Norovirus Season

By Lianna Kelly, Food Safety Director

The holiday season that starts in late fall/early winter brings many enjoyable, food- and family-filled events…but with this celebratory time also comes a spike in norovirus cases. Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreak in the United States. Although you can contract it at any time of year, norovirus is most commonly spread during the colder months when outside temperatures cool and people congregate inside warm, closed spaces. It’s always important to be on alert for conditions that can spread this sometimes deadly, and always unpleasant bacteria. 


People who are unfamiliar with the term norovirus may call it food poisoning or stomach flu. At work, schools, or throughout entire communities, you might hear talk of the stomach flu making its rounds. This is often because norovirus can survive for long periods outside of a human host depending on the surface and temperature conditions. It can remain alive for weeks on hard surfaces, up to 12 days on contaminated fabrics, and months to possibly years in contaminated still water. 


What are the most common symptoms? Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea with stomach pains top the list, but fever, headaches, and body aches are also typical. It’s important to realize that the virus is most contagious when a person is sick with vomiting and diarrhea, as well as during the first several days of recovery. Just a very small amount of norovirus—as few as 18 viral particles—onSOURCE: Journal of Medical Virology, August, 2008 food or hands can make someone sick. In fact, the amount of virus particles that fit on the head of a pin would be enough to infect 1,000 people! Symptoms materialize suddenly, meaning an infected person may vomit in a public place and expose others. In fact, each year it causes 19-20 million illnesses, including 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths, with the most at risk being children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. 


So how does this bug get passed around so easily? The three main means of transmission include person-to-person contact (with an infected source), contaminated food or water, and touching contaminated surfaces. That’s why it is critical for foodservice operators to train their staff well and maintain vigilance to avoid spreading the norovirus.


Markon has compiled the below guidelines and measures that can help your employees from spreading the particles and keep your customers safe. 


Guidelines for Avoiding Norovirus

  • Wash hands often
  • When sick, don’t prepare food or care for others
    • Wait two to three days after symptoms end before returning to work
    • Wash hands often even after fully recovered
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables
  • Clean surfaces and wash laundry; wipe surfaces with bleach-based cleanser
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly (140⁰F); norovirus can survive low cooking temperatures


Food Industry Measures

  • Certify kitchen managers and train foodservice workers ( in food safety practices
  • Adhere to food safety regulations
  • Establish policies that require workers to stay home while sick with vomiting and diarrhea and at least 48 hours after symptoms end
  • Foster a work environment that encourages workers to stay at home when sick
    • Consider offering paid sick leave
    • Implement staff plans that include on-call workers 
  • Make sure that foodservice employees practice proper hand washing and avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands 


Foodservice Employee Measures

  • Inform managers when sick with vomiting and diarrhea
  • Immediately block off, clean, and disinfect areas where there has been a vomiting or diarrheal incident
  • Wash hands carefully and often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice), especially after using the restroom
    • Markon has online handwashing videos available in English, French, and Spanish to help you communicate the proper handwashing technique to your employees
  • Use utensils and single-use disposable gloves to avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands
  • Regularly clean and sanitize kitchen surfaces and frequently touched objects using a chlorine-based product or other sanitizers approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use against norovirus
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid serving undercooked (below 140°F) oysters and other shellfish


It’s important to keep your staffed informed and well-trained. For brochures and back-of-the-house posters with food safety tips—Markon has created these tools for your operation.


Norovirus Brochure

Norovirus Poster

Tags: Markon, MarkonCooperative, Foodservice, norovirus, CDC, stomachflu, foodborneillness, foodpoisoning, foodworkers, outbreak, foodsafety, coldseason

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An Interview with Dr. Suresh D. Pillai about Electron Beam Irradiation

By Mario Estrada, Jr., Food Safety Director

In our latest blog, Markon’s Food Safety Director Mario Estrada, Jr. interviews the esteemed Suresh D. Pillai, Ph.D., Director of the National Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M. Dr. Pillai is a Professor of Microbiology and Texas AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow. He holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Nutrition and Food Sciences/Poultry Science. The National Center for Electron Beam Research serves as an unbiased venue for academic, government, and industry scientists, carrying out strategic electronic pasteurization and sterilization research using an electron beam (eBeam) and x-rays. For a full biography of Dr. Pillai, click here.

