How Safe Are Your Fruits and Veggies?

How Safe Are Your Fruits and Veggies?

Health experts and scientists say produce, grown either conventionally or organically, is safe to eat for you and your children. Not only are conventionally and organically grown fruits and vegetables safe and nutritious, Americans should be consuming more of these, not less, if they hope to reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

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In the Nevada desert, fish join tomatoes to yield bumper crops

In the Nevada desert, fish join tomatoes to yield bumper crops

Sometimes, innovation makes for strange bedfellows.

In the Northern Nevada desert, on land once spattered with grazing cattle, inside a 31,000-square-foot greenhouse, tilapia and tomatoes are farmed in partnership. The hydroponic tomatoes break down waste from the fish for nutrients while also cleansing the water so it can be recycled back to the tilapia tanks.

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Organic Farming with Gene Editing

Organic Farming with Gene Editing

Many organic advocates claim that genetically engineered crops are harmful to human health, the environment and the farmers who work with them. Biotechnology advocates fire back that genetically engineered crops are safe, reduce insecticide use and allow farmers in developing countries to produce enough food to feed themselves and their families.

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Study shows positive apple response to Thermaculture

Study shows positive apple response to Thermaculture

North Dakota State University compared two years of fresh apples exposed to periodic Thermaculture versus conventionally grown apples and concluded that the Agrothermal Systems process created significantly higher inducible levels of phenolic metabolities and related antioxidant activity.

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What Is a Donut Peach and Why Are They Everywhere Right Now?

Photo by Alex Lau

Photo by Alex Lau

Call them UFOs, Sauzee Swirls, or Flat Wonderfuls—flat peaches are taking over the world one market at a time.

This summer’s been called The Summer of Sleaze, of Rage, of Missing Out, and of Scam. Might I be so bold to throw my hat into the ring and call it The Summer of the Donut Peach?

Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch, but I’ve seen more squat, pancaked peaches—which are sweeter, milder, and less fuzzy than their spherical sibs—this year than ever before. What once seemed like a rarity, sold at only the fanciest grocery stores (when Florence Fabricant wrote about “a new kind of white peach” sold at Grace’s Marketplace in 1993, she called the fruit “juicy and luscious” though “peculiar” and “positively deformed”) has become commonplace: crates piled high at the farmers’ market, clamshells for sale at Whole Foods and on Fresh Direct. I love their name, their look, and their feel, and I can't leave the market without buying at least one for each palm.

With such a funny shape (they’re like the Persian cats of peaches), you might assume there’s some funny business going on with their breeding. But flat peaches aren’t genetically-modified oddities at all: They’re the descendants of wild pan tao (also called peento) peaches from China, which were introduced to the US nearly 150 years ago. It wasn't until the ‘60s and ‘70s, however, that scientists at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station hybridized the plants to produce hardier, frost-resistant trees with bigger, sweeter, peachier fruit. They called the fruit, low in acid and high in sugar, the Saturn (you can guess why).

Jerry Frecon, now a horticultural consultant and Rutgers professor emeritus, worked with Dr. Fred Hough to develop Saturn at the Agricultural Experiment Station, then, in the ‘80s, brought the variety to Stark Bro’s Nurseries and Orchards Co. in Missouri, which purchased the license to grow and sell the trees.

Though the trees were originally intended for home gardeners, flat peaches growing in Washington were eventually brought to the attention of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, the company credited with making the produce section of the American grocery store infinitely more colorful and flavorful (they introduced spaghetti squash, kiwi, alfalfa sprouts, and hundreds of other fruits and vegetables to the US market). Karen Caplan, Frieda's President and CEO and daughter of founder Dr. Frieda Caplan, remembers sitting in the conference room when a salesperson representing the farm pulled out the flat peaches. "Oh my God! They look like doughnuts!" And so the peach was named. In 1986, Frieda's Specialty Produce trademarked the Donut name and enjoyed exclusivity as the flat peach purveyor for about a decade. With its juicy sweetness and eye-catching shape, "the Donut Peach "was a dream come true," Caplan told me. "It was just a darling."

When the Stark Bro’s' license for the Saturn peach expired in the early 2000s, more farmers were able to grow flat peaches than ever before, opening up the market and putting flat peaches in more stores. And since those early days, many more varieties of trademarked flat peaches have been introduced in US markets—Frecon estimates there are 15 to 20 kinds in this country, and many more around the world—as people have grafted and hybridized. You’ll find Galaxy, UFO, TangoOs, BuenOs, Sweet Bagels, Sauzee Swirls, Flat Wonderfuls, and Peach Pies, just to name a few. (The Stark Bro's stopped selling Donut Peaches in 2009, when it became economically inviable for their supplier to keep growing them.)

You could sneak a donut peach into this  peach lassi sorbet .

You could sneak a donut peach into this peach lassi sorbet.

And while the original Saturns had easily removable pits, with pink skin and white flesh, there are now flat peaches with yellow skin, or yellow flesh, or stones that cling. Flat nectarines, which will soon be introduced to the New Jersey Breeding Program, are already grown and distributed as the oblong Nectapie by California’s Family Tree Farms.

