March 12, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Micro Testing Database Committee Makes Important Progress
Members of the Oversight Committee of the Microbiological Testing Database for the Fresh Produce Industry met for the first time last week in Salinas, California to review data and make plans for the 2008 growing season.  The Database, a confidential source for merging microbiological testing data collected by the produce industry, was established to better understand the microbiological quality of fresh produce and its inputs, measure the effect of produce safety efforts, and to help direct future efforts.  The Oversight Committee includes representatives of companies that contribute testing data to the database, as well as representatives from testing laboratories, who serve as advisors to the committee.  The database is managed by United Fresh and currently includes generic E. coli tests of irrigation water in Coastal California, but it is expected to expand.  “This was a great first step for the Committee," said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president for food safety and technology, who oversees the project for United Fresh.  "Everyone sees the potential for this database to bring science to produce safety practices and standards."  Please contact Dr. David Gombas for more information on the Database project.


That’s the best description I can give you live from Cornell University at this year’s Produce Executive Development Program put together by Cornell professors Bill Drake, Ed McLaughlin and Mike Hostetler for United Fresh Produce Association and our members. I have the unique opportunity as a United Fresh staff member to sit in on this year’s program – they call it working but I’m getting the better end of it – learning from the Cornell profs and the impressive cast of produce industry “students” who are here bringing a multi-functional approach to our case studies and discussions with their experience in finance, business, sales, marketing and general operations. Special thanks also to Jim Prevor for taking time out of his busy schedule to lead a discussion on sustainability, and showing us a new way of thinking on the subject. I know I wasn’t the only one that had a paradigm shift on the subject.
But for now, it’s back to homework. Yep, I guess you’re never too old for a little homework even after a long day of business strategy. Innovation in our produce business demands the very best from our very best, and I’m honored to be able to spend some time with many of them this week at Cornell.

John Toner

United Fresh

La Primera Reunión “Town Hall” en México

Jeff, Tom y yo estamos aquí en Culiacan, México para la primera reunión (Town Hall meeting) internacional de United Fresh. Es muy importante que nosotros y nuestra asociación, United Fresh, conocemos bien nuestros socios alrededor del mundo, y no hay lugar más importante empazar que México. Estamos aquí para entender más del mercado Mexicano, para explicar los servicios de United Fresh y para dar información sobre nuestra show en Las Vegas el 4-7 de mayo. Hoy día Tom va a hablar sobre los siguientes temas: “country of origen,” legislación y reglamentos Estado Unidenses que puedan impactar el negocio, “food safety,” y la educación, capacitación y oportunidades del mercadeo a través de United Fresh Produce Association. Muchas gracias a Renee Larrea y Wes Leifer de United Produce Sales por “sponsoring” la reunión, a Eduardo Leyson de Agrícola San Isidro y a José Humberto de Rene Produce por recibirnos ayer y ensenarnos de los procesos agricolas. También gracias al co-anfitrión, SAGARPA y especialmente a Froylán Gracia de la oficina de SAGARPA en la embajada Mexicana en Washington, DC. Graciasa a Manuel Tarrriba, el presidente de CAADES y Patricio Robles, director general. Finalmente, muchas gracias a Franciso Obregon de C.H. Robinson Worldwide, por ayudarnos con muchos aspectos de la visita. Existe una tradición muy fuerte de comercio entre EEUU y México – y entre companies de los dos lados de la frontera. Tenemos mucho en común y anticipamos con placer continuar el diálogo. Por más información, llamame, Amy Philpott, vice presidente de mercadeo, a 202-303-3400 ext. 425, o por correo electrónico a Amy.

Florida Prepares for Launch of 2008 Tomato Safety Initiative
Tomato growers in the Immokalee region of Florida had an opportunity to talk directly with the FDA in a conference call organized by University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).  The conversation centered around what to expect when FDA and Florida Department of Agriculture investigators begin visiting growers when the 2008 Tomato Safety Initiative begins in a few weeks.  The Tomato Safety Initiative is a multi-year, collaborative effort between FDA and the state departments of health and agriculture in Virginia and Florida, in cooperation with several universities and members of the produce industry.  During the call, the FDA stressed that these visits are intended to be informational, not investigative, and hopes to improve opportunities for communication, education and collaboration with the tomato industry. The Florida tomato industry has undertaken aggressive efforts to strengthen tomato safety practices, including supporting state legislation to empower Florida Department of Agriculture to inspect tomato growing fields for compliance with industry-developed, tomato-specific GAPs and management practices.  Florida Tomato Exchange and UF/IFAS are working with United Fresh and others in a 2nd edition of the "Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Tomato Supply Chain," expected to be released for review in May.  Please contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president for food safety and technology, for more information.

Future Leaders - Don’t Miss This Opportunity!
Are you ready for an experience like no other?  Then apply today to become a member of the 14th class of the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program, an exclusive program United Fresh members.  Presented by the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation and made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, the Leadership Program is developed around four fundamental goals: Leadership Development, Business Relationships, Government & Public Affairs, Media & Public Relations. Applications are being accepted until Monday, March 17, 2008 to fill the 12 program spots.  This program is the only ongoing, fully paid national leadership program for the produce industry.  Eligible candidates interested in applying for the program can download information and an application.  For more information, contact Victoria Backer, senior vice president member services, foundation, or Beth Berman, education manager.