Electron Beam Irradiation

Q:    Dr. Pillai, can you explain what eBeam irradiation is and how it is used?

A:    Electron beam (eBeam) irradiation also known as eBeam pasteurization, eBeam processing, eBeam treatment, eBeam technology, and electronic pasteurization, is the use of high energy electrons to disinfect/pasteurize/sterilize items such as fresh produce, ground beef patties, medical devices, and pharmaceutical products. The high energy electrons are generated from the electrons contained in commercial electricity using highly specialized equipment called a linear accelerator. One can visualize this technology as fresh produce (that is completely packed in enclosed cases) goes across a conveyor belt under a shower head. The only difference is that instead of water flowing out of the shower, it would be electrons falling onto the produce from the end of the linear accelerator. These electrons break up the DNA and RNA of microorganisms, preventing the growth of spoilage bacteria and if pathogens are present, it would inactivate them. One key advantage of this technique is that it does not cause any heating, meaning that eBeam treatment is a non-thermal technology. One can immediately understand the significant potential of non-thermal microbial inactivation technology for fresh produce. You can use this technology for treating berries, fresh-cut items, or any commodity that is sensitive to heat.

Q:    How safe is it?

A:    This is an extremely safe technology with over 100 years of actual usage in a variety of industries. There are no issues whatsoever to the personnel involved in delivering the doses, nor is there any danger to the fresh produce being treated. Of course, normal industrial occupational safety standards have to be followed when using this technology since the process involves high voltage and energies.

Q:    What are pros and cons of irradiating food products? 

A:    eBeam processing is a non-thermal technology that has significant potential for use in the fresh produce industry. Since no heat is involved, this technology can be used to eliminate microbial pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and protozoa) as well as extend the shelf-life of produce without having to rely on chemicals.

This is a “green technology” with a very low carbon footprint, no use of chemicals, and economically sustainable. The technology can be applied on a variety of commodities, especially those that are highly perishable items such as berries and leafy greens. It is extremely useful in eliminating pathogens on highly vulnerable commodities such as sprouts.

One of the most attractive features of the technology is that it can be used on fully packed items in existing cartons or bags. It’s also inexpensive (four to five cents a pound, even lower depending on volumes) and doesn’t affect the nutrients, sensory qualities, or consumer acceptability.

A key feature of the technology is that it is tunable. At very low doses (150-400 Grays), it can be used to eliminate insects and pests. At slightly higher doses (400- 1000 Grays) it can be used to extend shelf-life and eliminate at least 3-log of microbial pathogens (such as toxigenic E. coli, Salmonella, and protozoa). At even higher doses (1500–4000 Grays) it can achieve 5 to 6-log reduction of a variety of microbial pathogens. Studies in my laboratory have shown that at eBeam doses currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (namely 4000 Grays), it is possible to achieve between 98% and 99.9% reduction of enteric viruses (poliovirus and rotavirus) on lettuce and spinach.

One of the drawbacks to the technology is that it requires highly specialized equipment, preventing it from becoming widely available. There is also a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about irradiation, even among decision makers in the fresh produce industry. Because anecdotal or erroneous information is often relied upon for decision making about this technology, many choose not to invest in the equipment necessary.

Q:    Is this technology currently being used commercially?

A:    Yes, in the US food industry it is being used on ground beef patties, chubs of ground beef, and on spices. In fresh produce it is currently being used for imported persimmons. Within the next few months the technology will be utilized on imported guavas, mangoes, carambola, sweet limes, and Manzano peppers to control insects and pests. The doses that will be used will be between 400 and 1000 Grays. Even at this low dose, benefits such as an extended shelf-life and 3-log reduction of microbial pathogens can be realized.

