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BioFach honors Chilean frozen lamb, names Spain `Country of the Year'; number of exhibitors jumps by almost 200, to 1,921; new official seal introduced. (The Green Scene).

Although only a small percentage the organic exhibitors at the recent BioFach at Nurnberg were offering frozen fare, one of those few was cited for producing the Product of the Year.

The judges at the world's biggest exhibition dedicated to organic products gave this distinction to the lamb products exported by SACOR of Porvenir, Chile. Country of the Year honors went to Spain, which has increased its organic farm acreage 40-fold since 1995.

For the second year in a row, BioFach was opened by a member of the German cabinet, and the event was covered by nationwide television. These are clear signs that organic products are no longer considered a niche market in a country that has increased output of organic food an estimated 30% from 2000-01.

The fair's figures also confirm the growing importance of organic products. There were 1,921 exhibitors, up from 1,725 last year, and some 27,787 trade visitors, compared to 24,912 in 2001. Half of the exhibitors were foreign. Two additional halls were given jover to the exhibition this year, and still another hall has been reserved for 2003.

The fair covers the full range of organic products, including medicines, cosmetics, cleaning materials and even clothing. But three-quarters of the stands are devoted to food and drink, and frozen food is making its presence felt.

There was a change in the character of the visitors. In the early days most of them were from organic and health food stores, but this time there was a greater representation from organic supermarkets, the conventional retail food trade and even conventional food producers.

A New Official Seal

The fair was opened by Renate Kunast, the Berlin government's minister for consumer protection, food and agriculture. She hailed the recent introduction in Germany of a common seal to appear on the packages of organic products, terming it "a milestone in the spread of ecological farming."

Two thousand products have already been qualified to use the seal, she said, and promised that the conditions under which it was awarded will be enforced. "If it says `Bio' on the outside," she explained, "it will be `Bio' on the inside." The minister, a member of the environmental Green Party, said the government will step up its surveillance of the private laboratories that check a product's eligibility to display the seal. Violators face a 30,000-euro fine.

The seal was worked out in consultation with farmers, industrialists and consumer groups. It has a six-sided green border, features the word "BIO" with the `I' in the form of a green plant, and has the slogan "nach EG-Oko-Verordnung" (by EU regulation).

Presence of the seal on a package certifies that, first, the product contains no genetically altered ingredients; second, it contains no antibiotics; and third, it uses meat only from animals that were humanely treated.

Bioland and Demeter, two cooperatives of organic farmers that were represented at BioFach, support the seal as a means of creating public awareness and encouraging the spread of organic products. However, the Bund Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) have denounced it, claiming that the EU regulations it supports aren't strict enough.

Minister Kunast pointed out that there now are several hundred seals identifying organic products, which she said leads to confusion among consumers. However, the old emblem will continue to be used if the producer wishes as much.

The government has spent millions promoting the seal, but with limited results. A survey of organic seals by the Emnid Institute shows that only 37.2% of the population recognize the new one, which puts it in sixth place. Bioland's seal, on the other hand, was recognized by 84%.

Frau Kunast shared the platform with the Spanish agricultural minister, who was pleased that his country had been honored as Country of the Year. Spain is experiencing a major "organic boom," but 80% of the output is exported, primarily to Britain and Germany.

"The local people just don't want to spend the extra money," said one exhibitor. Also, nearly all processing of the organic product is done abroad. An exception among the exhibitors was Vitafresh of Almonte (Fax: 34-959-451212). It immediately freezes its freshly pressed organic orange juice for export.

The Product of the Year is produced at the "end of the world," Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of South America. SACOR of Porvenir, Chile (Fax: 56-61-581105) was cited for the tender taste of its organic lamb and for its modern processing operation. It exports the meat to Europe in frozen form.

Tierra del Fuego (literally "Fireland") is a largely unpopulated island, remote from any sources of pollution, and separated from the rest of South America by the Straits of Magellan. The sheep there feed on the native broom sedge grass, and have to move around a great deal as they graze, making for a lean, tasty meat. The plant at Porvenir is said to have the latest state-of-the-art equipment, and enforces stringent hygienic standards.

Innovative Organic

One exhibitor showed what it claims is the world's "first organic fish stick," which is remarkable because the European Union has no criteria for certifying a fish product as organic.

