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As Food Safety Woes Grip Europe It's Go, Go, Go for Organic Show.

BSE crisis has marked end of old way of farming, according to Germany's federal minister of consumer protection, food and agriculture, who addressed showgoers.

The time is clearly ripe to get organic foods "out of the musli and whole wheat corner." This was the thrust of the speech delivered by Germany's minister of consumer affairs at the opening of the Bio Fach, the world's largest fair devoted to organic products, in Nurnberg.

Visitors to Bio Fach in February were hard put to retain the staid image of health foods that has prevailed for so long. Instead of musli (a concoction of ground raw oats and milk that many Germans had to eat as children) they saw stands loaded with frozen organic ready meals, organic ice cream, organic ham and sausage, organic beer, wine and liqueurs, organic chocolate and the "world's largest organic olive oil bar." There was a noticeable increase in visitors from catering firms and upper bracket food stores.

If there ever was a time to forge this new image, this is it. The minister, Renate Kunast, a member of the environmental Green party, said the "best news of the day" was that the great recent demand for organic foods could not be met in many areas. The main culprit, of course, was the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) scare that has been dominating the headlines in Europe on and off for the past six years. Concern over genetic manipulation also played a role, as did the general emphasis on fitness in recent years.

Anybody who doubts that the time is ripe has only to examine the case of Great Britain, which was chosen as Bio Fach 2001's "Country of the Year." It was the first nation to feel the lash of the present BSE crisis, and since 1996 its market for organic products has been growing at a rate of 40% annually. By contrast, the figure for all of Europe was 25% in the past year.

British farmers were hard put to meet this demand, and 70% of the organic products had to be imported. This provided a tremendous incentive for a switch to organic farming. The land devoted to it was up 125% in area last year alone, which contrasts to 8.6% for Germany and 34.4% for Europe as a whole.

Minister Kunath, together with representatives of the food industry, has set a medium range goal of having 20% of Germany's agricultural land dedicated to organic farming, an aim that she admitted in her speech is "ambitious."

Nobody at Bio Fach, it seemed, would consider the goal impossible, though. Bioland, a large cooperative of organic farmers and a major exhibitor at Nurnberg, used the occasion of Bio Fach to issue an urgent plea for more farmers to come aboard.

For the first time this year, Bio Fach visitors could get nothing but organic foods when they had lunch or entertained customers. Everything at the fair's restaurants, from the soup to the ready meals to the dessert and drinks was produced under the fair's rules. "That's how we underscore Bio Fach's organic frame of mind," said Thomas Domani, manager of Kurt Lilly KG, the firm that operates the restaurants on the Nurnberg fairgrounds.

Bio Fach hosted 1,703 exhibitors this year, up from 1,457 last year. And three-quarters of the exhibitors were foreign. They came from 56 countries, compared to 49 last year. It hardly needs saying that these various countries have very different ideas of just what constitutes an "organic" product, and Bio Fach is playing no small role in contributing to internationally recognized standards. It has its own rules as to who will be permitted to exhibit, and the honor of having been selected for Bio Fach has value in the marketplace.

Minister Kunath's talk covered the range of problems facing the organic food industry. She promised to continue her pursuit of a unified national symbol for organic foods, even though this effort had suffered a major setback only the day before her speech with the collapse of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Okologischer Anbau (see sidebar on opposite page). She also called for a different symbol to designate non-organic foods of particular quality.

Kunath said that the old methods of promoting agriculture will need a working over in view of the organic food wave. And, taking sides on a controversial matter, she added that in order to get the funds for these new challenges, Germany's federal states will have to help the national government by contributing to the costs engendered by the BSE crisis.

The minister admitted that products made to a higher standard were more expensive, but felt also that with increasing demand the price could be held within bounds. Organic products, she noted, are healthier and of higher quality. They are better for the environment and better for the animals. And they make the landscape more attractive, which will make a vacation on the farm a nicer experience.

Still, said Kunath, the best organic products are of no use if they aren't easily available to consumers. Expressing a real hope that recent developments will exert pressure on retailers to allot more space for them, she raised the battle cry: "Into the supermarkets!"

The Bio Fach fair covered the full range of organic products, including medicines, cosmetics, cleaning materials and even clothing. But three quarters of the stands were devoted to food and drink, and frozen foods made their presence felt. There were 43 exhibitors offering frozen products two years ago, while this year there were 53.

Bioland of Mainz (Fax: 49-6131-23979-27), one of the largest cooperatives of organic food farmers and processors, was conspicuously present. It had its own information stand and 33 of its members were also exhibitors.

