Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Cincinnati, said it appointed Brian Kocheras president of Europe and the Middle East, and that the company promotedJoseph Huston to president of North America, effective January 1, 2011.

As head of North American business operations, Kocher has been responsible for bagged salads leader Fresh Express, Salinas, Calif. Huston will assume that post, starting in January.

In other news, company officials used the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit in Orlando, Fla., to introduce FreshRinse(TM), a new produce wash that dramatically reduces microorganisms on leafy greens and better maintains freshness, officials said.

Executive appointments

Chiquita said its executive appointments are consistent with planned internal leadership succession, further strengthen the company's global leadership team, provide continuity of leadership in key business areas and position Chiquita to continue to improve profitability, particularly in Europe.

"Brian and Joe are proven executives who have worked together closely to lead our business turnaround in North American bananas and salads," said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer.  "As president of Europe, Brian will bring the same focus, discipline and execution that he has demonstrated in North America to revitalize our profitability in the region, which is our foremost business priority.  Joe has a proven track record in North America. He has been prepared and developed to lead the region through assignments in both our banana and salad operations, and he has the focus and drive to sustain the momentum of our profit improvements."

Aguirre added, "This new global leadership team has the talent to extend the growth of our brands, manage our costs and build our engagement with consumers, customers and employees. I am confident that Brian and Joe will help us to accelerate the execution of our strategy to diversify and grow our businesses and enhance our profitability."

As president of North America, Chiquita said Huston will manage the company's bananas, value-added salads and other produce businesses, and develop and grow new business platforms. Huston joined Chiquita in 2004 and has served since January 2009 as vice president Salad, Healthy Snacking and Vegetable Ingredients.

Huston's previously served as vice president United Kingdom and Ireland, where he was responsible for the area banana business; and as vice president marketing and innovation, North America. Prior to joining to Chiquita, Huston had more than 10 years of experience in marketing and brand management at Procter & Gamble.

Produce rinse technology details

Chiquita said FreshRinse has been proven to substantially reduce microorganisms on leafy greens and shown "superior microbial efficacy against such pathogens as Salmonella, Listeriamonocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7, as compared to the industry's conventional chlorine sanitizers."

Chiquita noted that -- in attached cell testing -- FreshRinse delivered a higher reduction for certain pathogens on certain leafy greens versus chlorine produce washes. Moreover, it was shown to reduce nine times or more of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella for Romaine lettuce and Spinach versus chlorine produce washes. For example, FreshRinse reduced 78 times more Salmonella that were attached on Romaine lettuce leaves. FreshRinse also secondarily resulted in more than 750 times greater reduction of suspended pathogens compared to chlorinated wash water

"Based on our extensive research, we view FreshRinse as the biggest invention since the start of pre-packaged salads," said Fernando Aguirre. "FreshRinse sets a new standard in food safety for the produce industry. We continue to deliver breakthrough innovations and we plan to make this new technology available to the industry. We want consumers and customers to know they have an important new option when making purchase decisions."

Leading food safety experts who act as advisors to Fresh Express have reviewed the FreshRinse(TM) Technology:

    * Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
    * Dr. David Acheson, MD, managing director, food and import safety, Leavitt Partners, former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) associate commissioner for food safety and former FDA chief medical officer
    * Dr. Robert Buchanan, director and professor, University of Maryland Center for Food Safety & Security Systems; formerly, senior science advisor and director, Office of Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA

Chiquita credited FreshRinse development to Fresh Express principal scientist Dr. Kai-Lai Grace Ho, with support from the company's R&D, food safety, innovations, engineering and manufacturing teams. Officials said FreshRinse is a combination of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) and an FDA-approved ingredient that significantly enhances pathogen reduction and retains freshness. It is acceptable for use on both conventional and organic produce.