Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cashew Concern Certification Joins the African Cashew Alliance

Although Africa is an important source of raw cashew seed for India, Brazil and Vietnam, cashew processing in Africa has been sporadic and the potential has not been fully developed. The African Cashew Alliance (ACA) was formed in 2005 with the aim of
increasing cashew farmers' revenue, increasing cashew processing capacity, consistency and quality, improving the economic and regulatory environment of the cashew sector, and promoting African cashews internationally.

At the PTNPA Conference in the Bahamas, David Rosenthal and Mary Smith of Cashew Concern met with ACA representative Christian Dahm. We were impressed with the goals and methods of the ACA. The concept of developing the processing industry in Africa step by step by coordinating and leveraging resources, training and marketing is a logical and effective way of achieving a sustainable and responsible cashew industry.

We support the initiatives of the African Cashew Alliance, and are proud to be a member

Peanut Butter Recall Update

As the shock waves of the peanut butter recall reverberate throughout the nut and snack food industry, we are again reminded that there is no such thing as too much vigilance where food safety is concerned. As of January 27th, more than 500 people had been reported sickened, and the deaths of eight people in the United States and Canada have been linked to the outbreak, which has been traced to the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plant in Blakely, Georgia. The plant is now closed down, and its future is uncertain.

Wide Range of Products Implicated, Lawsuits begin

The recall has spread to more than 390 products, including cakes, cookies, brownies, crackers, ice cream, energy bars, ready-to-eat meals, and even pet foods. An updated list can be found at the FDA website.

The lawsuits have begun, as well. Relatives of a 72 year old Minnesota woman whose death may be linked to the outbreak have filed suit against both Peanut Corporation of America and its distributor, Ohio based King Nut. More suits are sure to follow.

Many Problems at Blakely Plant Detected

Federal health officials have reported that PCA failed to take some standard "Good Manufacturing" steps to prevent contamination within the plant. This was corroborated by Michael Rogers, director of FDA's Division of Field Inspection, who announced that an investgation had revealed numerous problems. Four different strains of Salmonella were detected, although only one strain was involved in the outbreak. The most serious finding was that Peanut Corporation of America had engaged in "lab shopping" - when salmonella was detected in samples sent to a contract laboratory, the company got a second opinion from another lab. After the secondary tests came back negative, the product was sold. The complete transcript of the January 27th FDA briefing is available at the following LINK.

Legislators Reaction

"Inspections are worthless if companies can test and retest until they receive the results they want" said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, who was quoted in a recent Associated Press article. Congressman Stupak is heading a congressional panel that is conducting its own inquiry, and has introduced legislation to end such "lab shopping" and to require companies to submit all test results to the FDA.

Congressman John Dingell, D-Michigan issued a statement in which he affirmed that "People have reason to be angry about the quality of our nation's food supply" and vowed to introduce legislation to address these problems. "This legislation will grant FDA the proper authorities and resources it needs to ensure the safety of our food supply, as well as the safety of other products regulated by FDA, and restore American consumer confidence in the Agency. The American people deserve nothing less."
Food Safety Under the Obama Administration
If there was a chance that food safety and traceability would be ignored because of the overwhelming problems plaguing the economy, this high profile salmonella outbreak occurring in the first days of the Obama administration has put food safety and traceability back on the radar screen.

Now is the time to be sure we are implementing good manufacturing practices and sourcing our imported food responsibly. An ounce of prevention is surely better than a metric ton of cure

The CCC Exhibits and Presents at the PTNPA 2009 Convention

Commodity Concern Certification and the non-profit Cashew Concern Certification were very much in evidence at the recent Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association convention held January 17-20 in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Over 300 representatives from the nut industry attended the event, which included two days of presentations and exhibitions and provided a forum to exchange ideas on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century. We would like to thank Russ Barker, president of the PTNPA, and his team for putting together a stimulating and informative meeting in a wonderful setting.

