Food Market brings news, talk and insight into the food business, from farms to supermarkets to restaurants. Reporters Mike Hughlett and Tom Meersman delve into the work of Minnesota’s food companies and issues such as food safety and labeling.

Yoplait cups get fashion designer treatment

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: January 27, 2015 - 11:36 AM

General Mills this week unveiled the “Yoplait Signature Collection,” six limited-edition yogurt cups with a graphic motif inspired by dresses from designer Christopher Straub.

The six designer cups are  available through the end of February only at Target stores nationally,  making the “collection” an all Twin Cities affair. Target and General Mills, of course are based here.

Straub is a Twin Cities designer who has been a contestant on “Project Runway,” a reality TV show. He’s known for his “out-of-the-box stylistic creations that evoke fantasy and whimsy,” according to Taste of General Mills, a company blog.

Three Yoplait Original flavors sport the designer labels -- Harvest Peach, Orange Crème and Strawberry – as do three Yoplait Light flavors: Blueberry Patch, Key Lime Pie and Strawberries ‘N Bananas.

Yoplait is taking its Signature Collection to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in New York City on February 13. An event will showcase the cup designs alongside the dresses and sketches that inspired them.

Also at the soiree: Two gowns created by Straub using Yoplait cups and lids.

Food safety tips

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: January 23, 2015 - 2:30 PM

Some people think that special fruit and vegetable washes are superior to tap water, but a new article in Modern Farmer magazine cites research from the University of Maine that regular water is just as effective in cleaning produce.

The article, “7 Myths About Washing Your Produce,” also refutes the idea that organic foods don’t need to be cleaned.  Not true, says the author, since both organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables can be contaminated in transit or by handling in stores.

How about pre-washed or triple-washed lettuce?  It is safe to eat without additional rinsing, according to the article.  But it’s advisable to wash fruits and vegetables that need to be peeled, since bacteria on the outside can be transferred to the inside during the peeling process.

To see the article - which includes other tips such as what to do about mold - go to: http://modernfarmer.com/category/food/

Meatpacking workers and safety

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: January 21, 2015 - 4:05 PM

Minnesota regulators need to do a better job of targeting meatpacking companies for inspections, according to a report issued Wednesday. A legislative auditor’s study concluded that the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) does not have a complete list of all meatpacking plants that it checks for worker safety.

More than 12,000 Minnesota workers slaughter and process turkeys, hogs and cattle at the plants. Many jobs involve intense physical labor and repetitive work on a production line.

Like their counterparts in other states, the workers face higher injury rates than other manufacturing employees. Meatpacking injuries have declined nationally in recent years, the report said, but the state still inspects the industry more frequently than other businesses because of the risks.

The meatpacking plants generally have high worker turnover and employ large numbers of immigrant workers, according to the report. Some plants routinely experience turnover rates over 40 percent, it said, and the constant training of new workers creates safety challenges.

Nielsen: Global consumers partial to natural, GMO-free foods

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: January 20, 2015 - 12:57 PM

Asked what health attributes are very important when buying food, consumers in a global survey by Nielsen ranked “all-natural” and “GMO-free” at the top.

Nielsen, a market researcher, polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to gauge healthy eating trends, releasing the results Tuesday.

Consumers were asked to rate 27 “health attributes” of food from “very important” to “not important” in their purchase decisions.

The top two, each considered very important by 43 percent of global respondents, were foods with all natural ingredients and foods without ingredients containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Both categories of food are controversial, though. While natural is commonly used in food labeling, there is no actual regulatory definition, at least in the United States. Thus, critics say “natural” can be nothing more than a marketing term.

Corn, soybeans, beet sugar and canola are common food ingredients often grown from GMO seeds. The scientific consensus and regulatory opinion – at least in the U.S. – is that GMOs are safe. But there’s a growing mistrust of GMOs among consumers.

North America has historically been more comfortable with GMOs than the rest of the world, a fact borne out by Nielsen. On this continent, only 32 percent of consumers considered GMO-free as a very important health attribute, compared to 47 percent in Europe and 46 percent in Latin America.

Crops for modest acreage

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: January 15, 2015 - 12:13 PM

Want to grow specialty crops such as grapes, baby ginger, hops, sweet potatoes, berries or cultivated mushrooms?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has produced a series of 12 audio tapes on interesting enterprises for Minnesota farms or hobby farms.

Each 60-second spotlight profiles a Minnesota grower who produces non-traditional crops. Topics also include processes such as growing flowers, extending the growing season, adding value to produce with pickling and preserving, and producing honey.

A website that’s part of the project offers links to longer interviews and more information about each crop or topic.

The project was produced with block grant funds from the USDA specialty crop program.

For more information, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/spotlight

Cargill: Plastic found in Japan McNuggets didn't come from us

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: January 14, 2015 - 10:59 AM

After an “exhaustive investigation,” Cargill said Wednesday that a piece of plastic recently found in an order of McNuggets in northern Japan didn’t originate from its Thailand chicken processing operation.

Both Cargill and McDonald’s Japan apologized last week after a piece of blue plastic about 1 ½ inches long popped up in a customer’s McNuggets in Misawa, Japan.

Cargill is a big supplier to McDonald’s worldwide, and the Golden Arches is a major customer for the Minnetonka-based agribusiness giant.

Cargill’s investigation included “chemical analysis, microscopic third party-lab analysis and a step-by-step search across Cargill’s entire production facility,” the company said

“We are very confident that the plastic film in the nugget occurred outside of our production plant,” Chuck Warta, president of Cargill Meats Thailand, said in a press statement.

McDonald’s Japan, in a separate statement Wednesday, confirmed the results of Cargill’s investigation. But the company said the possibility of the plastic entering the McNuggets during food preparation was low, and it was therefore unable to determine the object’s origin, Reuters reported.

A second piece of plastic was found in McNuggets at a Tokyo McDonald’s, Bloomberg News reported last week. Cargill couldn’t investigate that reported incident because it could not obtain the plastic to analyze it, Cargill spokeswoman Lori Johnson told the Star Tribune.

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