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With avocados being one of the main benefactors, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has proposed a new guidance for the use of the “healthy” claim on food labeling, and, though the guidance is open for public comments, it is effective immediately.

Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, told The Produce News on Friday, Sept. 30, that the organization is already using the new descriptor. “You are going to see the word ‘healthy’ right before avocados in everything we do,” he said.

The avocado industry executive indicated that it is impossible to overstate the importance of being able to use this nutrition claim. Though years ago avocados were called a high-fat food, that designation has largely melted away as scientific research has shown that the type of fat is extremely important when discussing fat content. The fat content of an avocado is made up of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, often called the “good fats.” It is the saturated fats that give fat a bad name and it is this distinction that is the main point of the new FDA Guidance.

The term “healthy” on food labels is regulated by the FDA and reserved for foods low in fat among other restrictions. The past definition, which was established more than 20 years ago, focused on total fat content per serving. The new guidance from FDA gives consideration to the breakdown between good (unsaturated) and bad (saturated) fats in light of new evidence and dietary recommendations in the recently published 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Avocados contain eight grams of fat per 50 gram serving, with more than 75 percent of that made up of naturally good fats. Avocados comply with the new FDA guidance because they have a fat profile of predominantly naturally good monounsaturated fats.

Escobedo said that while 90 percent of consumers report that they purchase avocados based on the nutritional benefits they provide, 21 percent still say that the fat content in avocados is a barrier to purchase. “This guidance removes a major barrier that could be limiting avocado purchases,” he said.

Extrapolating the 20 percent number across the U.S. population, Escobedo noted that in the neighborhood of 60 million people may well have had this misperception about avocados. Sixty million more avocado consumers could be another game changer for one of the fastest-growing fruits on the market.

"With the pervasiveness of many chronic diseases in the U.S. population, consumers are thinking about the ways to make healthy food choices for themselves and their families,” he said. “We applaud the FDA for its efforts in updating the guidance on what makes a food healthy, and recognizing that good fats play an important role in healthy diets.”

For the avocado industry, this means fresh avocados can start to use the term “healthy” in marketing and communications as well as packaging and point-of-sale materials. HAB is updating its messages and materials to include the claim. Avocados are a healthy fruit that provide a good source of fiber and folate per 50 gram serving (one-third of a medium avocado), and nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds that can enhance the nutrient quality of the diet. In the fruit, vegetable and nut sector, this new guidance should benefit nuts and olives as well as avocados. Most other fruits and vegetables do not contain fat and already met other criteria to be allowed to use the “healthy” claim. This new guidance also expands the list of beneficial nutrients an item can have to be considered healthy. Previously, vitamins A and C and fiber were among those beneficial nutrients. Now potassium and vitamin D have been added to the list along with the new wording on fat content.

Specifically, the new guidance represents current FDA thinking in two specific areas, as articulated by the published proposal. The healthy claim can now be used on products that “(1) Are not low in total fat, but have a fat profile makeup of predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats; or (2) contain at least 10 percent of the Daily Value per reference amount customarily consumed of potassium or vitamin D.”

The proposal includes a four month period in which the FDA will accept public comment, and that could theoretically lead to a change in the guidance at a future date. However, the published document also revealed that this guidance “is immediately effective because the agency has determined that prior public participation is not feasible or appropriate.”

US Foods has agreed to acquire Jeraci Foods, an Italian specialty distributor based in Elmsford, NY. The transactions is expected to close Oct. 7. Terms of the acquisitions were not disclosed.usfood

Family-owned since 1972 and with more than $26 million in sales annually, Jeraci Foods offers a variety of fruit as well as a complete line of authentic Italian and other imported and domestic food products to customers throughout the metro New York area.

The Jeraci Foods location will remain open through the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition, after which the business will shift to the US Foods location in Perth Amboy, NJ.

“As a family owned business Jeraci Foods has built a strong reputation for great customer service and high quality food,” Chuck Gannon, area president of US Foods, said in a press release. “At US Foods, we pride ourselves on those same characteristics and look forward to bringing an even more robust product offering to Jeraci customers.”

Jim Simonian, who founded Simonian Fruit Co. with his brother, David, and was an active member of the farming community from the age of 16, died Monday, Sept. 26. He was 72. simo

The lifetime resident of Fowler, CA, was also committed to his community. He served on the Fowler city council for 22 years, 10 of those as mayor.

Mr. Simonian was an aviation enthusiast and was a private pilot for over 50 years.

