New Campaign Calls for More Investment in Fruit and Vegetable Production to Stave Off Malnutrition

A quaint but antiquated way to transport fresh produce
A quaint but antiquated way to transport fresh produce. Better systems are needed to increase the supply of fruits and vegetables and alleviate malnutrition globally according to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is launching a new campaign to promote the consumption and availability of healthy foods on a global basis to help alleviate malnutrition. Hats off to them for recognizing that an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption is key in this goal.

In the western developed world small farms and community gardens are increasing and the availability of healthy and inexpensive produce has never been better. But in the developing world the trend is urbanization which is causing a decrease in the supply of fruits and vegetables in these areas as people move from small towns to the cities. The lack of fresh produce is not good for the overall health of the planet’s population.

Most of the world’s diet is dominated by grains–rice, wheat and corn. Governments and industry after World War II focused on ensuring a plenteous supply of these high caloric foods. In their blog post announcing this new campaign the Chicago Council stated that after the war, “To make these grains more predictably abundant, safe, and affordable, governments and businesses invested heavily in research, production, processing, and transportation systems for these crops.” That is one of the reasons why grains dominate our food supply today.

They went on to say that, “Today, as our understanding of nutrition continues to evolve, it’s clear that the food system needs to make the same kind of investments in fruit and vegetable production as well.”

One of the major challenges, growers, packers, shippers and retailers face with fruits and vegetables is major percentage of spoilage along the distribution path post harvest. The United Nations estimates that, depending on where the produce is grown and shipped, anywhere from 30-50% of fresh fruits and vegetables are lost due to spoilage in the supply chain.

According to the Chicago Council, the total global market for fruits and vegetables is expected to rise to $2.3 trillion by 2017. That should be plenty of incentive for governments and everyone in the supply chain to join this worthy campaign.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs Healthy Food for a Healthy World

New Campaign Calls for More Investment in Fruit and Vegetable Production to Stave Off Malnutrition

Most Exotic Fruit…Well…Frankly, Isn’t!

Exotic Fruit
Exotic fruit? Depends on where you stand.

What is an exotic fruit? Your answer to that would depend on where you live. In North America and Europe, mangos are considered exotic, but in India, they are as commonplace as apples on those two continents. At Produce Buzz we like to think globally, but since we are in the good ol’ USA, we and the rest of the northern hemisphere consider tropical fruits like mangos, pineapples, papayas and passion fruit as exotics. But just because a fruit hails from the tropics or travels a long way to our table, it is not guaranteed permanent exotic status. The banana and kiwifruit have both lost their exotic fame because they are now so plentiful on western-world grocery store shelves.

Speaking this week in Berlin at Fruit Logistica, the largest trade show for fresh produce, Daphne van Doorn, Policy Advisor Communications and Agriculture at the Brussels-based European Fresh Produce Association Freshfel, said global consumption for exotic fruit is on the rise. China and India account for 38% of the global production of exotic fruit, but they consume most of it domestically rather than exporting. According to Ms. van Doorn, mangos are the clear leader of global exotic fruit production. They account for 58% of the 102 million tonnes of exotic fruit produced globally every year, followed by pineapples at 22%. But less than 10% of this volume, just 8.7 million tonnes, made it onto the global market. So 90% of “exotic” fruit is consumed in the countries where it is grown and most likely not considered “exotic!” So is a mango only exotic if it emigrates?

Most Exotic Fruit…Well…Frankly, Isn’t!

Fresh or Frozen Vegetables? Which are Better for You?

Global Demand for Frozen Fruit and Vegetables Is Growing. But Are They As Healthy As Fresh?

Peas-in-IcecubesThe rise in popularity of homemade fruit smoothies and juicing is just one of the factors driving a substantial increase in consumption of frozen fruit and vegetables. A report released this week by the market research firm Global Industry Analysts (GIA) predicts steady growth in frozen produce sales and forecasts that by 2020, over 28 million tons will be sold annually.

Frozen smoothies in the blender was not the primary reason according to the report. The convenience factor of frozen vegetables was one of the major reasons the scholars identified. With people’s lives increasingly more busy and the rise of two-income households everywhere, especially in the developing world (Asia had the highest rise in frozen consumption as their economies have boomed), consumers find that frozen vegetables help them save time compared with buying and preparing fresh vegetables.

While we still think fresh is best, it’s a relief to know that these households are not choosing fast-food restaurants and less healthy options to solve their mealtime pressures. And that is attributable to another reason for the rise in popularity of frozen cited by the report. Consumers everywhere are increasingly looking for healthier options in their daily meals and they have been convinced that new freezing technologies are making frozen vegetables as good or perhaps even better than fresh. But is that so? Haven’t we always been taught that fresh is better than frozen when it comes to fruits and vegetables?