David Rosenthal, of the CCC, together with Merle Jacobs, president of The American Council for Food Safety, gave a presentation entitled "An Ounce of Prevention or a Metric Ton of Cure...It's Your Choice" during the General Session. David and Merle reinforced the importance of taking a proactive stance regarding food safety and responsible sourcing, and cited numerous industry examples to illustrate the devastating effects of product recalls. David Rosenthal's portion of the presentation can be viewed in full at The Responsible Source

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Ounce Of Prevention PTNPA 2009

Here is a copy of the presentation given by David Rosenthal, president of Cashew/Commodity Concern Certification, at the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors' Convention held January 19-21 in Freeport, The Bahamas.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 12, 2009, Cashew Update: Vietnamese Cashew Crisis and Chlorophenol Update

January 12, 2009

During the latter half of 2008, we published articles on two problems that had severely impacted the world cashew scenario: The increasing defaults by Vietnamese shippers that occurred during the spring and summer, and the disturbing reports of chlorophenol contamination that began surfacing around the same time. The cashew world has been on a virtual roller coaster ride since then, buffeted by the world recession and by industry practices that in some cases have backfired. Both of these articles can be accessed in the Newsroom section of the Cashew Concern website: .
Crisis in Vietnamese Cashew Industry

On June 20th, 2008, we published an article entitled "Unbridled Cashew Speculation - History Lesson 102" warning of the potential fallout from an overheated cashew market fueled by speculation and low price feeding frenzy. A recent article which appeared in VietnamNet Bridge describes the devastating effect that this "perfect storm" has had on the Vietnamese cashew industry. The complete article can be accessed at the following link:

Over the last decade, Vietnam quickly became the largest exporter of cashew kernels in the world, surpassing even India. Unfortunately, instead of healthy, managed growth, many Vietnamese cashew producers opted for the quick money to be had by offering cheaper prices than their global counterparts. Offers were made without a realistic assessment of production capacity. In 2008, as cashew prices soared, they did not deliver under the signed contracts, but sold to others as the price went up, with the intention of fulfilling the contracts later. However, material prices rose sharply, making it impossible to honor the contracts without devastating losses. To make matters worse, demand dropped and cashew prices fell dramatically.

The Vietnamese cashew industry is now in crisis and is scrambling to survive. Reports have begun to surface of Vietnamese cashew splits that have been adhered together with 502 glue in an attempt to disguise them as wholes, a practice that certainly cannot be tolerated.

Vietnamese cashew producers are now seeking help from the Vietnamese government in the form of loans and tax reductions, but it remains to be seen if the industry will be able to recover. Alarmingly, farmers in Vietnam are increasingly giving up on growing cashews in favor of more profitable crops, such as rubber and cocoa.

The speculation that has become rampant in the cashew industry has in the end benefited no one. Vietnam's cashew industry is struggling to survive, American cashew importers hit by the massive wave of defaults sustained significant losses at a time when the economy makes it difficult to absorb such a blow, and American roasters faced historically high prices during a brutal retail season.

Chlorophenol Update

On September 9th, we published an article about the detection of chlorophenol, mostly in cashews exported from India. In order to prevent contamination, guidelines have been established by the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India. The guidelines have been published by the African Cashew Alliance and can be accessed from their website. Alarmingly, however, there have been reports as recently as December 27th of containers being rejected because of chlorophenol contamination, and it is not at all clear that the source of the problem has been identified. An article published in the Indian Express states that the rejected cashews had been tested in India before shipment.

Every Link in the Global Food Chain is Important

Clearly more vigilance is needed. As we move further into the 21st century, better monitoring systems must be put into place, not only to ensure that suppliers follow good manufacturing practices, but also to understand the calibre of suppliers that we work with. Each link in the global food chain is important. We need to build strategic working partnerships between supplier, importer, roaster, retailer and consumer in order to ensure a better overall food product and foster the development of reliable working relationships that have a positive effect on food quality and on our business as a whole.

"An Ounce of Prevention or a Metric Ton of Cure" Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association Conference - January 17 - 20

David Rosenthal will give a presentation entitled "An Ounce of Prevention or a Metric Ton of Cure - It's Your Choice" at the General Session of the PTNPA Conference, held at Our Lucaya Resort in the Bahamas, on January 18th. The co-host of this session will be Merle Jacobs, president of the American Council for Food Safety and Quality.

