If you’re suspected of a foodborne illness, they could withdraw your exemption. So you might want to be prepared if that exemption gets pulled.”
Those interested in commenting on the FDA’s FSMA Supplemental Proposed Rules can do so online at www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/ucm334115.htm. For more information on FSPCA, visit www.iit.edu/ifsh/alliance/.
Artisan Bistro, creator of modern organic frozen entrées, bowls and bakes, today announced its new line of artisan burritos, featuring a savory blend of high-quality sustainable proteins, organic vegetables, grains and spices all wrapped in one-of-a-kind organic gluten-free tortillas. Using sustainably-caught wild Alaskan salmon, antibiotic-free beef, free-range chicken and meatless ‘pork carnitas,’ the new burritos offer consumers a healthy and delicious lunch, dinner or snack.
“Many people are busy and barely finding time to eat on-the-run, so hand-held meal options have become wildly popular,” said Leo Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of Artisan Bistro Foods, Inc. “To create our burritos, we took one of the nation’s favorite convenience foods and gave it our signature artisan upgrade with bold spices, clean proteins and organic whole grains and vegetables that consumers can feel good about eating and feeding their families.”
All Artisan Bistro Burritos are gluten free, contain at least 75 percent organic ingredients and have between 11- 14 grams of protein. The big, artisan-crafted 7-ounce burritos will be available in natural food stores and grocers nationwide in January, and have a suggested retail price of $3.79. Varieties include:
Artisan Bistro’s entire cast of nutritionally-rich frozen meals are made with delicious, non-GMO ingredients, like sustainably-caught wild Alaskan salmon, free-range chicken, premium organic vegetables and a variety of organic whole grains and legumes, including quinoa, lentils and garbanzo beans. All dishes contain 70 percent or more organic ingredients and are gluten free to deliver wholesome, fresh and unique options for anyone seeking great-tasting alternatives to cooking or eating out. Artisan Bistro meals are available in natural food stores and grocers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Target, Safeway, Publix, Wegmans and Sprouts. For more information, visit www.theartisanbistro.com.
1. You have a new product to introduce.
2. You have a new employee to introduce.
3. You have won an award.
4. You have promoted an employee.
5. You have opened a new facility.
6. You have made a major charitable contribution.
7. You have achieved something you’re proud of and want to tell the world, even if nobody’s giving out awards for it.
8. You want to issue an open invitation for members of the specialty foods industry.
9. You have a worthy cause that you’d like to publicize.
10. Your competitors are sending their press releases to Gourmet News!
Address all press releases to email@example.com. Here are some tips to guide you through your press release.
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The press release you send to Gourmet News doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy — in fact, the less fancy it is, the better — but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances that we’ll grab your item out of the avalanche of mail we receive and publish your item.
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Be sparing with adjectives. Sure you want to describe your product in lush, sensuous terms, but remember that you’re not writing for consumers, and if you go overboard with your adjectives, most or all of them will just be deleted before publication, and if you make that too difficult, you run the risk that your article will simply be discarded.
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That’s all there is to it! Send all press releases to firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, we love to get your news and we love to share it with the world. Don’t be shy about sending us your news — just make it easy for us to share it!
Coco Polo is now offered for sale in Your Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, Georgia. Your Dekalb Farmers Market is a pioneer in fresh food distribution; receiving direct shipments of unique products from around the globe, without costly warehousing and distribution delays. The result is a collection of the highest quality, lowest cost, and largest variety of fresh and organic food products currently available.
“If you have not heard of them, they have quite a story of their growth….this family business was literally built by the hands of the community. Up to 100,000 customers per week have supported the store for over 40 years. It’s an honor to be included in their family of products,” says Diane Yamate, Co-Founder of Coco Polo. “They do all the things that we would like to see done in the natural community: simplicity, responsibility, and a commitment to health.”
Coco Polo offers a unique and healthy addition to the chocolate shelf. Unlike standard chocolates in dark colored packages, Coco Polo features bright, exciting packaging contrasted with gold that catches the eye while scanning the store aisle. These rich chocolate bars come in both Milk and Dark flavors with 13 rich varieties. Coco Polo’s seven dark chocolate bars are all vegan and include: 70% Dark, Elderberry, Cherry, Cocoa Nibs, Almond, Ginger, and Toasted Coconut Chia. Coco Polo also offers milk chocolate in the following varieties: 39% Milk, Almond, Cherry, Elderberry, Hazelnut, and Mango.
Already in Whole Foods Market, Mom’s Organic Market, Sprouts Farmer’s Market, and The Fresh Markets, Coco Polo aims to offer the most delicious, sugar-free, real chocolate available in traditional and brand new flavors.