Well, if one could eat fresh fruit and vegetables right off the tree or vine, there would be no doubt they are superior to being frozen. The problem is that the vast majority of people don’t have that luxury or ability. Some of us during the summer months with our home gardens and those in warmer climes that can grow year round, can keep daily fresh vegetables coming straight from the plant to the dinner plate. But that is increasingly rare all around the world as developing nations ramp up into industrialization and urbanization.

And since more and more of us have to rely on our produce coming from some distance away, that delay from farm to table may be costing us something that frozen can give back. Studies have shown that fresh fruit and vegetables lose some of their nutritional value during transportation and storage, regardless if they are stored at proper temperatures during the process. And it may be quite a bit more than we thought. In contrast, new freezing methods, many of which are done very quickly after harvesting, can help frozen vegetables retain more of their nutrients until they are prepared and eaten.

Several studies have been done over the past half-century to compare the nutritional value of fresh versus frozen vegetables, but the most recent and comprehensive was one done at the  University of California at Davis in 2007. In that study, which also compared canned vegetables with fresh and frozen, fresh generally won the battle in the short term—that is if they are eaten very soon after harvest. But surprisingly, frozen vegetables moved ahead of fresh after longer storage times because the freezing process reduced nutrient loss.

In the Conclusion of the report the researchers said, “Losses of nutrients during fresh storage may be more substantial than consumers realize. Depending on the commodity, freezing and canning processes may preserve nutrient value. Fruits and vegetables are typically over 90% water and, once they are harvested, begin to undergo higher rates of respiration, resulting in moisture loss, quality deterioration and potential microbial spoilage.”

Perhaps not so surprisingly, canned vegetables lost on all fronts except one. The process of canning is much more heat and pressure intensive and causes a great drop in nutrients during that process. But once put in the can these vegetables remained more stable as far as nutrient loss over a much longer time than either fresh or frozen.

According to the UC Davis study, “The initial thermal treatment of processed products can cause loss of water-soluble and oxygen-labile nutrients such as vitamin C and the B vitamins. However, these nutrients are relatively stable during subsequent canned storage owing to the lack of oxygen. Frozen products lose fewer nutrients initially because of the short heating time in blanching, but they lose more nutrients during storage owing to oxidation.”

Here at Produce Buzz, we are FRESH fruit and veggie fans. We think that fresh is best on many levels, primarily because of taste and texture. But frozen and canned produce are great options to supplement your 5-a-day efforts. It’s better than skipping your veggies all together. And the new freezing technologies are greatly improving the nutritional benefit of these time savers.

Many of us remember when freezing and canning vegetables from the garden was an annual ritual. But as families became much busier and more affluent, the past 50 years have seen a dramatic decline in the use of homemade storage methods. However, with the rise in popularity of farmers markets and an increased push toward eating foods closer to their source, many people are experimenting with freezing and canning their own veggies that they find at these markets. This is especially popular in climates where farmers markets can only be seasonal. There is also a big movement for people to “grow their own” even if they live in very small homes or apartments with no yard space. So freezing and canning are starting to make a come back and frozen vegetables are shedding their “not-as-healthy” image. The big global food companies, many of which took part in the GIA study on frozen veggies, are seeing this is as a market opportunity and pushing forward to develop more and better ways to lock in your nutrients in those freezer bags.

Our advice is to keep eating fresh when you can get it and eat it soon after harvesting. But don’t miss out on your veggies because you think that frozen bag of peas might not be giving you all the nutrition that your grandmother’s garden variety did. It might just be better than the fresh ones on the store shelf, especially if they have come from the other side of the world and have been there for awhile.

GIA Report on Global Demand for Frozen Vegetables
University of California at Davis Study on Fresh, Frozen and Canned Vegetable Nutrition

Fresh or Frozen Vegetables? Which are Better for You?

Hey Texans! Some Oklahomans think the watermelon is a vegetable. Insert your Okie joke now but don’t expect the last laugh.

Sorry baby! It's not a vegetable any more.
Sorry baby! It’s not a vegetable any more.

A big political battle is growing in Oklahoma. Seven years ago the state made the watermelon it’s official state “vegetable.” That’s right, the official vegetable–not the official fruit. This controversy is not like the long-standing debates about the fruit or veggie status of the tomato or the avocado. We all understand why there might be some confusion on those more savory foods. But who in their right mind would call a watermelon a vegetable? Everyone knows it’s a fruit, right? Apparently everyone except for some fruit-ignorant Okies!

