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FDA Names Funding Recipients to Establish Regional FSMA Training Centers

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will transform the nation’s food safety system into one that is based on the prevention of foodborne illness. It will be a system in which the food industry systematically puts in place measures proven effective in preventing contamination. Thus, food industry training will be an important component of successful implementation.

In 2015, recognizing the need for food safety training for small farm owners and food processors, the FDA and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Grant Program, intended to provide funding so that these critical groups receive training, education and technical assistance consistent with standards being established under FSMA. Grants issued through this program will fund a National Coordination Center (NCC) and four Regional Centers (RCs), which will be involved in both key components of training—primarily facilitating training delivery but also, in certain situations, facilitating curricula development targeted to specific audiences.

In October, 2015, FDA announced that the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) of Battle Creek, Michigan, received the award to establish the National Coordination Center. Also in October, NIFA announced the awards for the first two regional centers. The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, received the grant to establish the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, received the grant to establish the Western Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Food Safety.

The second two regional Centers were named on February 18. Iowa State University has received the grant to establish the North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance and the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College has received the grant to establish The Northeast Center for Food Safety, Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance.

The goal of FSMA training programs will be the outcome – advancing knowledge among food producers to meet FSMA requirements. Specifically, the regional centers will be charged with understanding and communicating the landscape of training opportunities available to target businesses in their region. They will identify any need to develop or tailor curricula to meet specific unmet regional needs and/or to target a specific audience. These centers will work with representatives from non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as representatives from cooperative extension services, food hubs, local farm cooperatives and other entities that can address specific needs of the communities they serve.

Boulder Canyon Introduces Guilt-Free Popcorn

Resolutions to eat healthier remain intact at this time of year, and fans of salty snacks have a new reason to celebrate with the introduction of Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods’ new Real Thin™ Pop line of ready-to-eat popcorn. Featuring premium oils, including olive, avocado and coconut, and seasonings that are applied with a revolutionary new method (compared to traditional tumble mixing) results in a full-flavor snack experience that has remarkably fewer calories and fat than the leading popcorn brands.

Boulder CanyonBoulder Canyon Real Thin Pop stands apart from the numerous guilt-free salty snacks on the market today not only because of its rare combination of full-flavored taste and low-calorie impact, but the fact that this has been achieved using only real food ingredients and a minimally-processed approach to manufacturing.

Available in three varieties, including Olive Oil/White Cheddar, Avocado Oil/Sea Salt and Coconut Oil/Sea Salt, Real Thin Pop arrives at leading grocery stores and supermarkets nationwide this month with a suggested retail price of $3.99 per 4.15-ounce bag. Each package contains four servings.

Natural Grocers to Open Corpus Christi Store on March 15

 Natural Grocers will open a store in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday, March 15. The store, which opens at 8 a.m., is located at 3750 S. Staples St. This will be Natural Grocers’ 16th location in Texas.

Natural Grocers will provide the Corpus Christi community with fresh produce that is exclusively USDA Certified Organic, as well as other healthy, affordable, organic and natural products. The store will feature a mix of national brands and a selection of locally produced products from Texas in a small, neighborhood market environment. The Corpus Christi store will also feature a Nutritional Health Coach and offer free nutrition education classes to the public. Natural Grocers Corpus Christi will be open 7 days a week.

Albertsons Companies Announces 2015 Donations Topped $270 Million

Albertsons Companies has contributed more than $270 million in food and financial support in 2015 to the communities it serves, helping people in 35 states and the District of Columbia live better lives.

“We are committed to helping make the communities where we operate the best places to live and work,” said Albertsons Companies Chairman and CEO Bob Miller. “Thanks to the generosity of our customers and the dedication of our store teams, our neighborhoods are stronger and much-needed resources are getting to people in need.”

The company’s donation initiatives include a broad range of local and regionally-driven efforts at stores across the country under 18 banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions,Star Market, Carrs and others. The company’s customers and employees support these efforts through donations and volunteer activities to benefit local charities.