The Lone Star State Welcomes United Fresh Staff
I had a chance to brush up on my southern roots last week, during my visit to the Lone Star State.  On Tuesday in McAllen, I sat on an import safety panel hosted by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and Secretary Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Secretariat of Health of Mexico.  The meeting was a part of Secretary Leavitt’s Import Safety Initiative, stemming from a recent Action Plan by an intra-governmental Import Safety Working Group, to provide specific recommendations for enhancing the safety of the increasing volume of imports entering the United States.  Some of the provisions of the plan include increased penalties of up to $10 million, new certification methods, enhanced enforcement authority and a larger U.S. presence at overseas facilities.  This was a unique opportunity to address both governments and show our commitment to working with both countries for safety and security of our products, and I was pleased to be a part of the panel.  You can click here to view the Action Plan.

On Thursday, I followed with a meeting to discuss H-2A guest worker program that was hosted by the National Council of Agricultural Employers in Dallas.  I spent the remainder of my week visiting United Fresh members, including Craig and Aaron Fox of Fox Packaging and Jody Gatto of J & D Produce.  Being in the D.C. office, it's important to get outside of the beltway and visit our members.  Touring of our members’ operations was a very good learning experience for me, and helps me to understand all sectors of our industry.  For more information on any of these issues, contact Autumn Veazey, 202-303-3400.

Now's Your Chance to Celebrate Excellence in Foodservice
Dear Friends,

United Fresh and Pro*Act, the sponsor of this year’s foodservice award program, invite you to participate in a program that recognizes chefs and foodservice establishments, using culinary trends and creativity to promote the consumption of fresh produce.

To nominate a well-deserving chef, simply download the nomination form and submit it to me no later than close of business on March 24. You will also find program information on our website at And don’t forget to check-out the big show at  

An honoree in each of five business categories, and their corporate executive, will receive free travel, two nights lodging and registration to United Fresh, Las Vegas 2008, May 5-7, and each will be recognized at our annual Awards Banquet on Tuesday, May 6.

We look forward to receiving your nominations.

If you have questions, please contact me at 202-303-3400 ext. 425 or send an email to  


Amy Philpott
Vice President, Marketing & Industry Relations

Wine Industry, United Fresh Collaborate on Farm Bill Discussions
Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, spoke at the Wine and Grape Policy Conference held this week in Washington, DC about the current situation surrounding the Farm Bill.  The conference, sponsored by WineAmerica and the Winegrape Growers of America, brought wine industry representatives from across the country to Washington for discussion of key policy issues impacting their industry.  Both organizations are members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 specialty crop organizations, representing 350 individual specialty crops, that advocates for priorities in the 2007 Farm Bill.  Presently, the House and Senate have passed farm bills and include unprecedented specialty crop mandatory funding levels of $1.7 and $2.2 billion, respectively.  However, debate is ongoing between congressional agriculture leaders and the White House over several controversial elements of the bill and final program funding levels.  “We are at a critical time in the Farm Bill debate and having groups from the coalition in town advocating for common specialty crops needs is critical," said Robert. “Although we are engaged in fairly distinct industries, farm policy is a great example of how wine and fresh produce can come together to advocate for mutually beneficial priorities."  For more information, please contact Robert Guenther, (202) 303-3409.

Produce Partnership Call Focuses on Texas
In last week’s Produce Partnership Among Industry and Regulators (PAIR) conference call, co-hosted by United Fresh and Texas Vegetable Association, Texas was the topic of conversation.  Participants on the call discussed GAPs training and food safety outreach, and heard a produce safety update by Texas Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner, Drew Deberry.  The PAIR teleconference is a quarterly sharing of information among produce trade associations, FDA and various invited state agencies on produce food safety efforts.  Last week’s discussion also included industry updates on Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement efforts in California and Arizona, tomato safety initiatives in California and Florida and the new Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Vegetables.  In addition, the FDA provided updates on a number of food safety initiatives.  “These calls are an extraordinary opportunity to keep up to date on our mutual efforts, and I thank FDA’s Dr. Michelle Smith and Texas Vegetable Association’s Executive Vice President Ray Prewett for helping to arrange this call," said David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president for food safety and technology.  Please contact Dr. David Gombas for more information.

Fresh-Cut Produce Companies Get the Edge on HACCP

The University of Georgia, in sponsorship with United Fresh, has designed a short course on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), specifically for the fresh-cut produce industry. The short course provides a unique program of lectures and work group discussions from a broad-based faculty of food microbiologists, HACCP experts, and authorities from academia, industry and government. This program, accredited by the International HACCP Alliance, will provide you with the skills and knowledge to design, implement, document and maintain HACCP in your fresh-cut business.  The Fresh-cut HACCP short course will be held on May 20-22, 2008 at the University of Georgia campus, Athens, Georgia.  For additional information, including pre-registering for the course and lodging, please click here.

New Member Welcome
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 & Views
Technologically Safe
TechNewsWorld voices warning that nano-technology, in the way of food packaging and others, should be scaled back.

Mind Your Food
If you are famous for your food and want the same for your business idea, there are some basic resources and steps to keep you informed, says and

The Los Angeles Chronicle speaks of toxin hazards and how to reduce them by usages, such as calcium d-glucarate, a natural ingredient in certain fruits and vegetables.

Laser Leader
Micro lasers are also included in perforating systems for easy-tear products, foils for food packaging, making it a high-speed and low-cost alternative to other mechanical tools, says

Don’t Cross Me reports fewer people are crossing the Mexican border into the United States, but for those who are determined, the desperations have not ceased.

A Growth Spurt
A number of consumers are “keeping their change” by planting gardens that cut grocery costs, protecting them and the environment, shows Arizona Republic.

Orange Outlook
According to the Denver Post, Florida's orange harvest is running slightly ahead of Department of Agriculture forecasts, and the crop may end up exceeding the USDA's February estimate.