Some Oklahoma lawmakers just can’t accept the watermelon as a vegetable and they are going to do something about it. A new bill was introduced this week in the Oklahoma legislature to repeal that official designation. After all, Oklahoma’s produce-recognition reputation is on the line here. We can already hear the jokes roaring up from Texas.

A savory watermelon-tomato salad on the menu at the Michelin 3-star Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris. Is it a “fruit salad?”

But before you laugh too hard at the Okies, realize that the NWA (What?! You don’t know what the NWA is? It’s the National Watermelon Association!) says that since watermelons grow on vines, technically they can be considered a fruit or a vegetable. And according to the Watermelon Board, the Latin name for watermelon is Citrullus Lanatus of the botanical family Curcurbitaceae, which makes it a cousin to cucumbers and squash. And if you have been in any five-star restaurants during the summer months, you may have noticed some pretty savory watermelon soups, salsas and gazpachos on the menu. So now perhaps you don’t feel so arrogant about your fruit and vegetable classification intelligence.

Yet this political wrangling might be about more than just horticulture. You see, official state designations are often about money. Joe Dorman, the retired Oklahoma legislator who co-authored the bill in 2007 to grant the watermelon its special status, says that he wanted the bill to help his district’s economy. His region grows a lot of watermelons and also has a festival every year celebrating the sweet and juicy fruit…uh…veggie…? He feels if the designation is taken away the people of his district will be adversely affected.

So why didn’t Dorman try to get the watermelon designated as the official “fruit” of Oklahoma? Because that honor has already been bestowed on the strawberry. And there’s no way anyone in Oklahoma is going to try to say a strawberry is a vegetable. That would be just too much fodder for the Okie jokes.

Not surprisingly, there are not many states that have “official vegetables.” According the Website, there are only 13 states that have put forth the effort to identify their states with vegetables. Want to guess which vegetable has been given the honor the most times? You probably won’t be right, so we will just tell you.

The Onion!

Yes the veggie that you can never finish peeling, makes you cry, and sends your friends away after you eat them is the king of official-vegetable-dom. Why you ask? Because the onion is big business in the states that have designated them. Georgia, Washington, Texas and Utah all have famous sweet onions that people from all over the country will seek out enthusiastically and pay a premium to have on the dinner plate.

The potato is a close second. Idaho, of course, you have already guessed, but Louisiana and North Carolina have also designated a potato as their favorite vegetable, albeit a sweet potato.

In New Mexico they couldn’t make up their minds so they chose both the chile and the pinto bean. But we are pretty sure that these are mandated as inseparable in New Mexican cuisine, so we remain understanding.

If the Oklahoma fruit versus vegetable debate proves to be contagious, Arkansas might have a problem soon. They have determined that a specific variety of tomato is their official vegetable. Comedians in Missouri get your jokes ready.

State may spit out watermelon’s status
Official State vegetables

Hey Texans! Some Oklahomans think the watermelon is a vegetable. Insert your Okie joke now but don’t expect the last laugh.

Who Can Eat Five A Day?

5 a dayFor almost a quarter of a century fresh produce advocates, foundations for disease prevention and government health agencies in the U.S. have pushed the message that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is optimal for maintaining and improving one’s health. But a new survey released at the very end of 2014 shows that only about 15% of Americans eat at least five fruits and veggies a day. The poll was sponsored by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and compared Hispanic health issues with those of Whites and “Non-Hispanic Blacks.” One of the health questions was, “On average, how many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat each day?”

The sampling was pretty evenly split between the three ethnic groups, but showed that Hispanics were the least likely to attain the five-a-day goal (only 7%). Whites were the most successful at meeting the number but even among them only 18% said they did. After 20-plus years of promoting the idea, have the experts conceded the goal is unrealistic?

In 1991 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) organized a national campaign in the United States to promote the Five-a-Day slogan. It gained a lot of exposure and press, and became a message with “household recognition.” If you were a fan of the very popular 1990s sitcom Seinfeld you may have noticed in several episodes the Five-a-Day logo posted on a window of the produce market where Jerry Seinfeld and his friends shopped for their veggies. How effective that very subliminal exposure was for the campaign can certainly be debated, but the fact that the PBH got the creators of the show to place it on screen was a big coup and showed how widespread the message became.

In the early 2000s, The World Health Organization (WHO) got on board and has since prompted several other major countries to adopt the Five-a-Day message. They continue to expand it around the world.