In 2015, the Albertsons Companies Foundation distributed more than $16 million in grants for its key philanthropic causes, including hunger relief, cancer research, programs for people with disabilities, and education. These funds were contributed by customers through an array of successful fundraisers.

As a supermarket company, the cause of hunger relief is especially important to Albertsons and a major focus of fundraising and giving. In 2015, the company’s more than 2,200 stores gave over $245 million in products to hundreds of local food banks, pantries and meal programs. In addition, the company launched several programs during the holiday season that made the holidays brighter for people in need.  The “End Hunger” Food Bag, Santa Bucks and Turkey Bucks programs allowed shoppers to purchase food or make a contribution to purchase food that would go directly to their local food bank or pantry. These efforts yielded more than $10.3 million in food donations to combat food insecurity during the holidays.

Also in 2015, Albertsons Foundation continued its partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation and award-winning actress/Hunger Is Ambassador Viola Davis on the successful Hunger Is charitable program, which includes an in-store fundraising campaign to fight childhood hunger. The joint charitable initiative awarded grants to 79 local charities to increase access to free and reduced-cost school breakfast, improve the nutritional quality of breakfast programs, and expand weekend, summer and vacation food programs.

Albertsons is committed to continuing these philanthropic efforts and creating new opportunities to support worthy causes in 2016 and beyond.

Stonyfield Organic Introduces New Trio of Whole Milk Products

Stonyfield, the leading organic yogurt maker, is introducing three new products aimed at providing customers more ways to enjoy the delicious flavor and nutritional richness of organic whole milk yogurt. With a new line of 100 percent grassfed yogurts and new whole milk offerings for already popular Stonyfield Greek and Pouch lines, consumers have even more reasons to reach for yogurt.

“During Stonyfield’s first years, plain, simple, whole-milk yogurt was all that we made. In the 90s, diet fads led consumers to fear fat,” said Ana Milicevic, Brand Manager from Stonyfield. “But that simply wasn’t the whole story. Since whole milk provides a wealth of benefits –and tastes great – we’re excited to satisfy an increased demand and return to our roots.”

“Organic whole milk yogurt is an incredibly satisfying, traditional food – something I think many Americans are starting to embrace,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using dietary changes to help balance moods, sharpen brain function and improve mental health. “Plus, it’s a satisfying way to get important nutrients like protein and calcium.”

The Next Chapter: Grassfed Yogurt

Stonyfield’s new organic 100% Grassfed Whole Milk yogurt begins in the pasture, with milk from cows who graze exclusively on grass. Rich and creamy and filled with all the delicious, nutritional qualities of full fat dairy, this cup of yogurt is the perfect choice for a whole breakfast or snack.

Stonyfield is proud to be sourcing its organic 100 percent grassfed whole milk from Maple Hill Creamery, another company passionate about producing milk in a way that is good for the planet, good for the cows and good for people.

Maple Hill Creamery cows are 100 percent grassfed, meaning they eat all grass, all the time (no grain, no corn) throughout the year (even in winter!) to produce whole milk with a rich, unique taste. In collaboration, Stonyfield and Maple Hill Creamery seek to make organic 100 percent grassfed yogurt accessible on a national level to more people than ever before.

To help consumers identify 100 percent grassfed vs. other varieties of grassfed (supplemented with corn or grain), Stonyfield has achieved independent Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) accreditation, noted right on the label of every yogurt cup. Stonyfield Organic 100% Grassfed Whole Milk Yogurt is currently available at Whole Foods Markets nationwide in 6-ounce Vanilla, Strawberry, Blueberry and Plain cups as well as 24-ounce Plain and Vanilla.