Frozen food firms firms among the Bioland exhibitors included the ecological baked goods specialist Siegfried Schedel of Staffelstein-Unnersdorf (Fax: 49-9573-31136). It was out with a new range of "Sissos" finger food, made in line with Bioland's processing guidelines. Sissos have a dough jacket with three types of filling: tomato-onion-pepper, spinach-cheese and a sweet one with an apple-vanilla filling. Other frozen baked goods in its extensive line include pastries, pretzels, pizzas and a great variety of breads.

Another Bioland member at the fair was the newly formed BioFreeze of Bremerhaven (Fax: 49-471-74349) with an broad range of organic peas, beans, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, cabbage and other frozen vegetables.

BioFreeze is a wholly owned subsidiary of Frosta, also of Bremerhaven (Fax: 49-471-9736-441), another Bio Fach exhibitor and one of Germany's largest producers of frozen organic foods for retail sale. It offers organic young green beans, young peas, sliced carrots, "summer vegetables" and creamed spinach "Pettys" in portionable 750 gram bags. "Summer vegetables" are a mixture of green beans, carrots, peas and cauliflower, while the "Pettys" are 50-gram, pre-portioned medallions of spinach, prepared and frozen immediately after harvesting. They come 15 to a 750 gram bag. All of Frosta's organic foods bear the name Bioland prominently.

Another major presence at the fair was Demeter of Alsbach-Hahnlein (Fax: 49-6257-63132), likewise a large organic farm cooperative. Among many other things, it produces its own branded frozen products, and used the occasion of Bio Fach to introduce a series of frozen organic potato products; dumplings, roast potatoes, croquets and Grunkernbrattlingen. The last named is a vegetarian ready meal of potatoes and unripened grain. The potato products are packaged both for retail and catering.

Demeter deals in raw, half finished and finished products, and engages in the planning and control of cultivation as well as processing. Also at Bio Fach it introduced what is said to be Germany's "first Italian ice cream with bio-dynamic ingredients." It is produced by the Italian firm Rachelli of Pero, near Milan, which works exclusively with Demeter milk, cream, fruits and seasonings. There are presently eight flavors of ice cream and sherbet: Stracciatella (more or less chocolate chip), Hazelnut, Chocolate, Vanilla, Yogurt, Coconut, Strawberry and Mango.

Another exhibitor in the frozen dessert department was First Foods of Buckinghamshire, England (Fax: 44-1494-431366). It offers "First Glace," a non-dairy product which is reportedly a "healthy alternative to dairy ice cream." Made from soybeans and said to taste just like ice cream, it is being offered in five traditional flavors: chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and vanilla-chocolate fudge swirl -- in 500-gram tubs with multilingual labels.

Oerlemans Foods BV (Fax: 31-77-382-1448) of Venlo, Holland, was on the scene with a range of frozen organic vegetables, fruits and potato products. So was Dobexco Foods International of Quebec, Canada.

Alcass Spa of Bedizzole, Italy (Fax: 39-030-6872101), was present with a line of frozen organic beef products. Its pouch line for the retail trade offers "4 Hamburger" at 320 grams and "12 Meatballs" at 240 grams. It's The Tray line, also for retail, features frozen stew meat, minced meat and slices for grilling, all in 500 gram vacuum packs. Its Catering Line offers hamburgers, minced meat, breaded cutlets, stew meat and other products in standard weights.

Bioline of Herentals, Belgium (Fax: 32-1423-5328), was on the scene with two new ranges of frozen organic ready meals. One series offers six stir fry meals in 450 gram packages, all of which can be prepared easily in a pan: Mixed Vegetables with mushrooms, Broccoli with cheese and garden herbs, Creamed Spinach, Italian Mixed Vegetables with chicken and pasta, Fish Pan with vegetables and small potatoes, and Festival of Vegetables, with chicken and rice.

Eight other Bioline offerings come in smaller packages. Among these are Salmon with Vegetables and creamed potatoes; Chicken Filet in mushroom sauce with vegetables and rice; Slivers of Pork marinated in sweet-sour sauce, and Beef Stroganoff with broccoli and garnished rice. All come in 420g packages.

The other four, in 400g packages, are: Chili "non" Carne; Trio de Pasta Bolognese, with organic minced meat and three types of pasta; Macaroni with ham and cheese sauce, and Vegetable Lasagne.

Bio Fach was established in 1990 for what was then a niche product category. The prediction of 20,000 visitors during the four days it ran in 2001 was exceeded, as attendance rose 25% over the last show, reaching 24,912.
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Comment:As Food Safety Woes Grip Europe It's Go, Go, Go for Organic Show.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Previous Article:From Spinach to Fish, Iglo Makes It New.
Next Article:Bioland and Demeter Exit Germany's Agol, Leaving Big Gap in Organic Organization.

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