Photo by Ted Cavanaugh.

Photo by Ted Cavanaugh.

When Lou Terrulli of Baldor Specialty Foods, one of the largest distributors of produce and specialty foods in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, first encountered flat peaches in the ‘90s, he was struck by their small stature, high sugar content, and short growing window. These days, the demand is high, he imagines, because people “learn about something today and can have it tomorrow.” More growers are finding the need to put [flat peach] trees in their orchard to supply the ‘Baldors of the world.”

Of the three farmers I spoke with at the Union Square Greenmarket, two had started growing flat peaches in the past five years. Since they’re susceptible to blight and finicky in their development (the skins split as the peaches grow outwards), they demand a higher price. For that reason, Frecon explained, “they have to have really good flavor. If they don’t, people aren’t going to pay extra money for them.”

One particular farmer at Union Square named Joe, who requested that I not mention his last name or his orchard, has been growing flat peaches for ten years. When I asked him which of the three varieties at the stand (yellow-fleshed donuts, white-fleshed donuts, and greenish-skinned mango peaches) was his favorite, he explained that he thought all were silly. They’re good snack-sized fruit for kids, he told me, but “if you’re an adult you should be eating regular peaches.” (Self-sabotage.)

This adult, however, finds donut peaches irresistible. Brilliant marketers, you win! And while most peach experts I spoke to agreed that the novelty of a smushed peach might wear off (particularly if the flavor can’t keep up with the price), I want to make it clear to any horticulturists out there reading this story: I would buy a flat plum and a flat apricot. Flat cherry? I’ll pass.

Sustainable produce packaging debate far from wrapped up

Shannon Boase and Ian Anderson of CKF.

Shannon Boase and Ian Anderson of CKF.

“This story of recycling is the wrong subject. You want to make the grower earn money and monetize the product.”

Before he rushes off to a meeting, this remark from Massimo Bellotti of French plastic packaging company Groupe Guillin shows the conflict at play between the commercial interests of the fresh produce industry and a tide of anti-plastic sentiment sweeping across the globe.

In the words of Will Mercer of British company Coveris, technical advances in plastic packaging have extended shelf life and improved hygiene by warding off microbial threats while also substantially cutting food waste and the associated environmental footprint.

“But the big bit that we actually forgot was to bring the consumer along,” Mercer said during a talk at Fruit Logistica in Berlin last month. 

Grass paper greenliner

Grass paper greenliner

So where exactly have consumers been left behind on this journey? And how can the fresh produce and packaging industries get them back on board while also responding to shifting preferences towards more environmentally-friendly solutions? 

The cold turkey approach to plastic adopted by a section of society and retail will undoubtedly help alleviate the gargantuan problem of plastic islands floating around the world’s oceans, but a real solution needs to be systemic and involve the plastic companies themselves.

In this special feature, we take a look at the challenges of making ‘green’ packaging affordable and accessible, the competing environmental interests of plastic waste versus food waste, and the innovators harnessing new materials for the shopping aisle.

Article Highlights:

  • Compostable, biodegradable, recyclable
  • A plastic packaging industry perspective
  • Sustainable Packaging in practice – a matter of execution and willpower
  • Food waste versus plastic waste
  • Could grass paper solutions be the next frontier?

Article by Fresh Fruit Portal

Nature & More to Eliminate Millions of Packaging Units with Natural Branding

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Nature & More, Europe's leading distributor of organic produce, is going to mark organic fruits and vegetables with Natural Branding, in close cooperation with Swedish supermarket chain ICA, in order to save on plastic packaging. Natural Branding is the organic version of laser marking. The first organic products that will be sold with Natural Branding are avocados and sweet potatoes. Just on avocados alone, this will eliminate at least 725,000 packaging units in the coming year. With more products and customers, the number can easily run into millions. 

Organic avocados in supermarkets are usually packed in plastic foil because they must be distinguished from conventional avocados that are sold in bulk. The supermarkets want to prevent organic avocados from being weighed and paid for as conventional, because of the price difference. The same goes for sweet potatoes, apples, and many other organic products. Stickers can be an alternative, but the problem there is they come off, and besides they use paper, glue, ink, etc. 

Nature & More can now mark fresh produce without using any materials. Natural Branding is the organic approach to marking fruits and vegetables with a laser beam. In the process, a bit of pigment is removed from the outer layer of the peel. This contact-free method was approved by EU Organic certifier SKAL, no additional substances are used, and the method is so superficial that it has no effect on taste or shelf life. The energy needed for a marking is less than 1% of the energy needed for a sticker. 

Paul Hendriks, packaging expert at Nature & More, is very pleased with the new technology. "The most sustainable way to pack is not to pack. I have been saying that for years, but it has been difficult to bring about in the supermarket. With Natural Branding it becomes a logical option. We are very glad that ICA, as a front-runner, is taking this sustainable road with us. We think green consumers will be delighted, because research shows again and again that they disapprove of plastic packaging."

