( Brooke Park )

The fresh produce industry continues to stress worker safety during the pandemic, while helping consumers eat healthfully during the COVID-19 crisis.

Here are some recent news items related to the pandemic.

B&W Quality Growers

B&W Quality Growers, Fellsmere, Fla., is reminding consumers who are seeking immunity-boosting foods that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given a thumbs-up to watercress.

The CDC ranked watercress at the top of it Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables list of nutrient-dense foods.

“Self-care has become so important these days, and what better way to take care of you and your family than to feed them the most nutritionally-dense food on the planet,” Mark DeLeo, CEO of B&W Quality Growers, said in a news release. “Not only is watercress packed with vitamins and minerals, it is deliciously versatile enough for chefs to create memorable takeout dishes and home cooks to spice up family favorites.”

The company touts the versatility and “peppery crunch” of watercress leaves, which can be used in salads, smoothies, appetizers and more.

B&W has partnered with chefs on recipes that can be made in less than 30 minutes. 

Cal/OSHA

Cal/OSHA, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, has developed guidance and resources for employers and workers to protect against COVID-19.

The agency recently developed guidance on COVID-19 Infection Prevention in Agriculture, available in multiple languages.

“These are unprecedented and extremely challenging times and we want you to know that Cal/OSHA is a resource that is available to you,” according to a news release.

The documents include:

A fact sheet on Infection Prevention for Agricultural Employers and Employees;

COVID-19 Daily Checklist for Agricultural Employers;

COVID-19 General Checklist for Agricultural Employers;

COVID-19 Worker Protection Video – Infection Prevention for Agricultural Workers; and 

Guidance for facilities that process produce and other foods.

La Dona Fruit

La Dona Fruit, a Colombian exporter of pineapples and other fruit from Latin America, has taken steps to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

The company also exports avocados, limes, mangoes and other tropical fruit, primarily to the United Kingdom and Europe, but it established a U.S. sales desk in Birmingham, Ala., in 2019.

The company exported just one container of fruit to the U.S. in 2019, but plans are to export 850 tons of Colombian limes and 430 tons of pineapples from Panama by the end of the year, according to Oscar Baracaldo, La Dona Fruit’s head of design and customer experience.

“We will reactivate if the market is receptive; we expect to allocate a good portion of our new lots to the U.S. market,” Baracaldo said in an e-mail.

At its pineapple farm in La Chorrera, Panama, the company has increased hygiene and security requirements, according to a news release, with training, taking temperatures, making face masks available.

The company has worked with airlines to maintain steady exports, and is experimenting with modified atmosphere for sea freight options.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Summerland, British Columbia-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits, grower of the genetically engineered non-browning Arctic apples, recently recognized an essential worker with a Mother’s Day giveaway.

Barbara Ortega, a security guard in California, is receiving a 12-month subscription to a month beauty box, according to a news release.

Ortega, who works for a private security company, “protects critical units in the produce industry, safeguarding employees and food sources,” according to the release.

Nominations were made by sending photos via Facebook with the #arcticapplescontest hashtag. Ortega was nominated by her daughter’s future mother-in-law.

“My husband and I avoid going out as much as possible because we both work in essential roles and can’t afford to get sick,” Ortega said in the release. “It will be such a treat to pamper myself at home with this prize.”

Pear Bureau Northwest

The Pear Bureau Northwest is developing promotional strategies to encourage pairing fresh pears with plant-based meat and plant-based proteins.

“Recognizing the interest in plant-based meat amid the scarcity and higher prices in the meat department, we quickly pivoted our strategy by working with influencers to develop recipes with trending alternative meats and plant-based proteins in a nationwide campaign,” Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO, said in a news release.

With more consumers cooking at home and looking for alternative proteins, the pear bureau wanted to give them access to pear recipes focused on plant-based meat and alternative meat substitutes, plant-based dishes and meals easy to cook at home.

“Pears are ideal with meat substitutes and in plant-based dishes, adding complex flavor and nutrients,” Moffitt said in the release.

The initiative includes about twenty influencers in markets around the U.S. and Canada. Pear Bureau Northwest is also using targeted social media advertisements, newsletters and articles to spotlight pear versatility.

“With pears still plentiful in the market, PBNW has remained nimble and innovative throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the release.

The Pear Bureau Northwest expects to continue the pear marketing strategy in the 2020-21 season.

Sid Wainer & Son

Sid Wainer & Son, New Bedford, Mass., is working with the United Way of Greater New Bedford and The Marion Institute’s Southcoast Food Policy Council to distribute boxes of produce.

The company received $250,000 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program to distribute 10,000 of the boxes.

“During these unprecedented times, we have been able to pivot our products and resources that we typically supply restaurants with, to supporting the local community,” Allie Wainer, executive vice president and chief customer officer, said in a news release. “It is important to stay connected as a community and this program helps the community rally around eating well, and being well.”

Michelle Hantman, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater New Bedford, said the program is having an effect on ensuring South Coast families have healthy food.

“These food boxes provide so much more than food, they provide a deeper sense of community and we couldn’t be prouder to be part of this initiative,” Hantman said in the release.

World Packaging Organization

The World Packaging Organization and Informa Markets are partnering with a series of web seminars addressing global trends in packaging and process in the post-pandemic era.

The five seminars, scheduled monthly through October, start on June 24.

“The WPO (World Packaging Organization) is delighted and encouraged to partner with Informa Markets in the joint venture,” WPO president Pierre Pienaar said in a news release. “We will ensure thoughtful and thought-provoking discussions by various packaging and associated leaders in their respective fields. We address and tackle that big question as to what will the packaging landscape present in a post Covid19 world and how will it affect each one of us in a society where we have become so reliant on packaging.”

The seminars start at 3 a.m. Eastern, but will be available “on demand,” according to the release. Registration for the first seminar is available; others will be posted later.

The web seminars are:

  • June 24: Impact and Challenges of COVID on the packaging industry;
  • July 22: The role of packaging in Food Safety & Food Integrity;
  • Aug. 19: Sustainable Packaging and Global Recycling Targets
  • Sept. 23: The role of packaging Food Waste and Food Insecurity
  • Oct. 21: Global Supply Chains

Kari Slagel contributed to this article.

To see more COVID-19 related news, go to The Packer's pandemic landing page.

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