By Lorrie Baumann, Editorial Director, Oser Communications Group
Here are some quick tips for writing marketing copy that will start your sales conversation with prospective buyers even before they reach your Fancy Food Show booth.
Finally, if you’re writing an article for insertion into Gourmet News, remember that Oser Communications Group has an experienced editorial staff ready to help you out. Whether you get stuck and need a friendly suggestion about how to get started or you’d like to have someone glance over your draft and give you suggestions about how to smooth out your article’s flow, a five-minute phone call to our editorial staff might save you hours of stress. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 520.721.1300 and ask for the editorial department.
Gourmet News is a publication of Oser Communications Group, and it’s not affiliated with either the Fancy Food Shows or the Specialty Food Association.
Edmond Fallot is adding a new mustard to its condiments line with its Napa Valley Pinot Noir Dijon Mustard. Grape must, mustard seeds mainly from Burgundy’s Terroir and Napa Pinot Noir are finely blended into a vividly-hued crimson purple paste. The flavor is delicate and will exquisitely enhance red meat, game, fish, sandwiches, pasta and sauces.
Wine and mustard are historically entwined: back in the day, the Romans consumed a fiery mixture comprised of wild mustard seeds and grape must – this famous “mustum ardere” (mustum, fermenting grape juice and ardere, to burn, blazing, from which the word mustard is derived).
Although Pinot Noir has been known for a very long time in Burgundy (apparently brought to France by the Romans), its history subsequently became mixed up with that of monasteries, which played a key role in the reputation of Burgundy vineyards. Well vinified, it produces wines characterized by great subtlety and a wide range of aromas (fruit, wood undergrowth).
Emmi Roth USA took home six medals at this year’s World Cheese Awards in the United Kingdom, a record for the company at this competition. These wins bring the total number of awards for the company’s U.S.-produced cheeses to 23 in 2014.
The company’s flagship cheese, Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix, received a “Super Gold” award, earning the title of one of the 62 Best Cheeses in the World. This best-in-class distinction is the bookend in a banner year for Grand Cru — the line of Grand Cru cheeses has taken home a total of 10 awards in 2014.
It’s a journey that began 4,000 miles away, among the rolling hills of Wisconsin. There, the flavors of this perfect land, climate and fresh milk go into each wheel of Roth Grand Cru. This Alpine-style cheese is crafted in traditional copper vats and carefully cured by Roth cellar masters to reflect the distinct terroir of America’s Dairyland. Grand Cru Surchoix, hand-selected as “the best of the best,” cures for a minimum of nine months to create a firm texture and complex flavors of caramel, fruit and mushroom.
“This is truly our life’s passion,” said Linda Duwve, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Emmi Roth USA. “The quality of the milk, the cheesemaking traditions, the dedication and expertise of our cheesemakers and cellar masters—you can taste all of that in each wheel. We don’t do all of this for the awards, but it’s humbling and an honor to have our flagship variety recognized among the top cheeses in the world.”
In addition, team Emmi Roth USA received the following honors at this year’s World Cheese Awards:
The Gold award for Grand Cru Reserve was also an extremely prestigious win for Emmi Roth. Grand Cru Reserve was competing in class 5514 against cheeses that had previously been awarded Supreme Champion, or the equivalent, in a national or international cheese awards competition in any country. Grand Cru Reserve earned the right to compete in this elite category after being named Grand Champion at the 2014 World Dairy Expo.
Emmi Roth’s parent company, Emmi of Switzerland, took home 11 medals, including three Gold awards for Piz Bever Extra, Kaltbach™ Cave-aged Le Gruyère AOP and Kaltbach Cave-aged Emmentaler AOP. Kaltbach Cave-aged Le Gruyère AOP was also named Best Le Gruyère AOP cheese in the sponsored trophy awards.
Hosted by the U.K.’s Guild of Fine Food, the World Cheese Awards is the world’s largest cheese event and the most respected competition of its type. This year, more than 250 judges scored nearly 2,600 cheeses from 33 countries.
The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA), in conjunction with the Cambria Tourism Board, San Simeon Tourism Board and Wine Coast Country announced a new partnership to bring a Paso Robles wine event to the north coast of San Luis Obispo County. On February 21, 2015 the 1st Annual Paso BlendFest on the Coast will showcase the best characteristics of each partner, combining the scenic beauty of the coast with Paso Robles Wine Country, only miles away. Held during off season, BlendFest is sure to become an annual marquee event helping to promote stays at the area’s lodging properties and celebrate Paso Robles Wine Country in a beautiful setting.