The Plot Thickens with Whole Milk Greek

Adding to its Greek nonfat yogurt family, Stonyfield’s Whole Milk Greek delivers a rich, creamy taste that only comes from full-fat dairy. The yogurt is packed with calcium and protein and new fruit-filled sidecars allow for flavor personalization. Available at national retailers in 5.3-ounce cups of Plain, Strawberry, Vanilla, Blueberry, Honey and Cherry, Stonyfield will also offer Whole Milk Greek in quarts of Plain and Vanilla – perfect for families or recipe creation.

A Conveniently Packaged Ending

The whole story concludes with a solution for bringing whole milk goodness on the go – with the introduction of Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Pouches. The entire family will love being able to grab a convenient, hand-held pouch for a delicious, satisfying snack on the go. Stonyfield Whole Milk Pouches are available nationwide in Pear Spinach Mango, Strawberry Beet Berry, Vanilla and Blueberry – all available in single serve pouches. Additionally, each flavor except blueberry is offered in a four-pack as well.

Bellwether Farms Launches Blackstone and Celebrates Fifth Good Food Award


BlackstoneBellwether Farms, renowned for nearly 30 years of making award-winning sheep milk and cow milk cheeses, has unveiled its first mixed-milk cheese, named Blackstone. The handsome 3-1/4 pound wheels are a blend of local Jersey cow and sheep milk, dotted with black peppercorns and sporting a gorgeous dark rind. The rind results from a mixture of crushed black pepper, oil, rosemary and vegetable ash that is hand-rubbed on each wheel during its six-to-eight weeks aging at the creamery. The first wheels of Blackstone are arriving in Bay Area retailers and restaurants this month.

Bellwether’s proprietor and cheesemaker, Liam Callahan, developed Blackstone for an American market hungry for mixed-milk cheeses. “We like that Blackstone combines the best of both worlds,” says Callahan. “Our premium Jersey cow milk gives the cheese a creamy mouthfeel while our sheep milk deepens the complex flavor.” Callahan named the cheese Blackstone for its resemblance to the volcanic rock outcroppings surrounding the family’s Sonoma County dairy farm. Bellwether Farms is a family business founded by Cindy Callahan in 1986 with a flock of sheep needed to control grass on their Sonoma land. Today, they milk 350 sheep and every cheese, and yogurt is made on the farm by Liam and his crew, while business administration is handled by Diana Callahan, his wife.

Blackstone joins the roster of Bellwether’s popular aged cheeses, Carmody, San Andreas and Pepato. The creamery’s fresh and cultured products include top-selling sheep milk yogurts, Whole Milk Basket Ricotta, Crème Fraiche, Fromage Blanc and Crescenza.

Another cause for celebration at Bellwether Farms is an unprecedented fifth consecutive award for its Whole Milk Basket Ricotta from the esteemed Good Food Awards competition, honoring products that are authentic and responsibly produced. The exceptional flavor and texture of Bellwether’s Whole Milk Basket Ricotta comes from three specific steps: First, it is made using fresh whole Jersey milk delivered daily from a neighboring farm. Ricotta cheese is often made from only whey left over from cheesemaking. Second, traditional cultures are introduced to coagulate the milk for a slow fermentation, developing flavor and transforming it into moist, pillowy curds tasting of rich cultured cream. Faster-acting vinegar or citric acid are commonly used instead of cultures in ricotta making. Finally, the cheese is hand-ladled into perforated basket-style containers to protect the tender curds in transit to stores and restaurants. This distinctive ricotta cheese also took a bronze medal at the 2010 World Cheese Awards in the UK, competing against fresh ricotta from Europe. Bellwether Farms Whole Milk Basket Ricotta is available in specialty stores throughout the Bay Area and select regions across the U.S.



GNP Company Flagship Chicken Brand to Add “No Antibiotics-Ever” and Humane Certified Attributes

GNP Company®, a provider of premium natural chicken in the Midwest, will be adding two new attributes to chicken products sold under its flagship Gold’n Plump®brand. The attributes include “No Antibiotics–Ever” and the American Humane Certified™ farm program seal. The first Gold’n Plump products featuring both of these claims will hit store shelves in March, with more added in the summer. The company will gradually extend these attributes to the entire Gold’n Plump line, with the goal of all products to offer them by 2019.