The company, calling itself "wild only * only wild", insists that its frozen products are nevertheless made under organic conditions. The cod from which the sticks are produced come from the waters off Iceland, and are harvested from the "wild" -- in other words, they're not from a fish farm. And, of course, the breading is organic.

Even though the phosphate treatment that many processors use has been officially declared harmless, this company refrains from using it, thus adding to its costs. Some scientists associate this treatment with hyperactivity in humans and believe that it can have a negative influence on calcium metabolism. However, definite proof is unavailable.

"Wild only * only wild" also has products from sea salmon, produced under the same conditions from fish caught off the west coast of Ireland. The waters there, and off Iceland, are said to be unpolluted because the ocean currents are westerly, and the nearest polluters are far away. Distribution is through Demeter Felderzeugniss of Alsbach-Hahnlein (Fax: 49-6257-63132).

Okoland has come up with an idea for promoting its frozen organic ready meals and is catching the eye of interested customers. It is offering a small display cabinet, replete with its logo, pictures of the product and a bucolic farm scene. It offers the 1,000 x 650 x 880cm case for 357 euros.

Products exhibited by Okoland, of Rehburg-Loccum (Fax: 49-5037/960609), included a vegetable and noodle pan, a vegetable and potato pan with dumplings, a vegetable and rice pan, mixed summer vegetables and herb mushrooms.

As the winner of the Product of the Year demonstrates, products came from the far corners of the world. Organic India of Enfield, England (Fax: 44-20-8805-6663), proudly claims to have seized on two different trends: organic food and ethnic foods. It offers a variety of frozen chicken, lamb and vegetable ready meals, exotically spiced with coconut milk, almonds, curry, coriander and what are termed "secret spices."

China Organic Food Ltd. (Fax: 852-2787-7623) claims to be the only company in Hong Kong offering agricultural products from China that are grown, processed and managed under regulations laid out by organizations such as the European Union.

The Baltic Cranberry Corp. of Saint Petersburg, Russia (Fax: 7-812-325-2423), an American company, procures and sells IQF wild forest berries. At BioFach it presented cranberries, blueberries, loganberries, aronia and black and red currants. Pine nuts will soon be added to the expanding line.

A list of the ingredients of the frozen Organic Farmer Roll exhibited by Cerealia Unibake of Verden, Germany (Fax: 49-4231-663310), shows the lengths to which bakers must go in order to produce an organic product. This single roll contains organic wheat, organic rye, organic sunflower seeds, organic linseeds, organic sugar and organic sunflower oil.

A number of exhibitors were offering organic baked goods, reflecting the big general trend toward freezing baked products. This extends also to ethnic baked goods. II Germoglio of Lazise, Italy (Fax: 39-45-6479116), displayed a number of Italian specialties, including the well received ciabatta roll, which is becoming very popular in Germany.

Franzin Paolo Snc of Meolo, Italy (Fax: 39-421-618835), was exhibiting what it claims is the first orogenic hamburger in Italy. The manufacturer of conventional frozen ground meat products thought it would give organics a try. It was also exhibiting frozen organic Polpettine, a traditional Italian meatball. Both are distributed in retail packages under the Verybio label.

That Italian company was not the only producer of conventional foods to initiate a line of organics. One of the leading German makers of conventional frozen pizza has also taken the step. Wagner Tiefkuhlprodukte of Braunshausen (Fax: 49-6873-665-292) was on the scene, plugging its "Unser Natur" organic stone oven pizza. It's indistinguishable from the company's other stone oven offering except for the origin of the ingredients and the fact that the package bears the newly established organic seal.

The former East Germany, where food production has in any case been more traditional and therefore more ecological, is becoming increasingly aware of the organic movement. Thuringer Naturkost of Weimar-Schondorf (Fax: 49-3643-437102) boasts that its Thuringer Bratwurst has been made without chemicals for a hundred years. Other traditional German dishes it offers, both organic and frozen, include goulash soup, calf and pork geschnetzletes and rolled meat with dumplings.

Next year's BioFach will run from February 13-16, 2003, at the same venue.

RELATED ARTICLE: Naturland reports big boom in organic farming all over.