January 5, 2009, Responsible Sourcing - A MUST for the New Year

Commodity Concern Website Now Live

We have expanded our responsible sourcing, Track & Trace, and marketing initiatives to a broader range of imported nut and agricultural commodity categories with the creation of Commodity Concern Certification. Please take a moment to visit the new Commodity Concern website at

Working Towards a More Responsible Way of Sourcing
This was a natural extension of the concept that began two years ago, when Cashew Concern Certification Inc. was established with the goal of offering a better and more responsible way of sourcing cashews. At that time, the world seemed like a different place. Who could have anticipated the events that have had such a negative effect on the global economy? The collapse of trusted financial institutions, the closing of well established retailers, and the real estate debacle highlight the fact that although conditions may seem stable, awareness of the reality beneath the surface is crucial. Commodity Concern was created to not only bring about awareness but to also take action to address vulnerabilities that can have such a negative impact on our seemingly secure situation.
The events and upheavals of 2008 shook the public's confidence in the institutions, both governmental and private, that had previously been considered pillars of society and stewards of the economy. As we enter 2009, there is a growing consensus that the system of checks and balances must be restored and reinforced.

Food Safety and Responsible Sourcing to be Priorities under New Administration
Food safety and responsible sourcing will be a priority for President elect Barak Obama's FDA. "He thinks this is a fundamental role of government to ensure that people's food is safe and he has been concerned that we are not in a position to ensure that," said Neera Tanden, a senior campaign advisor, in November 2008. Self regulation and effective communication with legislators who will create new food import regulation is key to establishing food safety and responsible sourcing initiatives that are accepted by both government and private industry.

Commodity Concern has developed a system that not only brings about awareness but also takes action! We look forward to positive changes in playing an effective role to create a healthier food importing industry.

October 27, 2008, The CCC Announces the Formation of Commodity Concern Certification

October 27, 2008

Cashew Concern Certification, Inc. is proud to announce the formation of Commodity Concern Certification. We will apply the same basic principles of responsible sourcing, Track & Trace, and marketing initiatives to a broader range of imported nut and agricultural commodity categories. Our new website will be on-line soon.


Our country is in the midst of an extremely challenging and difficult economic storm. During such times of crisis, it is all too easy to panic and decide that the only way to market our products is to cut the price. Unfortunately, this can backfire and is not a viable long term strategy.
Regardless of economic pressures, the public still demands and deserves assurance that the food products consumed by their families are wholesome, sourced responsibly, and free from contamination.
Recent issues in the cashew industry, including the present chlorophenol problem, have made it more important than ever to know the standards and procedures maintained by the facilities you buy from.
Being able to effectively market your responsible sourcing procedures to retailers and consumers will give you a competitive edge over companies who don't.
Having detailed support documentation to verify that your cashews were processed in overseas facilities that have high standards for manufacturing and sourcing raw material is vital, and will become even more so.
For the benefit of our industry, and in light of the increasing number of food safety bills submitted by legislators in Washington, clear procedures and standards must be developed and adhered to in overseas facilities. This is part of the mission of the CCC. We also offer a full traceability system, a seal of approval which can be displayed on the packaging, and a marketing program for responsible sourcing.

September 8, 2008, Increasing Reports of Disctinct Chlorine Flavor Affecting Cashews

There have been increasing reports of cashews with a distinct "chlorine" flavor during recent months. Most of the affected cashews have been imported from India. While this does not constitute a crisis, it is important for roasters to be aware, as serious consequences can result. There is a theory that the "off flavor is caused by improperly applied Dichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4-D), which is used as a selective broad leaf weed control. There are various theories as to the origin of this contaminant, it has also been theorized that the chlorine flavor was the result of processors overseas trying to bleach scorched grade cashews to improve their appearance. Regardless of the theories, the fact is the cashews have a distinct chlorine flavor, and this has resulted in a number of consumer complaints.
Only through a thorough investigation can we identify the cause and the source and take proactive measures to ensure that contaminated product is not shipped to the United States. Several containers have been offered for sale that are a result of rejections due to this off flavor. Awareness of the problem is the best way to avoid a costly consequences. A test has been developed to determine the presence of 2,4-D, and a simple sensory evaluation can effectively detect the chlorine flavor. Addressing these issues while they are still a sporadic occurrence will help to prevent the situation from becoming more widespread. For more information feel free to contact us. David Rosenthal

June 20, 2008, Unbridled Cashew Speculation - History Lesson 102

"Enhancing" contracts?