Q:     What are some of its applications? 

A:    The applications of this technology include elimination of insects and pests, extension of shelf-life in perishable commodities, elimination of microbial pathogens, and the avoidance of harmful chemicals and fungicides.

Q:    What is the largest sample size that can be effectively treated? 

A:    If customized for the fresh produce industry, the technology can be used to process approximately 20 tons per hour.  

Q:    Is there a quarantine period after processing?

A:    No, there is no quarantine period after processing. The commodities can be placed on market shelves right away or refrigerated for transportation.

Q:    Does it cause any other effects on products?

A:    If the technology is appropriately utilized and within approved guidelines, there are no negative issues whatsoever on the products. 

Q:    What are some of the advantages to eBeam irradiation that cannot be achieved by other means?

A:    This is a non-thermal microbial inactivation technology that has no competition whatsoever by any other technology. It is one of the most widely studied and evaluated technologies.


Q:    Is there anything else you would like to highlight about this technology that we were not able to cover?

A:    The US fresh produce industry is unfortunately slow in adopting this technology. They are incorrectly assuming that consumers will not accept eBeam-treated fresh produce. However, all consumer studies conducted in the US suggest that if consumers are provided the choice, they will purchase these items. Not one such treated commodity or item has been pulled off the shelf due to consumer rejection. The industry needs to spend the time investigating the business models associated with utilizing this technology, rather than relying on erroneous anecdotes. 

Today, irradiated mangoes, guavas, sweet limes, carambola, and persimmons are all marked with the radura symbol and are being sold in US grocery stores. The volume of irradiated fresh produce is actually increasing and will increase significantly in the coming years. New fresh produce distribution companies that deal primarily with eBeam-treated produce are being established. So, if companies are strategic they need to spend the effort to understand the technology and how to employ it strategically.

Tags: Electron Beam, Dr. Suresh D. Pillai, Irradiation

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Food Safety in Operator Kitchens

By Mario Estrada, Jr., Food Safety Director

Food safety begins at the farm level long before any seeds are sown, but it doesn’t end there. It’s a process—and it’s critical that the food safety chain continues up to the moment that the consumer carries a forkful of salad Food safety is imperative in operator their mouth or takes a bite of a hamburger. It is just as important to grow produce under Good Agriculture Practices on the farm as it is to prepare all food using Good Handling Practices in the kitchen.

Just recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) published some very significant findings in the December edition of the Journal of Food Protection. The research focused on restaurant safety practices in the handling and cooking of ground beef as well as the handling of leafy greens. The data collected proves there is a crucial need for restaurants to assess their food handling practices such as cleaning and sanitizing utensils and surfaces, washing hands, proper temperature monitoring, product rejection, and other basic food safety tenets.

To the average consumer, eating at any restaurant comes with a 20% risk of E. coli O157:H7 infection regardless of what’s served; 7% of that risk comes specifically from consumption of undercooked ground beef. The EHS-Net study focused on current kitchen practices in 385 restaurants throughout eight states. One particular finding showed that in 62% of the restaurants, workers handling raw ground beef did not wash their hands before handling other ready-to-eat foods or cooked ground beef.

According to the CDC, approximately 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases. The key factors that contribute to these numbers include poor growing practices, mishandling of product, and most predominantly, poor employee hygiene practices. In a Markon update to all members earlier this year, we shared data from the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, which stated that 46.1% of illnesses between 1998 and 2008 were related to the consumption of produce. Of those produce-related illnesses, 60.5% were due to Norovirus. Norovirus is a pathogenic virus that is highly associated with contamination from food handlers, typically just prior to consumption.

