Spinach Growers Use Web to Support Comeback

GREEN BAY, Wis. - As spinach continues to make a comeback, growers and repackers have launched a Web site that aims to build spinach's reputation back up among retailers and consumers.

The group of industry players led by Green Bay, Wis.-based Tosca Ltd., which supplies the industry with industry-specific returnable containers, put up funds for the Web site, curlyleafspinach.com, on the heels of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recall of spinach in September. The recall rattled the entire spinach industry.

"Sales of all spinach have been affected," said Jennifer Verdelli, spokeswoman for Harrisburg, Pa.-based Verdelli Farms, one of a number of fresh produce suppliers that were directly affected by the recall. "We hope the Web site will reassure consumers and grocers that curly leaf spinach, when handled properly, is a nutritious, great-tasting addition to meals."

Curly leaf spinach, also known as Savoy or semi-Savoy spinach, is grown in the East, Midwest, South, and Mountain States regions of the U.S. It is placed in highly sophisticated, ice-packed, sanitized containers when it is harvested. The containers ensure the safety and quality of the product, and curly leaf spinach is available year-round to grocers and consumers across North America.

"It's unfortunate that the recall was so broad, at first," said spinach grower Dondee Lindenborn of Pentagon Produce, Uvalde, Texas. "All spinach got a bad rap when, in reality, the cause for concern was very isolated. Consumers need to know they can trust the high-quality curly leaf spinach that is being sold at their favorite grocery store."

The www.curlyleafspinach.com Web site advises consumers to wash all greens before storing them in the refrigerator. Curly leaf spinach should be washed, dried, packed loosely in a plastic bag, it says, and then stored in the refrigerator crisper at a temperature of 40(degree)F or below. Properly stored, curly leaf spinach should last 3-4 days, according to the Web site.

Consumers who can't find curly leaf spinach in the grocery store produce department should talk to their grocer about its return, said Verdelli. "We are partnering with growers, industry trade groups, and the government to develop new processing and handling standards to ensure even greater consumer confidence.

"Grocers want to sell spinach,' said Verdelli. "We want grocers and their customers to be absolutely certain their curly leaf spinach is safe."
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