Inside this Food Report


February 1, 2014

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Hello Everyone,

12th man flags are flying high above the city of Seattle today as our beloved Seattle Seahawks won the super bowl yesterday in what we can all agree to be a blowout game against the legendary Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.   It was the franchise’s first super bowl win and “Hawk” fan’s hearts are full of pride today! 
Speaking of hearts it is very important to take care of yours.  This month is American Heart Month and we always like to remind everyone about all the delicious foods that are heart healthy and many of those foods Noon International has been buying and selling since it was established way back in 1976!    Please see our Eat Healthy section below. 

We attended the Fancy Food show in January and our main observation this year was that there was a much larger presence of Japanese companies.    It seems Japan is becoming very serious about importing their products into the United States market.   Condiments, tea, frozen foods and noodles with fiber were only some of the Japanese items being represented at the Fancy Food show this year.   

While some of us were in San Francisco, other Noon members were in Central and South America visiting the many factories we work with.   It is always a fast paced and sometimes grueling trip but we always enjoy connecting with our suppliers and customers.  February will bring Noon International to the American Frozen Food Institute Convention in beautiful San Diego, CA  which allows us another great opportunity to meet with our suppliers and customers.   We look forward to seeing everyone there. 

 At home in Seattle, WA it has been an uneventful winter to date, (well except for our super bowl win yesterday!)   Mild weather and not very much rain or snow.   The entire west coast is in need of rain and as we mention below in our crop section none more than California.  California is suffering the worst drought in over 119 years and it is an extreme and severe situation for California’s agriculture.  Our head office located in Danville, CA has been experiencing lovely warm and sunny weather, however I am certain everyone there would all feel a bit of relief to see some rain in their home state.

In closing we would like to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year 2014!  This year is the year of the Wood Wind Horse.   It is said the Wind Horse represents energy, action, and optimism in life and we wish the New Year to bring all the same to you. 

Betty and the Noon International Team

United States:  2013 was the driest year every recorded in the state of California and January 2014 has offered no rain.   About 2/3 of California State is experiencing extreme drought conditions.   This will certainly affect the food supply.   California state produces 99 % of the artichokes grown in the US, 44 % of asparagus, and 94% of the broccoli.   In addition the majority of citrus fruit as well as stone fruit is grown in California.   Cattle ranches are being forced to thin their herds.    In Central California the fields and tree crops, which provide half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed by the United States are quickly deteriorating.  

Guatemala:    Heavy rains in November and December and cooler than usual temperatures in January has resulted in lower broccoli yields.  Raw material is in tight supply with processors struggling to supply contracts and shipments are being delayed.   New crop broccoli will be planted in April with peak season commencing in July.   Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, Okra and Zucchini are now being processed with reports of good quality.

Mexico:   Broccoli and Cauliflower inventories are still tight, however rains have subsided and improved weather has begun to help strengthen broccoli and cauliflower yields.  The cooler weather has delayed the growth cycle and peak production in Mexico is expected to commence in February.  

Ecuador:   Weather conditions in January were very favorable.   Warm days and cool nights are resulting in good volumes of broccoli being harvested.   Most processors are working to catch up on pending orders as much of 2013 inventories were tight.   Less than favorable conditions in many other broccoli regions has resulted in buyers putting pressure on Ecuador to fulfill their needs.   Ecuador is hopeful with another month of favorable conditions and substantial volumes of raw material they can catch up.

Chile:    Chile is in the middle of a drought and the current summer is recorded as the 3rd driest on record.  Temperatures have been very hot reaching up to 35C causing heat stress on many fruit items.     Only a fraction of water from irrigated fields are actually making it to the plants, especially where sprinkler irrigation is used rather than drip.   There have been many forest fires in the central growing region, further drying out soil and fruit in the fields. 

Raspberries are coming in very undersized as more than 90% of the fruit is water.   This is hurting the yields and increasing final product costs.  In some areas and depending on the variety, raspberry yields are down as much as 50%.    Meeker variety has been hardest hit.     Blueberries have been less affected as they are primarily drip irrigated, however yields are still suffering and will be lower than last season.   Inventories on both blueberries and raspberries will be short and prices high.  
Asparagus finished in late December and yields are down by about 35%.  Asparagus continues to be in high demand and many companies have plans to increase their acreage in the next few years. 

Green pea season in Chile wrapped up around middle January with some reporting lower yields, however some reports show budgeted volumes were met.  Sweet Corn season is now underway.  Germination rate was down about 10% due to heat.  With continued heat processors are expecting lower than normal yields this season.   Green Bean harvest has begun with an increase in acreage by about 10 % this season.  This should help combat any reduction in yields.

Peru:  Mango is currently being harvested in the Piura area in the north of Peru.  Demand is strong as suppliers are sold out.   Volumes received in the month of January were on budget, with quality reported as average.