A separate study that was published by the EHS-Net included discussion on Senate Bill 602 (2010 California legislation that went into effect in June 2011), which demonstrates the importance of food safety education and its success in improving handler practices. SB 602 was based on already existing legislation in counties like San Diego, whose Department of Environmental Health conducted a 2003 survey of 1,200 foodservice workers to learn about their knowledge of food safety practices as well as major violations. The study was then repeated five years later and the department found there had been a 60% decrease in food safety violations and a 50% increase in food handler knowledge. This information outlines the importance of providing greater resources aimed at educating food handlers and improving handler practices.

Markon understands the importance of safe food handling practices—it’s the 5th star in our 5-Star Food Safety Program®. Markon provides District Sales Representatives with materials to educate foodservice operators about optimal storage and handling of produce as well as hand washing tips via point-of-sale materials, posters, and our website. In food safety, education is critical; corners should never be cut when it comes to protecting public health. Always remember that maintaining a product’s food safety is the responsibility of the entire supply chain.

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, CDC, e. coli

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Changes Afoot: San Joaquin Valley Water Shortages

By Tim York, Markon President

The geography of water conflict.


As we have all become accustomed, the seasonal harvesting shift from the Salinas Valley down to the Yuma, Arizona region will start in late October/early November. Typically growers use the Huron, California/San Joaquin Valley (SJV) area as a transitional mini-season between the two larger growing periods. In fact, we have been doing this triangular move for as long as I can remember, back at least 50 years. But because water is scarce and only becoming scarcer—big changes are on the horizon.

Let’s back up a bit and review some statistics regarding the water levels and allowances for the San Joaquin Valley. Much of California has been in a state of dryness, or drought, off and on since the 1920s. The latest drought started in 2007 and shows no signs of abating. Because ground water levels have dropped dramatically due to over-pumping, irrigation in the form of water allocation is a must to maintain the crops that are so vital to the seasonal harvests. Growers and scientists have done much to improve irrigation technology (GPS-guided tractors, larger drip tubing, improved installation and retrieval systems for drip, improved spray packages, etc.), but without more water, it is a losing battle. In 2006 the region was allocated 100% of its water needs…by 2009, it had gone down to 10% and continues to decrease. This year Central California received well below 50% of its normal rainfall, causing further allocation cut backs and tripling this fall’s fees. Last year growers paid $300-$400 per acre foot…and this year? Growers will fork over a whopping $1,200 per acre foot. Combine these with the fact that the population of California is expected to grow by 12 million people (who also need water) by 2050, and you see that the SJV simply does not have enough water for the agricultural projects they are being contracted to fulfill.

How does this affect those of us that buy the produce grown and harvested in this region? Price. Every time there is a water shortage, the price of growing goes up and that gets passed along the chain: to the growers, to the buyers, to the distributors, and our foodservice customers. This has been happening incrementally for many years, so you may ask, what is different? The difference is that we are reaching unsustainable levels and will be forced to make a choice soon. Do we continue to harvest in a region with climbing costs or do we look at alternative measures?

Clearly it’s time for action. Already many growers are addressing the problem by lengthening the Salinas Valley season (by planting as much as 33% more acreage in Salinas this fall) as well as starting the Yuma season early to shorten or avoid the usual time spent in the SJV.

Problem solved? Not so fast. By lengthening a season or starting early, certain quality problems may arise.  An increase in premature pinking, light weights, mildew, and increased dirt in commodity packs could occur due to cold, wet weather conditions if growers decide to stay longer in Salinas, while seeder, fringe burn, internal burn, sun scalding, and dehydration may result from extreme heat if growers start earlier in Yuma. Of course, if any of these quality problems becomes significant, prices will climb, essentially bringing us back to square one.

Those of us that have worked in produce for a number of years know that the category is not without its problems. Perishable foods are delicate and require careful handling from seed to plate, but today’s additional water shortages are making these issues feel like a piece of cake.

Markon continues to work closely with our grower-partners, as well as the top scientists and food safety experts in the industry to ensure we are taking the most sensible and sustainable course of action moving forward. We hope you will continue to follow this ongoing blog discussion as history is being made.

