January 23, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Traceability Steering Committee Lays Groundwork for Industrywide Standards
The Produce Traceability Initiative spearheaded by United Fresh, PMA and CPMA is off to a great start.  The group’s Steering Committee of more than 30 industry leaders met January 9 in Atlanta, and concluded that systematic and consistent application of common standards across the supply chain is needed to enhance chain-wide traceability.  “It’s clear from the committee’s discussion that now is the time to move aggressively to adopt a consistent industrywide approach to traceability,” said Committee Chairperson Cathy Green, chief operating officer, Food Lion LLC. The committee reached agreement on four key elements for implementing industrywide traceability standards – 1) the GS1 produce traceability standard should be widely adopted throughout the full produce supply chain; 2) a formal industry timeline for adoption of standards is needed and will be developed; 3) the committee will develop ways in which companies can best show their support and commitment to adoption; and 4) traceability standards should be adopted at the case level initially, as the backbone of supply chain traceability, but companies should also move toward item-level coding as feasible.  The joint news release issued by the three associations is now available.  In addition, United Fresh will soon post on our website the committee’s minutes as well as presentations and other guides and resources being used as part of this initiative.  For more information, please contact Dr. David Gombas, 202-303-4111.

New Advisory Council Puts Focus on Serving International Industry
United Fresh is forming a new International Advisory Council to assist in understanding member needs, identifying challenges and opportunities for members in the international arena, and delivering enhanced value to members in the global produce community. The Council, chaired by Board member David Barney, Business Development Manager at Bakkavor in the United Kingdom, will hold its first meeting concurrent with the Fruit Logistica and FreshConex trade show and Congress in Berlin, Germany, February 6-9.  “United Fresh is committed to serving a growing international membership throughout the global fresh produce industry,” Lazopoulos said.  “With the merger of the International Fresh-cut Produce Association and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association last year, we brought together members in 27 countries that now constitute 10 percent of our membership from outside the United States.  We believe this is an important constituency to serve, and are already increasing our outreach programs in key areas,” he said.  For more information about the Council and potential service in the international arena, contact Jerry Welcome, executive vice president of business development at United Fresh, 202-303-3404.

Member Experts Meet To Address Microbiological Testing
United Fresh Senior Vice President for Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas held a series of meetings this week with member companies in the Salinas, Calif. area to discuss two projects currently underway on microbiological testing.  First, Dr. Gombas and a team of member companies and academic experts are preparing a white paper on microbiological testing objectives, methods, measurements and analysis in different produce industry operations.  The goal of the paper is to give all stakeholders a roadmap to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of testing, and what kinds of testing may be most appropriate in different settings.  In addition, Dr. Gombas met with industry experts to continue work on a United Fresh Research & Education Foundation project to build a confidential industrywide database of microbiological test results.  “These results will be aggregated and blinded for protection to prevent disclosure to any unauthorized parties, but will be tremendously useful in identifying and tracking industry trends,” Dave said.  “Companies that participate in the database project will also be able to compare their own confidential test results against the industry database, and gain an immediate understanding of their own operations compared with industry averages.”  For more information, contact Dr. David Gombas, 202-303-3411.

Supermarket, Supplier Executives Focus on Key Industry Issues
United Fresh President Tom Stenzel participated this week in the annual FMI Midwinter Executive Conference, which brings together more than 500 supermarket and supplier company executives to address key issues facing the industry.  “This is truly a senior level, “top-to-top” event, allowing us the chance to talk informally with senior management of supermarket retailers, while jointly participating in general sessions focused on key issues from health and nutrition to food safety,” he said.  “United Fresh helps our member produce companies build ties with their retail customers outside of day-to-day sales pressures to better drive supply chain collaboration,” he said.  “We need each other to be successful, and that means candid and respectful dialogue even on the toughest supply chain issues is essential,” he said.  United Fresh also thanks Peter Steinbrick, Steve Rodriguez and the whole team at Melissa’s/World Variety Produce for providing gift baskets for the senior retail executives to promote the importance of the produce industry in retail success, as well as the upcoming United Fresh 2008 convention in Las Vegas this May 4-7.