Thailand:  Cooler weather in Thailand has delayed the sweet corn crop.  In fact the unusually long cold spell across the North, Northeast and Central regions has resulted in as many as 63 deaths.   The long cool season has been caused by a cold front coming from the North and has also had a large impact on Thailand’s rice crop.

Australia:  Southern Australia being hit by a heat wave which is affecting many crops such as strawberries, broccoli and lettuce.   The full effect will not be realized for a few more weeks.  

New Zealand:   Windy and cool weather will affect the honey harvest and it is expected there will be a 40 % drop in New Zealand’s honey production this year.


Zhejiang Province:   Broccoli and Cauliflower in tight supply as yields and quality dropping due to previous typhoon damage.   All vegetables in this region are in low supply due to cold weather which is slowing the growth process.

Fujian ProvinceWater chestnuts , broccoli and cauliflower now being harvested.   Most of the product is going into the fresh market and prices are high.

Shandong Province:  Most harvest is now completed in this area.   A few factories are producing burdock. 

Most of the factories in China are now closed due to the Chinese New Year Holiday.   Factories are expected to reopen in mid February.

Another Food Scandal Shakes Japan

Over a thousand people have taken ill all over Japan over the past month after consuming contaminated frozen food products manufactured by Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc. at their Aqlifoods Corp unit, located at Gunma prefecture, northwest of Tokyo. While the Kyodo News agency pegged the figure at 1400, public broadcaster NHK indicated that at least 1700 people were affected by the contaminated food, which included frozen pizza, fried sweet corn, grilled chicken teriyaki, croquettes, chicken nuggets and pancakes. Contamination-related health issues have been reported from across Japan, with Hokkaido alone having over 200 cases of illness related to the tainted food.

Consumers reported a strong malodor emanating from the contaminated food products. Symptoms of sickness after eating the above foods were fever, dizziness, stomachache, vomiting diarrhea and numbness in limbs. No life-threatening injuries have been reported.

to be malathion – a chemical usually present in pesticides and also used to kill fleas and lice. Further investigations revealed the presence of malathion on work shoes of several of the factory workers. The work shoes are provided by the company to the workers once they are inside the premises; before starting work, the workers wade through a pool of disinfectant with their shoes on. How the malathion came to be on the shoes is still unclear. A Maruha spokesman said that though they tested numerous times a day for spoilage, they didn’t test for presence of pesticides as they “had no reason to believe pesticides would be present”.  Malathion is degraded upon heating; the contaminated frozen food all underwent considerable heat processing. Hence, experts have some reason to believe that the pesticide “entered the food chain after processing and before packaging”.

The permissible limit of malathion in food products is 0.01 ppm as per Japanese government regulations. The tainted food was found to contain almost 2.6 million times more malathion than the permissible limit. Upon this discovery, Aqlifoods checked 18 more products for contamination and found malathion in eight of them. However, it is now known that the testing method used at that time (to conserve time, apparently) was not very sensitive and could only detect malathion at a level of 1 ppm.  So there might have been products that contained malathion but were not detected by the above method.

The health ministry ordered all potentially contaminated products to be recalled from the market. Maruha issued a recall on December 29, 2013 for 90 items amounting to about 6.4 million packages, of which about 52% have been retrieved via supermarket recalls and customer returns as of January 10, 2014. The company also printed full-page ads in newspapers to issue a formal apology to the customers and to warn them against eating the products.

Despite the apology and the recall, there has been a drop in sales of frozen foods from the Maruha Nichiro Company. The company has shut down the plant where the contamination was detected; additionally, it has cut down production in its factory in Yubari due to the decrease in demand of this brand of frozen food.

On January 25th the Japanese police arrested suspect Toshiki Abe, a contract worker at the Aqli Foods factory.   He worked on the frozen dough line and he made dough by hand.  He also had access to other production lines at the factory. 

Maruha Nichiro President Toshio Kushiro and Aqli Foods President Yutaka Tanabe have submitted their resignations to Nichiro Holdings commencing March.    Japan’s food regulations are extremely important and such a scandal of having Japan’s frozen food poisoned is met with extreme disgrace and will most likely hurt Maruha Nichiro Holdings for some time to come.

Of late, a series of scandals related to food quality has eroded the confidence of the Japanese consumer. In late 2013, many high-end hotels and department stores apologetically divulged that they had been passing off cheap substitutes as high-quality food.   The malathion-tainted food is the latest blow to the beleaguered Japanese buyer.

Ten Heart-Healthy Foods

A sensible, healthy diet goes a long way in preventing and managing cardiovascular heart disease. For a healthy heart, apart from getting adequate exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing stress, it is also essential to consume a diet that provides important phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber to your system. The following foods are considered very heart-friendly and all of the below foods can be purchased from Noon International! 