Best Regards,

Tim York

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, USDA, Fresno Bee, PMA, San Joaquine Valley Drought, water shortages

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Trust, But Verify

By Mario Estrada, Jr., Food Safety Director and John Galvez, Quality Assurance Director

Mario Estrada, Jr. and John Galvez in front a Markon delivery truck  














We have been busy visiting regional Markon branded suppliers and Markon member distribution centers all across the country for our annual Good Manufacturing Practices observational review of facilities, processes, and products. 

John Galvez inspects romaine before delivery

These visits allow Markon to have one-on-one discussions with Food Safety and Quality Assurance personnel that cover everything from their food safety program, to finished product quality, to packaging and labeling requirements for a multitude of Markon First Crop, Ready-Set-Serve, and Markon Essentials products that are packed and shipped regionally.


“Trust, but verify.” Markon has long been a proponent of this adage throughout the history of the company. Although all Markon suppliers must first pass a multitude of audits and submit proof of a strong food safety program prior to being approved to pack our products, we further ensure that our standards are being upheld on a daily basis by visiting suppliers (sometimes unannounced), walking through their operations, quizzing their staff, and following up with any corrective actions, improvements, or recommendations that we feel are prudent.

Mario Estrada, Jr. inspects machinery in a processing plant 

There’s no question that Markon makes our suppliers better at what they do through our rigid specifications and vendor review processes, but these visits are mutually beneficial. We also come away from each visit with more knowledge and experience than when we arrived. This helps us better understand and share best practices as well as prepare us for any scenario encountered in future onsite inspections.

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, FDA

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The National Restaurant Show Takes the Windy City by Storm

By Steve Pinto, Multi-Units Accounts Director

Foodservice professionals from all around the globe got together at the industry’s largest Meeting with Moe’s Southwest Grilltradeshow this past week at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The NRA Show had over 1,800 suppliers selling everything from sophisticated sous vide machines to fine seafood to fresh micro-greens. The speakers’ topics ranged from how to minimize food safety risks, to the importance of sustainability, to what’s hot in 2013. And the Celebrity Chef lineup was a who’s who of today’s biggest stars including Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, Aaron Sanchez, Anne Burrell, and the man himself, Anthony Bourdain.


My Markon colleague and I flew to Chicago to walk the floor, learn about new trends, and meet with several of Markon’s national accounts customers and member distributors that were also attending the show. Let me tell you, if you haven’t been to this show, it’s hard to really understand how immense it is. The main floor itself is a huge maze of booths that seemingly goes on forever. We met up with suppliers like Calavo and Fresherized, saw unique equipment such as three-foot tall pressure cookers, and sampled foods as varied as coffee, burritos, pizza, and Chicago-style hot dogs. Upstairs we had the chance to listen to some very informed speakers and learned how healthy eating through fresh fruits and vegetables is the hottest trend of the year.


In the evening we enjoyed some delicious food with Markon customers Texas Roadhouse. Since Chicago is one of the best cities for foodies, we were able to experience the local cuisine while discussing critical points about the test markets that are underway and plan for the needs of future Texas Roadhouse regions. 

Dining at customer QDoba Mexican Grill

The last night there we attended the Restaurants Rock industry celebration hosted by Anthony Bourdain at The Castle, a four-floor Chicago institution. It was great to see so many faces from every facet of the restaurant world come together to unwind after the show.


Much fun was had and many connections were made at this meeting of the world’s best foodservice minds. Although we appreciate the opportunity to rub elbows with the culinary elite, we know that it’s the real people behind these celebrity chefs that make this industry tick. It’s those folks that we learned the most from, the people who supply the delicious ingredients, plan the trend-setting menus, and serve the food we all crave and love. We send a big thank you to them all.