United Fresh Leaders to Speak at Fresh Produce & Floral Council Events
Members and guests at two upcoming Fresh Produce & Floral Council luncheons in February will hear from United Fresh staff leaders on key issues affecting the produce industry.  Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther will speak at the FPFC Southern California Membership Luncheon, February 6 in La Mirada.  Robert will address changes coming for the industry in the new Farm Bill, country of origin labeling, and immigration reform.  He’ll also share his thoughts on the Presidential election following the California primary and Super Tuesday votes held the previous day.  United Fresh President Tom Stenzel will speak at FPFC’s Northern California Membership Luncheon, February 19 in Pleasanton.  Tom will focus on major policy and industry shifts in the nutritional health and food safety landscapes, which simultaneously pose the greatest opportunities and risks to the produce industry in many years.  For more information about attending the FPFC meetings, contact Richard Renteria at 714-739-0177.

Register for June and September Produce Inspection Training Programs
The Produce Inspection Training Program, presented by the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation and the USDA, offers a comprehensive overview of USDA inspection procedures and standards through lab demonstrations, classroom presentations and discussion sessions with USDA trainers. Members interested in learning about the produce industry fundamentals of USDA quality inspections can register today for our upcoming June 2-6 and September 22-26 courses. The weeklong program is developed into two specialized courses: Introduction to Produce Inspection and Advanced Produce Inspection. Each advanced course includes inspection of grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes – PLUS, each course will be customized with up to TEN additional commodities, based on the attendees’ most common preferences. Class size is limited. Register online, download a registration form, or contact Beth Berman, United Fresh education manager at 202-303-3405. 

Join Us for Fresh Produce from Around the World
This February 6 – 9, join us in Berlin, Germany for the new FreshConex Congress and Fruit Logistica. United Fresh is partnering with EuroFruit Magazine and Messe Berlin to bring world class education and speakers to the FreshConex, a special congress focused on fresh-cut produce and the convenience market.  Register for FreshConex today. In addition, come to our United Fresh booth in Hall 7.25 b, Stand A 05 on Friday February 8 for our international reception.  Everyone is welcome! For more information contact Jerry Welcome at United Fresh.

United Fresh Welcomes Intern to Washington, DC Office
United Fresh welcomes Taylor Martin as a staff intern for the Spring semester, working in government relations, public policy and member services.  Taylor is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s Degree in political science, and comes from a strong produce family business Rio Queen, Inc. in Mission, TX.  Taylor’s father Mike is a graduate of the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program, and a past member of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.

New Members
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman.

News and Views
Competing Markets
Reuters reports that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will open “Marketside” grocery stores in Arizona to counter Tesco's Fresh & Easy markets.

Not Putting All Eggs in One Basket
According to Economic Times, India wants to diversify its basket of exports to China, and China has agreed to diversify its imports from the country to mitigate concern for the current trade deficit.

To be Added
El Paso Times describes in an effort to curb obesity and improve overall nutrition, WIC is adding more fruit and vegetables.

International Co-operation
According to CargoNews Asia, a new cargo deal has been reached, in which Thailand supplies perishables to Germany, and Germany distributes the delicacies to their marketplace.

Proposed Solutions
Forbes describes that every new food recall demands a solution, but those solutions range in responsibility from the government to the food industry.

A Step-up in Exports
Vietnam is strengthening its exports to China to fend off competition from Thailand and boost their earnings, says Xinhuanet.

Now Open on Sundays
Trucks have a faster means to get fresh produce to vendors now that the Mariposa Port of Entry is open on Sundays, states KOLD News 13.

Connected Cart
Microsoft, in partnership with, MediaCart is pushing a new wave of carts equipped with a computer to aid and track consumers’ navigation throughout the store, announces Engadget.