By Bernard Pacyniak
Editor-in-Chief
Candy Industry
pacyniakb@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: U.S./Canadian equivalency signing first step toward global organic accord

Call it a victory for common sense. Last week at the Organic Trade Association (OTA)’s All Things Organic show in Chicago, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan presided over the signing of an organic equivalency agreement between the U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Essentially, under the agreement, products certified by either the USDA or the CFIA will be able to cross their respective borders without taking their shoes off, I mean their certifications. The accord, which follows a review by both nations of the other’s organic certification program, says that products deemed organic in the United States can be sold in Canada as such and vice versa.

 “This is the first step toward global harmonization of organic standards and marks a historic moment for the organic community,” the Deputy Agriculture Secretary told a standing-room audience at McCormick Place’s Lakeview Center.

Come July 1, certified organic proaducts can continue to move freely across the United States and Canada, provided they bear the new Canada Organic Biologique label or the USDA Organic seal.

“The production of organic foods is a vibrant opportunity for American agriculture, and by agreeing on a common set of organic principles with Canada, we are expanding market opportunities for our producers to sell their products abroad,” Merrigan said. 

Chalk up one for the wonks in Washington and Ottawa. They got this one right. Instead of opting to demand double certification, the two agencies determined there was more commonality than irregularity.

Consider some of these facts: Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and it’s the largest estimated export market for U.S. organic products. According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural office in Ottawa, more than 80% of Canada’s organic consumption comes from imports, 75% of those coming from the United States. Estimates of the total market for organic products in Canada range between $2.1 and $2.6 billion. U.S. sales of organic food products reached $24.6 billion in 2008.

So what’s the next step? Can we introduce equivalency on a global scale? Seems that’s going to be a lot trickier than simply having the U.S. and Canadian national anthems sung at hockey games.

For starters, the United States and Canada food cultures – while still distinctive – are similar. Getting the USDA’s National Organic Program standards to pass muster with the European Union’s or Japan’s Japanese Agricultural standards has and will continue to be more challenging.

That doesn’t mean agencies and governments haven’t been trying. Everyone recognizes the benefits derived from simplifying trade: more growth.

Efforts date back to the beginning of this century. The first formal get-together took place in Nuremberg, Germany, in 2002, where the Conference on International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture was held. The conference sowed the seeds for establishing a task force, which surfaced in 2003 as the International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalency in Organic Agriculture (ITF).

After six years, ITF came up with two practical tools, launched late last year, aimed at easing trade barriers in organic agricultural products.

The first, Equitool, help decision-makers assess whether an organic production and processing standard applicable in one region of the world is equivalent – that is, not identical, but equally valid – to another organic standard. This tool facilitates trade while safeguarding organic production according to local socio-economic and agro-ecological conditions.

The second tool, IROCB (International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies) is a minimum set of performance requirements for organic certification bodies that will enable import of products certified under foreign control systems.

It’s unclear how effective these will be in facilitating global equivalency. Nevertheless, it’s a start. In the interim, let’s give a loud hockey cheer to all those in Canada and the United States that delivered organic equivalency … “They scored!”


American Association of Candy Technologists to host national technical seminar

Sept. 21-Sept. 23, Marriott’s Lincolnshire Resort in Lincolnshire, Ill., will play host to the American Association of Candy Technologist’s 2009 National Technical Seminar, during which attendees will learn about everything from volatile liquids to panning technology to new product development. Other session topics include compound coatings, food safety and environmentalism, regulations and confectionery labeling.

The seminar will include an optional tour of the Barry Callebaut Academy in Chicago on Monday, Sept. 21, featuring hands-on demonstrations in their Innovation Center. Suppliers’ tables also are available at the event for $115 each. Last, but not least, an awards banquet will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

For more information, call 1-920-295-6969, e-mail aactinfo@gomc.com or visit www.aactcandy.org.

Crispy Green adds new variety of fruit snacks

Fairfield, N.J.-based Crispy Green has added Crispy Bananas to its line of Crispy Green Crispy Fruit. The 100% freeze-dried banana slices contain no added sugar, preservatives, colors, flavors, fat or cholesterol, and have been certified kosher parve by Shatz Kosher Services. They also are peanut/tree nut-, dairy- and gluten-free. A single serving (.53 oz.) of the product offers 2 g. of dietary fiber and 13 g. of carbohydrates.

Crispy Bananas come in moisture-free, single-serve packages as well as Grab & Go 6-packs. They can be eaten alone or enjoyed in hot cereal, muffins, banana bread, scones and cookies. Other varieties in the Crispy Green Crispy Fruit line are Crispy Apples, Crispy Pears and Crispy Pineapples.

For more information, visit www.crispygreen.com.

NSF and ASN announce Smart Choices food package-labeling program

NSF International and the American Society for Nutrition have announced their joint roles in administering a new nutritional front-of-package labeling initiative called the Smart Choices Program, which will provide manufacturers and retailers with a reliable front-of-pack icon and calorie information to help consumers recognize smarter food and beverage products.

The goal of the program is to bring consistency and clarity to the U.S. marketplace, and to clear up consumer confusion. NSF and ASN will act as program administrators, providing both scientific and technical expertise to a board of directors made up of non-profit, scientific and industry representatives.

To qualify for the Smart Choices Program, all products must meet standards for specific “nutrients to limit” (total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium), and, for most categories, products also must meet criteria for positive attributes – “nutrients to encourage” (calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E) or “food groups to encourage” (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy). Specific qualifying criteria have been developed for 19 product categories.

Companies that already have signed up for the program include ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, SunMaid and Unilever.

For more information, visit www.nsf.org or www.nutrition.org, or send an e-mail.

Honibe Honey Drops enter Whole Foods, are named to top 10 list

Honibe Honey Drops now will be sold in Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and North Nevada, according to their maker, Island Abbey Foods Ltd. of Montague, PE, Canada.

As company president John Rowe notes, “These regions are home to many coffee and tea lovers, and we are pleased to now be able to offer these consumers the world’s first pure honey alternative to the sugar cube. Whole Foods Markets are an excellent partner to distribute our Honey Drops, as they are a premier natural and organic supermarket.”

In other news, Honibe Honey Drops have been named a Top 10 Food and Beverage Idea for 2009 by Springwise, which “searches the globe to identify the world’s most promising business ventures, ideas and concepts that are ready for regional and international growth.” For more information, visit www.springwise.com.

For more information, visit Honibe Honey Drops.

Editor’s Note: Honibe Honey Drops were featured in the April 29 edition of sweet & healthy.


sweet of the week: Flax Your Body's Flax SuperSnax

Now consumers can get some flavor with their flax. Grass Valley, Calif.-based Flax Your Body has launched new Flax SuperSnax flavored, roasted flax seeds in four flavors: Chocolate, Sweet Cinnamon, Premium Garlic and Mediterranean. An alternative to raw milled flax seed, the product can be used as a gourmet food topper or as a snack straight from the bottle. All-natural Flax SuperSnax is preservative-free and contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6), magnesium, zinc, dietary fiber, linolenic acid, protein and lignans. According to company literature, flax has many health benefits. For example, it can help to reduce cholesterol, help to control high blood pressure and blood sugar, help to control skin conditions and assist in the control of depression. A 4-oz. bottle of Flax SuperSnax has a suggested retail price of $3.99. For more information, visit the Flax SuperSnax site.