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, NRAShow, Texas Roadhouse

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Meaningful Impact

By Joe Ange, Assistant Purchasing Director

"Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." -Vince Lombardi


We've talked about helping others and how people matter at Markon in other The CALP group helped create these greenhouses and planter boxes for an under-served school in Sacramentoblog posts. We also recognize that we work in an industry that has the greatest potential to make a meaningful impact on our nation’s obesity epidemic, food deserts, and families living below poverty levels. As an industry, foodservice distributors in the United States service over 100,000 schools. We have the ability to make an impact. 


One of the many lessons I've learned through my involvement in the California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP) focuses on servant leadership: including setting an example and applying efforts where they can be most effective. My fellows and I have worked with feeding programs such as Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, preparing and serving food to over 700 less-fortunate people in a single day. At an under-served high school in the Sacramento area, we helped revamp and build greenhouse facilities, garden boxes, animal enclosures, and an outdoor teaching structure to get students excited about and interested in agriculture—who knows, one of these students just might turn out to be the next great leader in our industry. Through that experience I learned that it's not imperative to be physically on the line passing out hot meals. I realized that I often have more impact when I apply my particular skills and help coordinate the group’s efforts. 


This past weekend Markon employees, their families, friends, and other citizens of the community joined with Ag Against Hunger to help kick off the gleaning season in the Salinas Valley. Markon has long partnered with Ag Against Hunger, a non-profit organization that specializes in coordinating the collection of surplus fruits and vegetables from growers in the Salinas Valley and distributing them to over 240 assistance programs located throughout the West Coast. This year was another success. 


At Markon we're constantly working together to utilize the skills of our entire group. In doing so, we are able to have a little fun and work together for a good cause at the same time. Win-win! 

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, CALP, Ag Against Hunger, Loaves and Fishes, PMA

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The Importance of Spring and Summer Salads

By Rob Ahrensdorf, Brands Director, Shamrock Foods Company

Using seasonal ingredients can impact this segment’s sales


A recent article in the March issue of QSR Magazine drove home some points that reminded me how important salads are during the spring and summer seasons. Of course, salads have made quite an impact on menus over the last few years, going from a starter or side dish to bona fide entrée status, but as we continue to explore how this segment can satisfy our customers’ needs, we should remind ourselves that a salad is not a salad is not a salad. While people no longer go to quick-service and fast-casual restaurants strictly for burgers and friesmore than four of every five American adults bought salads in 2011—their expectations have also increased. That’s where our opportunity as foodservice providers comes in. By differentiating our salads with flavorful toppings and dressings, we increase sales while pleasing our guests and attracting new ones. 


What’s in season for spring? Think arugula, asparagus, peas, and ramps. And summer? Go for bold, bright flavors like cherries, peaches, and sweet corn. Classic toppings like carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes can be upgraded with different colors, specialty sizes, or heirloom varieties. Dressings can be made with fruit or vegetable purées to increase the flavor profile as well as reduce the fats and calories of oil. Try options such as avocados, fresh chervil, and radishes in the spring and switch to ingredients like grilled onions, mangoes, papayas, and watermelon for the summer months.


Of course these are just a few ideas that I have been thinking about while working with our fresh produce customers this month. It’s up to each individual restaurant to choose what works for their company culture—but that’s what’s so exciting—more than ever before, there are countless ways to bring adventurous, healthy recipes to the menu with delicious salads.

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, SFC, QSR Magazine, Technomic

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Using Facts, Not Fear, to Make Healthy Food Choices

By Mario Estrada, Jr., Food Safety Director

Public health officials maintain that the benefits of eating fresh produce outweigh any risk that may be associated with pesticide residues


The U.S.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce on Tuesday, April 22, 2013. The “Dirty Dozen Plus/Clean Fifteen” is published annually by EWG as a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program (USDA PDP) report. 


The “Dirty Dozen” claims high levels of pesticide residues remain on fruits and vegetables when purchased. However, the USDA PDP report also shows that the produce industry maintains pesticide residue levels well below the maximum allowed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. It’s important to understand that the list simply suggests there could be the presence of pesticides in trace amounts on some fruits and vegetables. In fact, there is no scientific evidence the amount of pesticides described on the list represents any health risk. Rather than promoting good public health, this list actually hinders the consumption of fruits and vegetables by causing fear in consumers.