But In 2007 PBH re-launched its effort to promote more consumption of produce by rebranding the Five-a-Day campaign to “Fruits and Veggies—More Matters.” From then on the message has been “Half your plate” instead of “Five a Day.” Maybe half a plate is more attainable and easier for people to assess than five a day? If so, perhaps the next poll conducted will make that the question, and we will see the results.

We applaud the valiant efforts of PBH and the team at Fruits and Veggies More Matters. It’s important work and we are confident it has made a difference in the lives of many. Stay tuned to the Produce Buzz blog for more on this topic. We will be speaking with the experts to highlight their efforts to get more people eating more fresh produce.

Produce for Better Health Foundation
Fruit and Veggies – More Matters
World Health Organization’s Promotion of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Who Can Eat Five A Day?

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Who’s to say which is right for fruit?

PB-heirloom_tomatoesAnyone who has grown up on a fruit or vegetable farm knows that some of the best tasting produce can be among the most deformed and ugly-looking specimens in the harvest basket. This past year, Europe relaxed its rules about shapes and sizes of produce that could be marketed to consumers. The primary goal was to reduce waste in fruits and vegetables that didn’t meet the standards. As a result, one large French supermarket chain launched a clever and funny advertising campaign to announce that they were going to offer—at substantial discounts (30%)—fruit and vegetables that weren’t as pretty as those they normally stocked. They humorously dubbed them “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.” One of the big selling points to consumers was that, by buying the “ugly,” the supposed waste would be minimized.

The reality, however,  is that most misshapen produce is not typically wasted anyway. Smart farmers have always found markets for their less desirable-looking products, whether through canning, juicing or other food processing outlets. But educating consumers’ minds about what makes a good tasting and nutritious piece of fruit is a good thing, and ideally will increase profits for those hard-working farmers who know that looks are not the first indicator of value.

The British newspaper, The Guardian, reported today that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is going to lead the way to get the word out. Hats off to this effort, even though the claims of waste on rejected produce are perhaps overstated. The Guardian article claims that an estimated 20–40% of produce shipped to retailers in the UK is rejected because of certain standards. The fact that is rejected does not mean the farmers dumped the shipments in the rubbish bin. It most likely went somewhere to feed someone or something (a large percentage of lower-standard fruits and vegetables go to animal feed processors).

But, like retailers, consumers also need to understand that ugly doesn’t mean bad, and, in fact, ugly can mean downright good. The success of the European effort to sell veggie misfits will depend on precisely that change of mind. Just because the supermarket produce buyer puts it on the shelf doesn’t mean that the end-user won’t reject these specimens just as the buyers once did.

The growing popularity of heirloom fruits and vegetables is an encouraging trend, and produce shoppers are learning this lesson. Many older varieties looked nothing like their plastic-looking (and often plastic-tasting) hybridized descendants, which sit on the shelves of grocery stores today. The increased availability of the ancestor strains has shown a lot of savvy foodies that what was once thought to be ugly can now be recognized as very beautiful, and what was once thought to be beautiful may actually be tasteless—or even worse. You might not fully understand this if you have never tasted a grotesquely shaped but lusciously sweet Cherokee Purple tomato fresh off the vine. Take the time to do so and you will begin to comprehend the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly—at least when it comes to fruit.

Watch the funny Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Ad from French Supermarket Intermarché
Jamie Oliver leads drive to buy misshapen fruit and vegetables
Produce Buzz on Facebook

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Who’s to say which is right for fruit?

Do you love, I mean REALLY LOVE, fresh fruit and vegetables?!

Are you passionate about the miraculous variety of fresh fruit and vegetables that our wonderful planet serves up to us? Is a trip to the farmer’s market or the produce aisle of your local grocery an event to which you eagerly await? Do you love turning the soil, planting a seed and nurturing it to see it robustly sprout into your favorite garden vegetable?

Then this is the place for you! Welcome to Produce Buzz, a passionate online community of people who understand the beauty and life-giving qualities of fresh produce.

Stay tuned to this blog and our Website as our community grows and flourishes. A place where you will learn so much about all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables–from the experts who grow and ship them to the small but profoundly experienced back-yard vegetable gardeners. You will find recipes and serving ideas, photos and videos and loads of nutritional information about our veggie friends. And you can share your advice, tips, farmers market finds and garden feats with all the other produce fanatics who reside here.

Thanks for visiting our site and come back soon to learn from and contribute to what you see here.

Do you love, I mean REALLY LOVE, fresh fruit and vegetables?!