“The demand for products raised humanely and with no antibiotics ever is growing,” said Julie Berling, Director of Strategic Communications and Insights for GNP Company. “One study shows as many as 42 percent of chicken consumers say ‘hormone- or antibiotic-free’ is an important factor to them. And 92.6 percent of consumers find it very important to buy humanely raised meats.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports chicken raised without routine use of antibiotics is no longer a niche business and that chicken leads the meat product movement towards reduced antibiotics use.

Not All Claims Equal
The company says its flagship Gold’n Plump brand will be one of the first mainstream chicken brands to fully transition its entire product line to be raised without antibiotics of any kind.

“Not all antibiotic claims are created equal,” explains Brian Roelofs, Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Service for GNP Company. “Many companies are making statements about eliminating the use of antibiotics medically important to humans. GNP Company’s move is taking that further—eliminating all antibiotics of any kind for its All Natural Gold’n Plump products now, with the remaining portfolio to follow.”

The USDA only allows products sourced from chickens never-ever given antibiotics their entire lives, including when inside the egg, to be labeled as “No Antibiotics–Ever.”

The Gold’n Plump brand’s transition is gradual to ensure continuous humane, ethical animal care and product availability. GNP Company continues to believe animal antibiotics, when used judiciously and as needed under veterinarian guidance, are safe for animals as well as humans. Yet, it also recognizes consumers’ and customers’ growing desire for choices in the meat case that are raised without antibiotics. Roelofs added, “We will continue to reduce our antibiotics use in response to consumer and customer demand. However, we will continue to treat flocks for illness, including the use of antibiotics when necessary, as withholding treatment is not ethical or humane.”

Humane Care Promise Becomes Certified
As Gold’n Plump products transition to a No Antibiotics–Ever product line, it will also become officially certified by the American Humane Certified farm program. “GNP Company has always been committed to the humane treatment of our chickens,” said Roelofs. “We first partnered with the American Humane Certified farm program in 2010 to certify our Just BARE® products under the program’s rigorous standards. Since 2013, we’ve been auditing our contracted family farm partners and grow-out barns—including those responsible for the care of Gold’n Plump flocks. The official certification of Gold’n Plump formalizes our already steadfast belief in humane care.”

For products to display the American Humane Certified seal, GNP Company’s animal care, handling and processing practices are independently, third party audited and must meet or exceed the agency’s more than 200 rigorous requirements.

A majority of core Gold’n Plump products, such as small and family packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs and ground chicken, will carry both the No Antibiotics–Ever claim and American Humane Certified seal by summer 2016. All remaining Gold’n Plump value-added retail, deli and foodservice products will transition by the end of 2019.

Extensive media and in-store support will help drive awareness for this Gold’n Plump product line transition in select markets. A mix of advertising will run via print, online, mobile, video and radio channels. Gold’n Plump messaging will be shared among social media platforms, including FacebookTwitter and Pinterest. Point-of-sale shelf-talker materials will deliver the news in-store.

Robert Steele joining BJs Wholesale Club Board of Directors

BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. (BJ’s) has announced that Robert Steele will be joining its board of directors, effective March 24, 2016.

SteeleSteele currently serves on an advisory board for CVC Capital Partners, who with Leonard Green & Partners are the principal owners of BJ’s. Prior to joining CVC, Steele served as Vice Chairman of Global Health & Well-Being at Procter & Gamble Company from  2007 until his retirement in 2011. Steele held numerous leadership positions in his 35 years with P&G including Group President of Global Household Care, Group President of North America, Vice President North America Home Care, and a variety of brand management/sales positions. He has served on several boards of directors, including Kellogg Company, Beam Company, and for over 20 years served as a trustee of The St. Joseph Home for Handicapped Children. In addition to his advisory role at CVC, Steele serves on the boards of directors of Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., and Berry Plastics.

