News Watch

WHOLE FOODS ATTEMPTS CHEESY WORLD RECORD Whole Foods Market stores this weekend attempted a Guinness World Record for Most Parmigiano Reggiano Wheels Ever Cracked at the same time, on April 12 at 3 p.m. EST. Cheesemongers throughout the company's network of stores were set to demonstrate the traditional method of breaking into 24-month-aged wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano using official


AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market stores this weekend attempted a Guinness World Record for “Most Parmigiano Reggiano Wheels Ever Cracked” at the same time, on April 12 at 3 p.m. EST. Cheesemongers throughout the company's network of stores were set to demonstrate the traditional method of breaking into 24-month-aged wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano using official tools from Italy's Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano. The entire process of carving into and portioning each 85-pound wheel took approximately half an hour and happened simultaneously at all 270 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Each year, Whole Foods' cheese buyers visit the region in Italy where Parmigiano Reggiano is produced, and hand-select wheels based on the best flavor profiles. “We choose the richest cheese made from the best spring and fall milk. Then our chosen wheels are carefully aged and hand-tended for a full two years to bring out the desirable ‘pleasant fireworks’ on the tongue,” Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market, said in a release. “In a world of mass-produced food products, we are proud to offer a true handcrafted work of art.” Pairing ideas, along with recipes, were available at all Whole Foods stores during the ceremony on April 12. Wines from Italy will also be featured in selected stores during the month of April. Results of the record attempt were not available at press time.


SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and City Council President Richard Conlin have proposed a ban on all foam containers used in foodservice establishments, as well as a 20-cent-per-bag “green fee” on all disposable paper and plastic shopping bags used in the city's supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores. If adopted, the measure would take effect Jan. 1, 2009. In addition, by July 1, 2010, all foodservice establishments using disposable plastic or plastic-coated paper products would be required to switch to compostable packaging or packaging that is locally recyclable. “The answer to the question ‘paper or plastic’ is neither — both harm the environment,” Nickels said in a release. “The best way to handle a ton of waste is not to create it. This proposal is all about forming new habits. Taking a reusable bag to grocery stores and pharmacies is a simple thing that has an enormous impact.” To offset administrative costs, retailers grossing less than $1 million in revenue annually would be allowed to keep the entire 20-cent-per-bag fee, while retailers making more than $1 million would collect 5 cents from every bag. At least one area retailer was sincerely excited about the proposal. “Seattle is the first city to take this approach to changing consumer behavior from using throwaway bags to reusable ones,” Diana Crane, communications manager for PCC Natural Markets, told SN in an e-mail. “Lots of details to work out … but it's a big step in the right direction. Hopefully, the rest of the country will follow Seattle's lead.”


WASHINGTON — The United Fresh Produce Association last week announced the appointment of Claudia Wenzing as its new vice president of business development, effective April 28. “Claudia is known throughout the produce industry for her passion, motivation and commitment,” United Fresh president Tom Stenzel said in a release. “We are thrilled that Claudia has chosen as her next career step to pursue a mutual vision to develop new programs, services and tools to help our member companies and the industry overall enhance their long-term sales and profitability,” Stenzel said. Wenzing was formerly a senior staff member of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Newark, Del. United Fresh Chairman Emanuel Lazopoulos said in a statement that the association is committed to continuing its support of PBH and ensuring a positive transition for both organizations.


MINNEAPOLIS — Shoppers at Lunds and Byerly's stores here are enjoying a taste of Italian delicacies, including an opportunity to sample and purchase imported summer truffles, during the chain's “Ciao, Italia!” promotion through April 16. As part of the event, the Byerly's in St. Louis Park hosted a series of cooking classes on Thursday and Friday last week, including “Italy in Minnesooota,” where attendees learned to cook Italian cuisine using locally produced ingredients, and “Menu — Italian Style,” where they learned to prepare dishes such as Gypsy Pasta Salad, Potato Gnocci and Porcini and Prosciutto Wrapped Truffle Chicken. Shoppers also found numerous Italian foods on special during the first two weeks of April, such as truffle oil, biscotti and a selection of cheeses including Fontina Val d'Aosta, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano Stravecchio. A highlight of the event included opportunities for shoppers to meet truffle importers from Italy and sample their products at select stores on Thursday through Saturday. Lunds and Byerly's customers can also register to win a grand prize trip for two to Italy, sponsored by Partanna Olive Oil.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week said it had no immediate plans to lift its voluntary moratorium on selling meat or dairy products produced from cloned animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled in January that it could not distinguish between food produced by conventionally raised animals and food produced by cloned animals or their offspring. As a result, the FDA presumes the cloned products to be safe. But after that ruling, the USDA asked the cloning industry to prolong a voluntary ban to give the agency time for further review. “We have asked those companies to continue with that voluntary moratorium,” Bruce Knight, USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said at the National Association of Agriculture Journalists conference, adding that biotech companies and suppliers have thus far been “very accepting, very understanding” of the moratorium.


PORTLAND, Ore. — Facing a sudden and unprecedented collapse in Pacific fall-run Chinook salmon from California's Sacramento River, the Pacific Fishery Management Council here has proposed restrictions on recreational and commercial salmon fishing for much of the West Coast, possibly including a complete shutdown of the 2008 season. The council said that more than 775,000 salmon returned to the river to spawn in 2002, but only 88,000 returned last year. Scientists are unsure exactly what caused the collapse, but have cited possibilities including changing ocean temperatures and declining river water quality. The decline is likely to push wild salmon prices higher on the West Coast, although supplies from Alaska are expected to remain stable.


GREENFIELD, Mass. — In an open letter to members last week posted on its website, the Organic Trade Association here said it will continue in its efforts to “help counteract measures proposed in various states that would interfere with organic milk producers' rights to make truthful labeling claims concerning their production practices and consumers' rights to know how the milk they purchase is produced.” In recent weeks, OTA officials have written letters and given testimony to state legislators in Missouri, Ohio and Utah, regarding proposals in those states that would prevent dairy operators from labeling their milk “produced without the use of artificial hormones” or with similar statements. OTA has argued that the laws would unfairly restrict organic farmers from communicating with customers at the state level, in violation of earlier federal guidance on the issue.