BlendFest will invite visitors to San Simeon and Cambria to Grow Wild beyond a glass of everyday wine and will feature 25-30 of Paso Robles’ renowned wineries, each featuring two distinct blends! Held at The Cavalier Resort in San Simeon, guests will be able to enjoy spectacular wines, only surpassed by the stunning coastal views.
“As evidenced by Paso’s recent honor as Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, the region has become known for rule breaking, unconventional blends,” said Jennifer Porter, Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “It is now time those blends got their own dedicated festival!”
By David Bernard
Time was, when you wanted to experience top-quality caviar, there was one game in town (or rather one sea in town): the Caspian Sea. The Soviet Union and Iran, with Caspian shoreline, had sole access to the species of sturgeon that provided the world’s most delicious caviar, which retailed for hundreds of dollars per ounce. However, today, retailers wanting to procure some of the best “Russian” caviar available, may take their shopping trip far and wide – to China and Uruguay, for example.
With exports of wild caviar from the Caspian Sea and other locations banned or mostly banned since 2006 due to poaching, overfishing, pollution and shrinking habitat, American caviar importers have turned to a growing global aquafarm industry. This is yielding some delicious results.
The key to sourcing the best caviar is to keep your eye not so much on the fish, but on the farm. While most aquafarms started their operations with the prized Caspian Sturgeon, Russian Osetra or Siberian Sturgeon (chosen for its rapid rate of maturation), it is the individual farm’s processes and practices that determine whether the fish turn out world-class “Russian” caviar or an also-ran product. While feed is not typically a distinguishing factor in product quality – there are only a few large-scale feed producers worldwide – aspects such as how much and what kind of vitamins are given and the strength of a country’s regulatory practices play important roles in ultimately determining caviar quality.
“My job is to go to visit every single farm to see if they have close to a natural situation,” said Max Moghaddam, President and owner of Bemka House of Caviar & Fine Foods, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based importer and distributor. “The quality of the water is most important. If a farm is landlocked and water is a limited resource – maybe they’re using only 10 percent fresh water and recycling the rest – that’s not really a farm we want to work with.”
In addition to China and Uruguay, countries producing farmed caviar include Italy, the world leader in the production and export of such caviar, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Israel, Canada, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran and a number of former Soviet Republics. Russia produces a significant amount of caviar, but most is consumed by the country’s large domestic market.
Today, the main varieties of caviar imported into the United States continue to be Russian Osetra and Siberian Sturgeon. Some hybrids are sold as well, for example Bester, which is a hybrid of the Caspian native Beluga and the smaller Sterlet Sturgeon. Beluga caviar itself is banned from import or sale in this country, because the Beluga Sturgeon is an endangered species.
Marky’s, based in Miami, sources its top-selling Osetra from an Israeli aquafarm that uses a continuous flow of mountain stream water. The Karat Osetra caviar is sold in Black, Amber and Gold varieties. The Amber is a particular hit, juicy but with a firm grain and distinctive nutty clean taste.
While foreign aquafarms are turning out quality caviar, domestic production has grown as well, thanks to both lower pricing and increased demand. With the overall dip in world production that occurred between the banning of much wild caviar and the growth of the farmed caviar industry, domestic producers were able to fill part of the supply void.The caviar from California White Sturgeon, similar to Russian Osetra in size and taste, if a bit more fishy, now makes up more than 70 percent of authentic domestic caviar production and provides consumers with a gourmet product at a somewhat lower price.
“We find that White Sturgeon is a very good middle ground,” said Christopher Hlubb, President and COO of Marky’s. “It does not usually compete with products at the top such as Russian Osetra. Like most products, it depends on grade, but it positions itself as a very good product, although the price has risen and is nearing that of Russian Osetra.”
For retailers looking to offer consumers fish roe at an even lower price, there are a number of non-sturgeon “American caviar” products available (note: this term is also often used to refer to the authentic caviar from California White Sturgeon). Paddlefish roe, the “cousin of caviar,” comes from fish native to the Yellowstone River and Mississippi River system. Salmon and whitefish roe are also lower price-point options.
“We talk to customers and ask them what their need is,” said Dale Sherrow, Vice President of Seattle Caviar Company, which sells American caviar as well as a full range of imported caviar. “If it’s an event, what kind of event, how many people, what’s their budget. And for some customers, salmon roe is the perfect choice. You get that strong salmon flavor. It has a larger bead. It’s just delicious.”
While there are a number of tasty non-sturgeon roe products available, these are not necessarily a steppingstone for consumers to move into imported caviar. “We find a lot of customers have their preference, their budget, and they stay with it,” said Sherrow. “They get great tasting American caviar that can be used most ways.”
This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.