Steele brings rich industry expertise in his role as an adviser to CVC. “I am thrilled to have an executive of Rob’s talent and experience joining our board,” said Chris Baldwin, BJ’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “I look forward to having the benefit of Rob’s expertise and guidance as we manage BJ’s going forward.”

USDA Proposes Rule Requiring Wider Access to Healthy Food


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon has announced a proposed rule designed to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increased access to healthy foods by requiring stores that accept SNAP to stock a wider array of food choices.

“USDA is committed to expanding access for SNAP participants to the types of foods that are important to a healthy diet,” Concannon said. “This proposed rule ensures that retailers who accept SNAP benefits offer a variety of products to support healthy choices for those participating in the program.”

The 2014 Farm Bill required USDA to develop regulations to ensure that stores that accept SNAP offer a broader variety of healthy food choices. The stocking provisions in the proposed rule would require SNAP-authorized retail establishments to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options so that recipients have access to more healthy food choices. SNAP retailers would be required to offer seven varieties of qualifying foods in four staple food groups for sale on a continuous basis, along with perishable foods in at least three of the four staple food groups. The staple foods groups are dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry and fish; and fruits and vegetables. In addition, the proposal calls for retailers to stock at least six units within each variety, leading to a total of at least 168 required food items per store.

This proposed rule is one of many ways USDA is working to expand access to healthy foods for SNAP recipients. USDA has piloted the use of incentives to purchase healthy foods at point of sale in various venues, including farmers markets and small groceries where the incentive provided for additional purchase of local produce. The 2014 farm bill provided $100 million for Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants to expand this effort, which USDA awarded to grantees in the spring and fall of 2015. USDA has also worked to increase SNAP participants’ access to farmers markets and direct marketing farmers, resulting in over 6,000 authorized locations – an eight-fold increase since the beginning of this administration.

USDA is working to ensure that access to food retailers is not hindered for SNAP participants as a result of this rule. Comments and suggestions on the proposed rule are encouraged to help USDA determine when, where, and if any flexibility should be provided to prevent reductions in SNAP client food access.

The proposed rule also underscores USDA’s authority under the Food and Nutrition Act to publicly disclose information about SNAP retailers disqualified or sanctioned for program violations. Information to be disclosed under provisions of the proposed rule would be limited to the name and address of the store, the owners’ and officers’ names, and the nature of the violation for which the retailer was sanctioned.

“SNAP violations are a serious matter,” Concannon said. “Public disclosure of this information is intended to serve as a deterrent against retailer fraud. The information would provide the public with insight into the integrity of these businesses and individuals.”

As the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, SNAP helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month and is critical in the fight against hunger. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budgets of about 45 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, 10 percent are elderly and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.

SNAP plays an important role in reducing both poverty and food insecurity in the United States—especially among children. SNAP is an effective and efficient health intervention for low-income families with a positive impact on children beginning before birth and lasting beyond childhood years, improving health, education, and economic outcomes. Over 260,000 retailers nationwide are currently authorized to redeem SNAP benefits.

Comments on the proposed rule will be received for 60 (calendar) days dating from February 16. For more information see the Federal Register Notice.



Natural Grocers to Open Coppell Store on March 8

 Natural Grocers will open a store in Coppell, Texas, on Tuesday, March 8. The store, which opens at 8 a.m., is located at 120 S. Denton Tap Road. This will be Natural Grocers’ 15th location in Texas.

Natural Grocers will provide the Coppell community with fresh produce that is exclusively USDA Certified Organic, as well as other healthy, affordable, organic and natural products. The store will feature a mix of national brands and a selection of locally produced products from Texas in a small, neighborhood market environment. The Coppell store will also feature a Nutritional Health Coach and offer free nutrition education classes to the public. Natural Grocers Coppell will be openseven days a week.

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