Naturland e.V., which oversees organic farming in Germany and elsewhere, recorded its greatest growth in 20 years last year. The number of organic farms in Germany grew by 20% and their area by 60%.

The organic farm count in Germany certified by Naturland reached 1,633, up by 276; and the land involved 72,177 hectares -- not including 50,946 hectares of forest managed under standards developed by Naturland, Greenpeace, BUND and Robin Wood.

Internationally, Naturland recorded a 25% increase in members and a 20% increase in farmed area The organization has a total of about 29,000 members with 80,000 hectares of land Highest growth rates outside of Germany were in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Ecuador.

RELATED ARTICLE: Iglo grows its frozen vegetable offerings with lust auf Gemuse launch and more Minis.

Lust auf Gemuse (Yen for Vegetables) is the name of an entirely new frozen product range introduced by Hamburg, Germany-based Iglo (Fax: 49-40-3597-2445), with the aim of giving consumers greens that retain their taste and nutrition while remaining easy to prepare.

The vegetables, together with a light sauce, are packed in a special "steam bag" for microwave preparation. The company claims that the products need only five to seven minutes to prepare, and retain their crispness, color and taste.

Each of the three Lust auf Gemuse offerings is an assortment of four vegetables: broccoli, peas, snow peas and parsley in one case; cauliflower, carrots, snow peas and zucchini in another, and baby carrots, green peppers, brussels sprouts and spinach in the last instance. They come in a 300g package, suggested for retail at 1.89 euros.

The company is no longer hesitant about bringing out a product that is exclusively for the microwave oven, since that device is now to be found in three-quarters of German two-person households and in most offices.

Iglo also is expanding on the success it achieved last year when it introduced the Spinach Mini to the market. It now is introducing three more multipacks of Minis, portion-sized packages of vegetables suitable either as a side dish or as a filling. Creamed leek and creamed savoy cabbage come eight Minis to a 450g package, while chard comes six to the package. The suggested retail price for them all is 1.39 euros.

RELATED ARTICLE: US soybeans threatening to flood China; Chinese play GM food gambit to stop them.

On soy can you see? By the dawn's early light Jan. 1, China lost its supremacy in soybeans: imports from the United States for 2002 were expected to exceed domestic output for the first time.

Besides being a matter of losing face for Beijing, the event may throw fuel on the fire of the growing international controversy over genetically modified (GM) food, because a lot of US soybeans are just that.

Soybeans have deep cultural significance for China. They originated there, and have been cultivated for thousands of years. The bean curd (tofu) salesman has long been as familiar a figure on Chinese streets as the Good Humor ice cream man in his heyday in the United States.

But now China's soybean sector appears doomed by the country's World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, which will unleash a flood of cheap imports from the US. Domestic production costs are almost double those in the US and, with tariffs cut to three per cent now that China has joined the WTO, a tidal wave of US imports and a collapse in domestic prices appear inevitable.

Chinese imports of US soybeans have already rocketed in recent years, making China the largest buyer of American soybeans and soy bean products. According to the American Soya Bean Association, China purchased over $1.1 billion in 2000 and is expected to buy $1.28 billion worth in 2001 -- triple the amount in 1999.

Beijing's shock is said to have triggered the release of a controversial regulation on GM food last June. About 70% of US soybeans are genetically modified. For years, European countries have used environmental protection standards as a weapon to ward off cheap ceramic tiles and low-cost textiles. China now appears to be adopting a similar "green trade barrier" strategy.

The Ministry of Agriculture's proposed GM rules will bring China into line with European countries, but are stricter than those of the US. According to the regulations, all genetically transformed food will need to be labeled, and it will take 270 days to obtain a safety certificate -- up from the previous waiting time of 90 days. If implemented, the legislation would block most imports of US soybeans. However, almost a year after the rules were released, China has yet to provide details of implementation, rendering the legislation ineffective.
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Comment:BioFach honors Chilean frozen lamb, names Spain `Country of the Year'; number of exhibitors jumps by almost 200, to 1,921; new official seal introduced. (The Green Scene).
Author:Shoemaker, Elizabeth
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:2367
Previous Article:Frozen outside and frozens inside at Prodexpo in Moscow, where exhibitors show their stuff.
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