Preceded in death by his parents, Dorothy and Coche Der Simonian, as well as brothers, David and Donald Simonian, Mr. Simonian is survived by Eileen, his wife of 49 years; son, Jimmy and his wife Jennifer, and their children, Kamryn, Adam and Taylor of Reedley, CA; son Brent; and daughter, Kari Jacobsen and her husband, Clay, and their children, Blythe, Rhett and Emilia, all of Fowler. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Patti Simonian; and nephews and niece, Jeffrey, Kristen, Jonathan and his wife Elisa, also of Fowler.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church, 220 S. 3rd St., Fowler, CA 93625; or to the Jim Simonian Memorial at the future Valley Children's Specialty Clinic in Fowler, c/o Valley Children's Foundation, 9300 Valley Children's Place, Madera, CA 93636.

WASHINGTON — The Food & Drug Administration plans to continue an import alert for cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, after it reported a drop in the number of cases of cyclosporiasis in 2016 compared to the last three years, the agency announced this week.

Health authorities have wrestled with spikes in the disease during the last three summers, but an import alert and testing program appears to be paying off.

As of Sept. 16, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported 134 confirmed cases with the disease in the United States since May 1. For the same period in 2015, 319 confirmed cases were reported.

FDA has traced Cyclospora cayetanensis foodborne illnesses to fresh cilantro grown in Puebla in recent years, and 2016 was the first full season FDA’s import alert for fresh cilantro from Puebla was in effect.

Beginning in 2015, from April 1 through Aug. 31, cilantro from the Puebla region has been detained without physical examination at the U.S.-Mexico border, and only cilantro producers that meet at least 11 good agricultural and food-safety practices qualified for FDA’s “Green List.”

U.S. and Mexican authorities established the food-safety controls under a partnership agreement formalized by a July 2014 agreement. FDA also implemented a testing program for cilantro and conducted industry outreach on controlling C. cayetanensis.

Health-conscious food lovers now have more choice in the produce aisles, with the launch of the new Carisma potato from EarthFresh Farms.

New to Canada and grown in Ontario, Carisma has been found to have a lower glycemic response, meaning it does not cause the rapid spike in blood sugar that normally comes from eating carbohydrate-rich foods.Carisma-Bag

Farmed from traditional seed and without the use of biotechnology, this non-GMO potato is a desirable choice for those seeking to control blood sugar levels, including people with (or at risk of developing) diabetes, athletes and those looking to lose or control body weight.

“Glycemic response is reflective of the quality and quantity of carbohydrate in a food, which plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels,” said Jane Dummer, registered dietitian and author. “In addition to regular exercise and portion control, I recommend choosing foods that provide a lower glycemic response as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern. With the Carisma potato, now available in Canada, anyone watching their carbohydrate intake, including those living with diabetes, can have their potatoes and eat them too.”

As consumer trends move toward a more balanced approach to nutrition and diet, Canadians are still set against a backdrop of towering obesity and type 2 diabetes rates across the country. Choosing foods that elicit a lower glycemic response, as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern, is an important piece of the healthy living equation.

“Potatoes are highly nutritious as they offer valuable carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals with minimal fat, and are naturally gluten-free,” Dummer added. “One medium (150 grams) Carisma potato is only 70 calories with 20 per cent daily value of vitamin C, which is good for the immune system, skin and hair health. It’s also a good source of potassium with 15 grams of carbohydrate, three grams of fiber and three grams of protein.”

For years now, the award-winning Carisma potatoes have been grown and consumed in both Australia and the Netherlands and have quickly gained popularity among both the health-conscious set and foodies alike.

“As a Canadian company specializing in premium produce, we’re focused on growing and distributing healthy and delicious products,” said Tom Hughes, president of EarthFresh Farms. “The health benefits of Carisma make it one of the biggest innovations to hit the produce world in many years and it’s so amazing that we can grow and harvest these potatoes right here in Ontario.”

For food lovers and cooking enthusiasts, the addition of new potato varieties in grocery stores mimics the explosion of mushroom varietals, seen over the past five years. The unique texture and flavor of Carisma, coupled with its strong health benefits, make it an ideal ingredient for those seeking to explore new recipes featuring potatoes.

The Carisma is a flavorful, versatile potato with an exceptionally creamy, unique melt-in-the-mouth texture and can be eaten boiled, mashed or baked. Its great taste and smooth texture are ideal for appetizers, soups, cold salads, warm sides and even baked fries and chips, making it an easy addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet. Visit earthfreshfoods.com for recipe ideas.

Carisma potatoes are currently grown and sold only in Ontario and available in limited quantities. They can be purchased at Sobeys, Longo’s, Metro and Whole Foods stores. They are packaged in five-pound poly bags and retail for approximately $6.99 per bag.