Nature & More expects to save a lot of plastic and energy with Natural Branding. In 2015, Eosta sold 725,380 packs of avocados to major Swedish retail chain ICA. To pack them, 217 km (135 miles) of plastic foil was used, at a width of 30 cm (11.8 inches). Measured in weight, this is 2,042 kg of plastic. Measured in CO2, it is equivalent to an average car driving 1.3 times around the world. On top of the plastic savings, the use of cardboard boxes and pallets can be decreased as well, says Hendriks. 

Nature & More is the "trace & tell" trademark for organic fruits and vegetables of distributor Eosta, Europe's market leader in fresh produce, based in the Netherlands. Nature & More is constantly searching for ways to pack less. Nature & More campaigns Save Our Soils and True Cost of Food drew international attention.

Source: Nature & More

Article by Perishable News

New Research Examines Avocados’ Potential Impact On Cognitive Health In Older Adults

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MISSION VIEJO, Calif. – Consuming one fresh avocado per day may lead to improved cognitive function in healthy older adults due to increased lutein levels in the brain and eye, according to new research published in the journal Nutrients. The research tracked how 40 healthy adults ages 50 and over who ate one fresh avocado a day for six months experienced a 25% increase in lutein levels in their eyes and significantly improved working memory and problem-solving skills. Lutein is a carotenoid, or pigment, commonly found in fruits and vegetables that accumulates in the blood, eye and brain and may act as an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.

As study participants incorporated one medium avocado into their daily diet, researchers monitored gradual growth in the amount of lutein in their eyes and progressive improvement in cognition skills as measured by tests designed to evaluate memory, processing speed and attention levels. In contrast, the control group which did not eat avocados experienced fewer improvements in cognitive health during the study period.  The research, “Avocado Consumption Increases Macular Pigment Density in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” was conducted at Tufts University and supported by the Hass Avocado Board.

These findings are based on the consumption of one whole avocado each day (369 mcg lutein). Additional research is needed to determine whether the results could be replicated with consumption of the recognized serving size of 1/3 of an avocado per day (136 mcg lutein). The control diet included either one medium potato, or one cup of chickpeas in place of the avocado. Chickpeas and potatoes were used as the control diet because they provided a similar level of calories, but a negligible amount of lutein and monounsaturated fats.

“The results of this study suggest that the monounsaturated fats, fiber, lutein and other bioactives make avocados particularly effective at enriching neural lutein levels, which may provide benefits for not only eye health, but for brain health,” said Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., lead investigator of the study from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University. “Furthermore, the results of this new research reveal that lutein levels in the eye more than doubled in subjects that consumed fresh avocados, compared to a supplement, as evidenced by my previous published research. Thus, a balanced diet that includes fresh avocados may be an effective strategy for cognitive health.”

“While the conclusions drawn are from a single study that cannot be generalized to all populations, the study’s outcome helps to reinforce and advance the body of published research on avocado benefits and their role in everyday healthy living,” said Nikki Ford, Ph.D., Director of Nutrition of the Hass Avocado Board. “Avocados are a nutrient-dense, cholesterol-free fruit with naturally good fats, and are a delicious and easy way to add more fruits and vegetables to everyday healthy eating plans.”

To view the abstract or the published article, click here. For more information on avocado nutrition research visit LoveOneToday.com/Research.

Source: Hass Avocado Board

Get Your Red On

A red dress, red lipstick, red shoes...they all get noticed. Red is a rich, vibrant color that conveys an energetic vibe, and it's no different with red-hued foods. All fresh produce provides a myriad of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, but the nutritional ante is upped when it comes to foods such as tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guavas, apricots, red peppers and papayas, especially Caribbean Red® papayas.

What makes these fruits so vibrantly colored are the naturally occurring yellow, orange and red pigments called carotenoids. Primary dietary carotenoids include lutein, beta-carotene, lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin, all of which act as antioxidants in the body. As antioxidants, they tamp down inflammation and can be effective as cancer-fighting agents. Results from a variety of epidemiological studies indicate that a high intake of lycopene-rich foods can reduce the risk of several types of cancers, most notably prostate cancer.

As fruit ripens and gets darker, the lycopene content increases, so it stands to reason that a ripe Caribbean Red® papaya would be a particularly good way to consume this important phytonutrient.

While papayas are a terrific source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and the digestive enzyme papain, it's the lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin that set papayas apart from other fruits.

Currently, there is no recommended daily guideline for lycopene intake, but by eating a variety of foods from this color palette, one can be assured of increasing one's lycopene intake.

When it comes to cryptoxanthin, papayas move to the top of the list. What makes cryptoxanthin interesting is that it doesn't pass through the gastrointestinal tract when digested but instead gets directly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it can be measured.

Why should this matter? Because one of the duties of cryptoxanthin is to inhibit new blood vessel formation, also known as angiogenesis. If developing cancer cells are denied a blood vessel lifeline, then they have a limited existence. The thinking is that by eating cryptoxanthin-rich foods such as papaya, one can nip cancer cells in the bud.

Because Caribbean Red® papayas are available year- round in mainstream supermarkets, they're an accessible choice for maintaining a nutrient-dense and cancer-fighting diet. And because papayas can be fairly hefty in size, it makes them an ideal fruit for freezing, so you'll know that you'll always have some on hand.

Article by Donna Shields, BrooksTropicals.com