South Korea said Wednesday it would reopen talks soon with the United States on a major free trade deal, but rejected complaints it unfairly restricts U.S. beef and auto exports. Trade Minister Kim Jong-Hoon said the two allies would resume talks on the pact after President Barack Obama ordered his team to finalize the deal by November, according to AFP reports.

The agreement was originally completed in 2007, but Congress has not taken up the agreement, arguing that it does not give enough access to U.S. beef and car companies. Some US lawmakers and others say South Korea still has barriers other than tariffs that block US exports.

"I don't think South Korea has any allegedly disguised barriers against US cars," Kim said. "I cannot accept the logic, that the fact that (US cars) do not sell well in South Korea proves the existence of such barriers."

Food safety concerns have also led to problems with U.S. beef. South Korea agreed in 2008 to ease restrictions imposed over fears of mad cow disease and to resume imports of beef from U.S. cattle less than 30 months in age. Some U.S. lawmakers want to remove the limit.

"Access to South Korea's beef market is greater than other countries in the region. There is no reason for South Korea to be singled out in this sector," Kim said.

Source: AFP

Summer sausage recalled due to allergen

San Antonio Packing Company, a San Antonio, Texas, establishment, is recalling approximately 9,408 lbs. of Cervelat Summer Sausage because it may contain an undeclared allergen, milk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced. The recalled products do not have an ingredients statement. The product contains milk, a known potential allergen, which is not declared on the label.

The products subject to recall are 16-oz. packages of “Apco Brand Meats Cervelat Summer Sausage.” Each package bears the establishment number “EST. 602” inside the USDA mark of inspection and a sell-by date up to Sept. 22, 2010.

These products were produced on various dates from April 14, 2010, through June 22, 2010, and were distributed to retail establishments in South Texas. The problem was discovered during a routine review of operations by FSIS at the establishment. FSIS has received no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Source: FSIS

Cloverleaf Cold Storage acquires three warehouses

Cloverleaf Cold Storage of Sioux City, Iowa, announced today that it has concluded the acquisition of three freezer warehouse facilities. The three facilities are located in Chesapeake, Va.; Benson, N.C.; and Sumter, S.C. With this purchase, Cloverleaf now operates over 60 million cubic feet of refrigerated warehouse space in facilities spanning the nation’s prime protein producing areas of the Midwest and South Atlantic states.

In addition to the continued development of public warehouse services in Chesapeake, Benson and Sumter, Cloverleaf intends to expand its Farmers Produce custom fabrication and packaging services into the South Atlantic region in the near future. Farmers Produce serves the meat and poultry industry. Growth into this region is driven by the needs of existing customers who require protein-related services beyond those traditionally offered by public refrigerated warehouses.

Cloverleaf Cold Storage is a family-owned and operated company with 14 public refrigerated warehouses and three dry warehouses in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and the Carolinas. The company is among the ten largest public refrigerated warehouses in the United States according to the IARW, an industry trade group.

Source: Cloverleaf Cold Storage

Restaurant Performance Index drops back below 100

The outlook for the restaurant industry softened in May, as the National Restaurant Association's comprehensive index of restaurant activity fell below 100 for the first time in three months. The Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) - a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry - stood at 99.7 in May, down 0.7 percent from April's level of 100.4. The RPI's May drop came after strong index growth earlier this year and amid sharply increasing wholesale food prices.

"Although the sales and customer traffic indicators softened in May, capital expenditure activity rose to its highest level in nearly two years," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. "This, along with a continued positive outlook for sales and the overall economy, signals that restaurant operators remain optimistic that business conditions will improve in the months ahead."

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 98.7 in May - down 0.3 percent from its April level. The Current Situation Index remained below 100 for the 33rd consecutive month, which signifies contraction in the current situation indicators.

Restaurant operators reported a net decline in same-store sales for the second consecutive month in May. Thirty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between May 2009 and May 2010, down from 39 percent of operators who reported higher sales in April. In comparison, 46 percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in May, up from 41 percent of operators who reported negative sales in April.

Restaurant operators also reported softer customer traffic results in May. Thirty-three percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in customer traffic between May 2009 and May 2010, down from 37 percent who reported higher customer traffic in April. Meanwhile, 43 percent of operators reported a traffic decline in May, up from 39 percent who reported lower traffic in April.

Although sales and traffic results softened in May, restaurant operators reported an uptick in capital spending activity. Forty-five percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion, or remodeling during the past three months, up from 40 percent last month and the highest level in nearly two years.

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators' six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 100.8 in May - down 1.0 percent from April's level of 101.8. Despite the decline, the Expectations Index remained above 100 for the fifth consecutive month, which represents expansion in the forward-looking indicators.

Although restaurant operators remain optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead, their optimism slipped somewhat in recent months. Forty-three percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared with the same period in the previous year), down from 47 percent who reported similarly last month. In comparison, 18 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, up from 12 percent who reported similarly last month and the highest level in four months.

Restaurant operators are also not as optimistic about the direction of the overall economy. Thirty-three percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, down from 41 percent who reported similarly last month and the lowest level in four months. In comparison, 15 percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to worsen in the next six months, up from 10 percent last month.

Restaurant operators' plans for capital expenditures held relatively steady in recent months. Forty-six percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, roughly on par with the levels reported in the previous three months.

Source: NRA

Beef Checkoff launches new veal foodservice website

The Beef Checkoff Program is announcing the launch of a new website for foodservice professionals,, in July. Highlights include a database of recipes, among them both traditional and cutting-edge dishes for use in any restaurant format, as well as a special section with a featured restaurant, recipe and chef.

“The typical veal consumer has changed,” says Ray Krones, chairman of the Joint Veal Committee. “Our most recent research indicates that today’s veal consumer is a protein-user that likes variety, taste and nutrition, which plays a key role in their buying decision. The new website aims to help restaurant operators and chefs add veal dishes to their menus to appeal to these consumers.

“Veal can also help deliver more profit, something all restaurants need to consider,” continues Krones. “Many chefs have already discovered how versatile veal can be. While a staple in Italian restaurants, veal is being used more often in ethnic cuisines, like Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. It’s also included on the menu at casual format restaurants where cuts like ground veal add interest to ordinary dishes such as burgers, sliders and meatballs.”

The website is also a source for nutritional information, tutorials on veal cuts and news about upcoming events.

Source: Beef Checkoff

Mislabeled stroganoff recalled

Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. an Albany, Ore., establishment is recalling approximately 600 pounds of Beef Stroganoff with Noodles due to a mislabeling of individual pouches that were packed with Lasagna with Meat Sauce.

The products subject to recall are 4.06-ounce pouches of "Mountain House Pro-Pak Beef Stroganoff with Noodles." Each package bears the USDA mark of inspection "Est. 1394" as well as a "Best Use By" date of Feb 2017. Each package also has "Easy To Prepare" instructions on the back of the label.

The products were produced on February 1, 2010, and were distributed nationwide on the wholesale and retail level as well as Internet sales. The problem was discovered by a consumer complaint to the establishment.

Source: FSIS