Markon, its suppliers, and its distribution members are committed to establishing and following sustainable agricultural practices that minimize the negative impact on air quality, soil and water content, and water usage. Imperative to this pursuit is the establishment of specific and measurable procedures that make identifiable differences in environmental and human health. 


Markon’s suppliers follow government standards that ensure the safe application of pesticides with a careful eye to tolerance levels, worker safety, and environmental sensitivity. We believe in using integrated pest management techniques and support the use of new technologies in management practices. 


It’s important to remember that public health officials maintain that the benefits of eating fresh produce outweigh any risk that may be associated with pesticide residues.  To further ensure any trace pesticide residues are reduced or eliminated prior to consumption, the USDA recommends rinsing whole fresh fruits and vegetables.


For more information on this topic, please see:


Safe Fruits and Veggies


EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, USDA PDP, EWG, Safe Fruits and Veggies

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Navigating New Food Frontiers

By Deena Ensworth, writer/photographer for Markon

I’ve been photographing and writing about food for just about 20 years now, Getting customers to take and post photos like this on social media is key—but make sure your quality is up to par so you get raves, not rantsthe majority of that time in the produce industry. It’s beyond trendy these days to pull out your iPhone and take a shot of your plate when you’re out to dinner, but back when I started as a local restaurant reviewer, it was seen as a bit outrageous, if not downright rude.  I’d pack my Canon in a large purse (remember, no sleek iPhones then) and try to get my shot quickly before people noticed and started asking questions or giving me dirty looks. Now when I dine out, I usually have to wait for everyone at the table to get their shot before I can dig in. 


My point is that a lot has changed in the world of food marketing. Years ago, a positive review in your local paper or if you were really lucky, The New York Times meant you were golden…but now with Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, and food bloggers trending across the globe, many restaurant customers may not even notice the professionally written newspaper or magazine reviews. 


To make it in the more democratic food world of today, businesses have to stand out for one thing and one thing only: quality. The customer has gained much more control (rightly so) of what goes on the plate, so foodservice operations must pay close attention to what they are saying and how they can deliver. Gone (or almost gone) are the days of having a glossy, expensive advertising campaign yet terrible, thoughtless food. Now if you try to serve inferior products, the whole internet is going to know it in about ten seconds. The world has gotten so much smaller that we can communicate our likes and dislikes with just the click of a button—a here-to-stay trend that will ultimately help shape the menus of tomorrow.


Thankfully, those of us in this industry are way ahead of the game. Fresh produce? Healthy fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a whole host of other goodies that doctors are just beginning to discover—these factors made my job easy from the start. Ever try to photograph a steak? Or a whole turkey? How about a pork loin? Dark brown, light brown, and beige...these products can really try a photographer’s soul. But bright orange carrots, deep red tomatoes, the purples and blues of berries, and the deep green of spinach…their beauty is pure and has no need of journalistic manipulation. 


Quick—what’s the biggest trend of 2013? If you guessed vegetables as the center of the plate, you are right. The world has grown wiser—but sadly, fatter, so diners are demanding higher quality, fewer calories, and less processed/more natural products on their plates. And for that, fresh produce is the answer. When I write about fresh produce, I don’t have to use tricky words to steer around potentially bad aspects like other industries because there simply aren’t any in produce. What’s bad about fresh fruits and vegetables? Nothing—they’re good for you, gorgeous, and delicious—and Markon sells the best of the best. My bet is that menu items featuring Markon First Crop and Ready-Set-Serve products will generate more interest for Instagram photos, Facebook shares, Tweets, and Yelp reviews—and for restaurant operators, this is the best kind of authentic, word-of-mouth advertising you can get. 

Tags: Markon, Markon Cooperative, Foodservice, PMA, NY Times

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