  1. Flax seeds: A rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as fiber, they can be ground and added almost undetected to many foods. You may add them while baking bread or cookies, or mix them with yogurt, salads, and cereal.
  2. Beans and legumes: Beans such as kidney beans, chickpeas and black beans not only boost your protein and calcium levels, they also help in reducing cholesterol as they are fiber-rich.
  3. Soybean: A treasure trove of protein, folate, calcium, iron and B vitamins, this is a versatile food that can be consumed in many forms. Use soymilk instead of regular milk for your morning cereal; toss in marinated tofu in a quick veggie stir-fry; snack on steamed green soybeans (edamame) or on soy nuts; or get a protein boost with a post-workout soy nutrition bar.
  4. Berries: Specifically, blackberries and blueberries are excellent sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances that lessen the probability of heart disease and cancer. Whether they are eaten fresh or used in smoothies, they are nutritional powerhouses!
  5. Avocados: They contains high levels of monounsaturated fats and helps to maintain desirable levels of LDL (low) and HDL(high) cholesterol. Try swapping cheese for a creamy slice of avocado on your sandwich!
  6. Oatmeal: One bowl of oatmeal can nourish you with a wholesome dose of folate, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids and, of course, fiber. Adding fresh fruit such as a banana or an apple will further enhance the taste and nutrient quotient. Steel-cut oats are a better choice than instant, flavored ones.
  7. Olive oil: Who said all oils are created equal? Research shows that replacing your cooking oil (or butter) with olive oil diminishes the odds of heart disease because of its LDL-cholesterol-lowering property and its robust content of monounsaturated fats. Olive oil plays a vital role in the success of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered very conducive to heart health.
  8. Salmon: Two servings of this fish per week is said to cut the odds of death due to heart attack by about one-third; it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids as well as an antioxidant called astaxanthin. (Other ‘oily’ fish such as tuna, herring, etc. are also good for cardiovascular health.)
  9. Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts – they are all heart-healthy because they contain fiber, mono and polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. They make filling and satisfying snack choices.
  10. Spinach: Loaded with folate, lutein, potassium and fiber, spinach helps keep the heart in great working condition. It can be added to salads, stir-fries, smoothies, pasta, pizza, pies, and more.

So fill your refrigerator and your pantry with these healthful alternatives to high-fat, high-sodium products and give your heart the tender love and care it deserves!

2014 Vegetable Trend of the Year Cauliflower!

The year 2013 was the year of kale; the leafy green made it to restaurant menus across the globe; it also appeared in salads, chips and juices. This year, a more common vegetable, the cauliflower, seems set to take the culinary world by storm. Many foodies are already claiming it to be the rage in 2014!

The cauliflower is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cabbage, bok choy, broccoli and kale. (The term ‘cruciferous’ describes the shape of the flowers of these plants – they are four-pronged, arranged in a cross) Cauliflower traces its origin to wild cabbage grown in ancient Asia Minor. After many adaptations and transformations, the current form of cauliflower emerged as an essential vegetable in Turkey and Italy around 600 BCE. In the mid-sixteenth century, it became popular in European countries. Cauliflower cultivation in the United States began in the 20th century; today California is the largest cauliflower-growing state in the country. Worldwide, China is the largest producer followed closely by India; together these two countries produce about 75% of the world’s cauliflower!  Cauliflower is also grown in Mexico, Ecuador and Europe.    Over the last ten years, cauliflower and broccoli production has been on the rise. In fact, between 2000 and 2009 cauliflower and broccoli production worldwide has grown 33%!

All of which indicates a growing demand for cauliflower. It is not surprising, considering the nutritional punch packed by the cauliflower. It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9), omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. Vitamin C and manganese are valuable antioxidants which protect the body from free radical damage and oxidative stress. Vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties which reduce the risks of disease such as arthritis, certain bowel disorders, cancers and cardiovascular disease. One cup of boiled cauliflower provides approximately 3.35 g of fiber, effectively helping in digestion.

Top chefs and culinary experts around the country are predicting that cauliflower will be big news this year.  The Huffington Post, Metro News and The Daily Meal are spotlighting this humble vegetable as the most ‘happening’ item on restaurant menus this year. One of the reasons for the cauliflower’s popularity is its versatility – it lends well to baking, sautéing, boiling, steaming and mashing.

Steamed and battered cauliflower fritters, cauliflower soup, roasted cauliflower, a casserole of cauliflower and other winter vegetables, or plump florets mixed with breadcrumbs and baked with your favorite cheese topping – take your pick!  You will have a nourishing, appetizing and satisfying dish to enjoy.

Across USA, chefs are experimenting with cauliflower in unusual ways, such as in taco fillings, pizza bases, tarts and pies. This hitherto unassuming vegetable may finally be getting its day in the sun! 

For all your cauliflower needs, contact Noon International for the tastiest cauliflower available!


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