On May 28th members of the Association of Food Industries Nut and Agricultural Section met with diplomats at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington DC to discuss the magnitude of cashew defaults from Vietnam over the past several months. It is reported that approximately 2000 container loads have been defaulted on by Vietnamese cashew shippers between November 2007 and April 2008. These actions by the Vietnamese shippers have had a major impact on cashew prices with some grades increasing by over $2.00 per pound. Importers are being forced to pay 'enhancements' in order to have their contracted product shipped. This puts the importing community in a position to lose millions of dollars, depending on the volume of contractual obligations to roasters at lower market prices. Several importers who had agreed to these enhancements have been caught off guard when shippers again refused to ship already renegotiated containers unless they agreed to further increases to the enhancements as a result of higher market prices at the time of shipment. Diplomats at the Vietnamese Embassy gave very little hope to the importers and roasters who attended the May meeting. They asked for the AFI members affected by the defaults to have sympathy for the suppliers who have suffered due to higher production costs, increases in raw material and high inflation rates. One roaster commented that he could understand the plight of the Vietnamese cashew suppliers if the enhancements were a one time event, but that asking for further enhancements to release shipments was unsustainable. Three weeks have passed since this meeting and in this short time the FOB price on 320's has moved up by almost $0.35 per pound.
Flashback to 1999 Industry wide defaults by cashew suppliers are not new to the industry. In 1999 Indian shippers defaulted in unprecedented numbers, resulting in tremendous market increases, and huge losses were absorbed by the importing and roasting community. Ironically, these actions by Indian shippers resulted in increased support of the Vietnamese cashew industry. Now that we have experienced this behavior from both major cashew producing countries we may have to reassess the way we conduct business, as taking forward positions has proven to be a very risky venture. Understandably this is a difficult proposition since retailers continue to demand long term contractual agreements to lock in pricing, in some cases for more than one year. With a market certainty time frame of approximately 3 months, the speculative nature of the business has always presented a risk for the cashew commodity trader. Traditionally, if a trader called the market wrong he stood to lose a great deal of money. In today's environment, the trader runs the risk that, even if he calls the market right, his profitable forward position may turn out to be a worthless printout of uncollectible contracts.
Speculative Trading Now Riskier
The current conditions in the cashew market clearly indicate the high price paid for aggressive speculative trading practices from unreliable sources. The desire to get the lowest price sends many importers to small, poorly funded suppliers who not only have questionable manufacturing practices, but also have proven to be unreliable when markets go against them. The ripple effects of this behavior became so far reaching this year that even major Vietnamese suppliers that have been historically reliable caved in to the temptation to demand "price enhancements" in order to fulfill contractual obligations. Hard LessonsThe cashew industry has experienced the same devastating events twice within one decade. Price increases of over $2.00 lb. are bound to have a negative impact on business with retailers - indeed cashew consumption is already down as consumers, faced with increased fuel and food expenses, cut back on snacks and luxury items. No one in the importing or roasting sectors is benefiting from the present conditions. The great American philosopher, George Santayana once said "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". We've had two hard lessons - do we really want to continue on this path?

June 8, 2008, The High Cost of Non-Traceability

June 11, 2008

The High Cost of Non-Traceability

News of a few cases of salmonella in New Mexico and Texas hardly caused a ripple in the beginning. From April 23rd through June 1st there were 57 reported cases of Salmonella Saintpaul in those states - and on June 3rd the FDA decided the situation was grave enough to issue an alert.

Florida Tomato Industry in "complete collapse"
Just one week later, on June 10th, the Florida tomato industry has been brought to its knees in what has been described in the media as "a complete collapse". The FDA stated in its release on June 3rd that "the source of the contaminated tomatoes may be limited to a single grower or packer or tomatoes from a specific geographic area". However, as of June 10th, the only progress that had been made was to establish the areas where the problem was NOT present. Florida , the largest tomato producing state in the nation, has not been cleared, and according to Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange "We probably have $40 million worth of product we can't sell. We've had to stop packing, stop picking. It fundamentally shut down the industry."
Tomato Recall Affects Retailers and Restaurants
The magnitude of the tomato recall has been staggering. Businesses affected include McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Burger King, Kroger, Outback Steakhouse, Winn- Dixie, Taco Bell, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Kroger, etc. Without knowing the exact source of the outbreak it is too great a risk to the public to keep offering the affected types of tomatoes to consumers. The recall has now spread to Canada and the Caribbean , and until the source of contamination has been found all tomatoes except for cherry, grape and on-the-vine varieties will be off limits.

Tracing Commodities to the Source
Now, more than ever, it is imperative for every importer, roaster, distributor and retailer to know and be able to trace the origin of the products they source. The CCC system will serve as a model for other commodities and offers a viable solution to legislators looking for improved food safety initiatives.

Cashew Concern Certification, Inc.